Media

Media Bias Revealed

Frame of Romney coverage during the primaries, from the Project on Excellence in Journalism.

The Project for Excellence in Journalism is out with their latest report on news coverage of the primary campaign, and the big headline is that, surprise surprise, the tone of coverage varied pretty much exactly with whether candidates were winning or losing. Does that mean reporters had a pro-Romney bias when he was winning primaries, and a pro-Santorum bias when he was winning primaries? Of course not. It shows, instead, just how ridiculous most discussion of ideological bias is.

Liberal Bias at Fox News?

Mitt Romney on Fox News.

Over at the New York Times, Nicole Hemmer has a nice piece explaining some of the history of the right's "liberal media bias" charge and how it has left them incapable of seeing anything that happens in the media—even their own media—clearly. It turns out that supporters of Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum (not to mention Gingrich and Santorum themselves) were shocked to find that their favorite news sources didn't validate everything they believed, including who should win the Republican primary: "this role reversal is the end product of a process that was set in motion by the conservative media. Having spent decades promoting the charge of bias, they have helped strip it of meaning. These days, bias translates roughly to 'reporting something I don't like,' a reflexive defense against stories that cut against conservative interests." Conservatives got so used to seeing bias everywhere that it reached the point where some of them began accusing Fox News of being "liberal" because it wasn't boosting their preferred primary candidate.

Live By the Comically Biased "News" Network, Die By the Comically Biased "News" Network

Won't be seeing him much there from now on.

Before he had to give up the job to run for president, Newt Gingrich was (among other things) a paid Fox News commentator. Well, it looks like he won't be getting that job back:

DOVER, Del. -- During a meeting with 18 Delaware Tea Party leaders here on Wednesday, Newt Gingrich lambasted FOX News Channel, accusing the cable network of having been in the tank for Mitt Romney from the beginning of the Republican presidential fight. An employee himself of the news outlet as recently as last year, he also cited former colleagues for attacking him out of what he characterized as personal jealousy.

Conservative Journalism Keeps Getting Better

The Free Beacon

A couple of months ago, Washington Free Beacon (and yes, that's "beacon," not "bacon") launched with some reasonably experienced conservative journalists and a mandate to hold their political opponents accountable with rock-solid journalism. The site describes itself this way: "Dedicated to uncovering the stories that the professional left hopes will never see the light of day, the Free Beacon produces in-depth and investigative reporting on a wide range of issues, including public policy, government affairs, international security, and media criticism." That sounds fair enough. I'm all for rigorous journalism that nevertheless has an ideological perspective—after all, that's what we do here at the Prospect. But let's just say conservatives have a particular perspective on how to go about this. These were the top three stories on the Beacon's site when I read it on Wednesday:

The Struggles of the War Correspondent

NPR's Kelly McEvers in 2005. (Flickr/uniondocs)

You may have heard that there is a certain kind of breed of journalist who becomes a war correspondent. Maybe they're thrill-seekers to begin with, or maybe the rush of reporting from war zones changes them, but many of them keep returning over and over again to one hotspot after another, putting their lives at risk for the sake of their job. Some of them are wounded, some are even killed. Some, I'm sure, suffer from the same kind of post-traumatic stress disorder that soldiers endure. What we don't often hear, though, is those reporters talking candidly about it as something that is perhaps not too healthy.

That's why this segment on the Public Radio Exchange program Howsound is so striking. Kelly McEvers, a terrific NPR reporter based in Baghdad, opened up in a surprising way about her feelings about what she does and the effect it has on those around her:

Why Do Reporters Think Mitt Romney Is a Moderate?

Flickr/Gage Skidmore

I'm sorry, but I refuse to let this one go, even if I have to repeat myself. Time's Alex Altman writes, "A very conservative party is on the verge of nominating a relative moderate whom nobody is very excited about, largely because none of his rivals managed to cobble together a professional operation." I beg you, Alex, and every other reporter covering the campaign: If you're going to assert that Mitt Romney is a "relative moderate," you have to give us some evidence for that assertion. Because without mind-reading, we have to way to know whether it's true.

What we do know is that when he ran in two races in the extremely liberal state of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney was a moderate. Then when he ran in two races to be the Republican nominee for president, Mitt Romney was and is extremely conservative. There is simply no reason—none—to believe, let alone to assert as though it were an undisputed fact, that the first incarnation of Romney was the "real" one and the current incarnation of Romney is the fake one.

Correction of the Year

Ira Glass: Nerd King, Journalism Hero (photo by Tom Murphy VII)

If you're like most Prospect readers, you're an over-educated, latte-sipping, NPR-listening elitist, which means that this weekend you probably heard This American Life's extraordinary hour-long retraction of a story they aired a few weeks ago featuring Mike Daisey, whose well-reviewed stage monologue "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs" discusses Daisey's ambivalence about his love affair with Apple products, and includes accounts of Daisey's visit to the Foxconn factory in China where many Apple products are manufactured. Briefly, TAL did an episode featuring Daisey's stories, but it turned out that many of them were embellished. He used his own experiences, then added to them things he had heard or read about, saying he had actually seen things like underage workers and workers poisoned by the hexane used in the manufacturing process (there was an incident involving hexane poisoning, but it didn't happen at the plants Daisey visited). Essentially, Daisey wrote his stage monologue to be as compelling a story as possible, but then TAL called and he presented parts of it on their show without telling them what was real and what was made up.

