Forum: The reality of a media bias

Left: A common conspiracy theory
Well, we have heard it over and over again. Like Avril Lavigne’s song, “Complicated,” which just never seems to go away, the notion of a liberal media is a lucrative business and the rallying cry for conservatives nationwide. It ranges from offering an alternative newspaper to The Hatchet at GW and on other college campuses to an influx of conservative talk-radio programming lead by the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage and a series of best-selling books from Anne Coulter and Bernard Goldberg. That’s without even mentioning, the Right’s bread-and-butter FOX News Network and the soon-to-be Jesse Ventura, Pat Buchanan, Michael Savage takeover of MSNBC. Through a discussion of media coverage on the war on Iraq and media consolidation, I hope to offer a different perspective on the news coverage that is veering further from the notion of “we report, you decide.”

Often conservatives view issues through a partisan vacuum in making their arguments. The problem is, in regards to war with Iraq, many leaders of the Democratic Party such as Dick Gephardt, John Kerry and Joseph Leiberman support the Bush administration’s actions. Yet despite the support of prominent politicians, our media has a responsibility to fairly present both sides to a largely divided public opinion that has serious reservations of over-stepping the United Nations and of the United States acting unilaterally. New York University professor Jay Rosen told USA Today, “most editors and reporters think the diplomatic story – the great power narrative – is more real. People who move into the White House know how to dominate the news agenda.”

Sound too much like a conspiracy theory? To substantiate the above statement, on Feb. 24 USA Today released a series of findings analyzing television media coverage of a potential conflict in Iraq. They reported that of 414 stories on the Iraqi question that aired on NBC, ABC and CBS between Sept. 14 and Feb. 7, a vast majority of this coverage originated from officials from the White House, the Pentagon and the State Department. Only 34 stories derived elsewhere in the country – and a number of those were of ordinary citizens speaking in support of the White House agenda – leaving almost no airtime for intelligent dissent. The study also said, “similarly, a check of major newspapers around the country between September and February found only 268 stories devoted to peace initiatives or to opposition to the war, a small fraction of the total number of stories.”

If the media does not report it, the public can’t decide.

If you watch TV, you probably didn’t hear about recent efforts to lift major media ownership regulations unless you happened to tune in Sept. 9 to ABC’s “World New This Morning,” which spent an entire two minutes on the issue at 4:30 a.m., with no other additional coverage by any network. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell plans to overhaul laws that currently prohibit one company from owning a daily newspaper and a broadcast TV station in the same community and remove limits on the total number of radio and TV stations one company can own in a community. If these laws pass, conservatives and media executives need not worry about any liberal ideas that might challenge their corporate and social agendas. A recent report from the Project for Excellence in Journalism showed “growing consolidation in the news business has led to a serious decline in the quality of local news, as distant corporate media executives demand cuts in news budgets to boost profits.” Since the passage of the Telecommunications Act in 1996, “corporate dominance of local newspapers and broadcast stations also has led to a substantial drop in coverage on consumer, environmental, minority and labor issues and the quality of news coverage.”

It’s time that ‘liberals’ call the media bias what it is – manipulated by political operatives and officials in hopes of ensuring expanded ownership and profit margins through loose FCC regulations and broader corporate dominance over news content.
-The writer, Bernard Pollack, is a graduate student in the school of political management

Right: If it looks like a duck…
In May 2001, President Bush announced his first round of judicial nominees for the federal bench, one of those individuals being Miguel Estrada. Fast-forward almost two years later to the face-off over Estrada in the Senate. Many believed, with the Republicans finally gaining the majority in the Senate, the obstructionist behavior of Democrats over judicial appointees would finally end. However, this has turned out to be a false conclusion.

This historic filibuster surrounding Estrada began about a month ago and is the first instance in which a cloture vote has been denied a judicial nominee beneath the Supreme Court level. Republicans have failed to put a stop to the Democratic filibuster of Estrada by a vote of 55 to 44, with 60 votes needed to end debate.

By most standards, this is major news that deserves media scrutiny and reporting. So guess how many major news network stories have been done on this important debate in the Senate?

One.

It is truly amazing to think about. Regardless of which side you are on in the debate, this is a story worth putting on the nightly news. Neither ABC nor CBS’s daily morning or evening news shows have done a single story on the Estrada showdown over the past two years with NBC being the sole proprietor with a single story back in February covering it. That one story coincidentally, did not paint Estrada in a favorable light. Whatever happened to objective journalism?

I am not advocating here that all news outlets are inherently liberal or biased and provide no alternative balance. There is no denying there are several news sources from which a conservative like myself or liberals can get biased news about issues presented in a way that we like it. But the network news? Come on. There is no denying the majority of broadcast news slants to the left.

With the advent of FOX News on cable, many liberals are crying foul that if there is any bias now, it is a conservative one. But with the Clinton News Network (CNN) tailored for my liberal friends just a couple of stations over, FOX really could be considered the provider of fair and balanced news, at least for conservatives.

When the most prominent members of the media speak out about liberal bias, how can the denial continue? Peter Jennings himself was quoted on Larry King Live just this year as saying, “Most of the time I really think responsible journalists, of which I hope I’m counted as one, leave our bias at the side of the table. Now it is true, historically in the media, it has been more of a liberal persuasion for many years. It has taken us a long time, too long in my view, to have vigorous conservative voices heard as widely in the media as they now are. And so I think, yes, on occasion, there is a liberal instinct in the media which we need to keep our eye on, if you will.” So quit complaining, liberals, that there is a conservative bias – even your own admit you have had years in the spotlight.

With the possible war in Iraq upon us, most on the left feel their anti-war stance is not receiving the positive media attention they feel they deserve. Yet ABC and CBS, the same stations that do not want to report on the domestic judicial crisis going on in the Senate, found time to cover an employee-organized march in Baghdad and supporters of the Hussein regime.

The anti-war movement has been anything but ignored, with the best the left has to offer, like comedian Janeane Garofalo and actor Martin Sheen, receiving plenty of airtime to express their views every night on television. Cable and network news report on the anti-Bush and anti-war individuals throughout the world every night, as protests from Baghdad to France receive plenty of airtime ,and basically salivate on the anti-American sentiment around the world.

There is no denying there is a liberal bias in the press – if it looks like a duck and quacks like one, isn’t it fair to assume it is? If news were unbiased, outlets like FOX News would not have to exist to present an alternate view. Until hard journalism makes like Switzerland and remains neutral, folks on the right will keep watching Bill O’Reilly to compensate for Dan Rather.
-The writer, Jenni Bradley, is a graduate student in the school of political management and a Hatchet columnist.

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