Tuesday, May 18, 2004

NO WMD Found!!!!

One of the endemic complaints in the Blogosphere is that of media bias.  Of course, conservatives think the media have a liberal bias, and vice versa.  Now comes a study that proves conclusively that there are no "writers of mass destruction."  On Allsci, which I found via linkhopping from Radically Inept, there is a report of a study on media bias:

David Domke, a communications professor at the University of Washington, notes that these arguments are only valid given the right context. Consistently, however, over a longer period of time, no bias has been found. “Some scholars have found a liberal media bias. Other scholars have found a conservative one. I think what it largely comes down to is context. What issues are being covered, in what context? You have to take into account these contextual situations. Journalists who examine a variety of situations, variety of issues, variety of people, would find that there is no consistent media bias ideologically. However, in any single topic, person, you could well find media coverage that is heavily favorable to one topic or one person,” said Domke.


Using this as a premise, that no consistent media bias has been found, Tien-Tsung Lee argues that it's the consumers of media information that are finding bias. That is, “no matter how objective and balanced a report is, observers are going to perceive a bias,” wrote Lee in an email interview. [bold emphasis mine]

Nonetheless, as Lee notes, the media, of course, is not always objective. Its coverage of the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq, for instance, he says was biased in favor of the Bush administration's position. “I don’t think the U.S. mainstream broadcast media have done a satisfactory job in their coverage of the war, or the discussion leading to it,” wrote Lee. Nonetheless, favoritism towards one political party or ideology, Lee writes, isn't consistent. For instance, a 1965 study of Time magazine found that they were negative towards President Truman, a Democrat, positive towards President Eisenhower, a Republican, and balanced towards Kennedy, also a Democrat.

To test his thesis, Lee used two methods, he examined studies of how ideology relates to perception of the media, and he designed a questionnaire that he sent to political journalists. His conclusions regarding ideology confirmed the Hostile Media Theory. That is, the more ideological you are, to the left but especially to the right, the more likely you are to perceive media bias. Conservatives, for instance, are more likely than liberals and moderates to believe that the news media have a bias. Relatedly, Republicans are more likely to perceive bias than Democrats and Independents.

Bias, according to Tien-Tsung Lee, is in the eye of the beholder.