When they discovered this, Ira Glass and his team decided to create an object lesson in journalistic responsibility...

If It's Sunday, It's John McCain

John McCain, in his natural element.

Not long ago, I stopped watching the network Sunday shows. After all, who needs to spend an hour or two of valuable weekend time listening to elected officials and party hacks regurgitating the same tired talking points you've been hearing all week? But there's no denying that Meet the Press, This Week, Face the Nation, and to a lesser extent Fox News Sunday are enormously influential. They confer status on the people who appear, they define the limits of official debate, and they help set the agenda for the rest of the media. So while they are often tiresome to sit through, they can't be completely ignored. That's why I couldn't stay silent after seeing this celebratory tweet from Betsy Fischer, the longtime executive producer of Meet the Press:

Yay!

If you watch the Sunday shows, the only thing you'll be surprised about is that McCain hadn't passed Dole (or anyone else) already.

What’s Right with This Picture?

Getty Images

Lately, I’ve been very Eeyore-ish about women’s lives. There’s plenty of reason for that. Ruth Rosen nicely lays out the backlash against women’s reproductive lives in her article about the current counter-reformation, as she puts it, against women’s bodily autonomy. Of course, any attempt to roll back women’s reproductive rights is an attack on women’s economic independence, since women can only control their educational and financial lives if they can control their fertility.

Talk Radio Troubles

(Flickr/Jonathan Gill)

The controversy over Rush Limbaugh's venomous attacks on Sandra Fluke appears to have done what a dozen prior Limbaugh controversies could not: affect his bottom line. As John Avlon reports, advertisers are fleeing not only from Limbaugh, but from other hosts like him...

When Do Reporters Start Calling Mitt Romney a Liar?

(Flickr/PBS NewsHour)

Two days ago, Barack Obama went before AIPAC (which is commonly known as "the Israel Lobby" but would be better understood as the Likud lobby, since it advocates not Israel's interests per se but the perspective of the right wing of Israeli politics, but that's a topic for another day), and said, among other things, the following:

"I have said that when it comes to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, I will take no options off the table, and I mean what I say. That includes all elements of American power: A political effort aimed at isolating Iran; a diplomatic effort to sustain our coalition and ensure that the Iranian program is monitored; an economic effort that imposes crippling sanctions; and, yes, a military effort to be prepared for any contingency. Iran’s leaders should understand that I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. And as I have made clear time and again during the course of my presidency, I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests."

This didn't surprise anyone, because it's the same thing Obama has been saying for a while, in scripted and unscripted remarks alike, in both speeches and interviews. Yet later that day, Mitt Romney went out and said the following:

"This is a president who has failed to put in place crippling sanctions against Iran. He's also failed to communicate that military options are on the table and in fact in our hand, and that it's unacceptable to America for Iran to have a nuclear weapon."

So here's my question: Just what will it take for reporters to start writing about the question of whether Mitt Romney is, deep within his heart, a liar? ...

Chuck Todd Decides Heartland Hasn't Been Sufficiently Pandered To

Aspen Institute

NBC News political director Chuck Todd, singing the oldest self-flagellating hymn in the media book, laments his colleagues' lack of awareness of the good people between the coasts. Todd is ordinarily a smarter and more reasonable guy than your typical pundit, but this is just about the dumbest thing I've heard all week...

Not a Fluke

(AP File Photo)

My heart broke over the weekend when I read, over at DailyKos, "I've spent the past 2 days trying to convince my 16 y/o she is not a 'slut.'" (Thanks to Garance Franke-Ruta for the pointer.) Until I read that article, I have been focusing my attention on the good news: The assault on reproductive rights, from Komen and Santorum on, has finally made clear that the attacks on abortion are really just the front line of a greater assault on contraception and women's health.

My Frenemy, Andrew Breitbart

The conservative activist antagonized the left, but maybe we're better off because of it.

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Andrew Breitbart, who died in Los Angeles today at age 43, angered the left less because of what he did than what the left repeatedly failed to do itself. I first encountered the conservative activist at the 2011 Netroots Nation conference, an annual gathering for progressive bloggers and tech types. Camera in hand, Breitbart had come over to the Netroots site from the conservative Right Online conference nearby. When he walked into the lobby, liberal activists shouted at him, accusing him of nefarious activities with male prostitutes and more. Breitbart smiled as he filmed it all.

Do Women Count?

Yesterday, after I made some snarky comment, a friend asked me if I was Eeyore. The truth is, I'm a mash-up of Eeyore and Tigger. Tigger bounces up and down gleefully whenever I talk about gay rights. But today I'm talking about the ladies again, so get ready for Eeyore. 

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