The nature of media bias

Washington Post:
Charges of media bias have been flying like a bloody banner on the campaign trail. Newt Gingrich excoriated the “elite media” in a richly applauded moment during one of the Republican debates. Rick Santorum chewed out a New York Times reporter. Mitt Romney said this month that he faces “an uphill battle” against the press in the general election. 
Meanwhile, just about every new poll of public sentiment shows that confidence in the news media has hit a new low. Seventy-seven percent of thosesurveyed by the Pew Research Center in the fall said the media “tend to favor one side” compared with 53 percent who said so in 1985. 
But have the media really become more biased? Or is this a case of perception trumping reality? 
In fact, there’s little to suggest that over the past few decades news reporting has become more favorable to one party. That’s not to say researchers haven’t found bias in reporting. They have, but they don’t agree that one side is consistently favored or that this favoritism has been growing like a pernicious weed. 
On the conservative side, the strongest case might have been made by Tim Groseclose, a political science and economics professor at the University of California at Los Angeles. 
Groseclose used a three-pronged test to quantify the “slant quotient” of news stories reported by dozens of media sources. He compared these ratings with a statistical analysis of the voting records of various national politicians. In his 2011 book, “Left Turn: How Liberal Bias Distorts the American Mind,” Groseclose concluded that most media organizations aligned with the views of liberal politicians. (Groseclose determined that The Washington Post’s “slant quotient” was less liberal than news coverage in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.)
Even with conservative-leaning sources such as the Drudge Report and the Washington Times factored in, “the aggregate slant is leftward,” said Groseclose, who describes himself as a conservative. 
But that’s not the end of the story. A “meta-analysis” of bias studies — that is, a study of studies — shows something different: When all is said and done, left-leaning reporting is balanced by reporting more favorable to conservatives. “The net effect is zero,” said David D’Alessio, a communications sciences professor at the University of Connecticut at Stamford.
D’Alessio drew his conclusion from reviewing 99 studies of campaign news coverage undertaken over six decades for his newly published work, “Media Bias in Presidential Election Coverage 1948-2008: Evaluation via Formal Measurement.” The research, he says, shows that news reporting tends to point toward the middle, “because that’s where the people are, and that’s where the [advertising] money is. . . . There’s nuance there, but when you add it all and subtract it down, you end up with nothing.”
... 
Note that Groseclose describes himself as conservative, but D'Aessio's political position is not disclosed.  This seems to be a consistent subtle bias that leaves the impression that critics of the conservative point of view are unbiased.

In the current campaign the media seemed to really enjoy telling the story about a Romney family vacation where the dog rode in a carrier on he roof.  That is, until Jim Treacher noted that Obama in one of his books discussed eating dog meat as a child.  Then all of a sudden the dog stories were considered silly and irrelevant.  The fact is they were all along and that was Treacher's point.  But it seems clear that the silliness would have continued had not Treacher found the story in Obama's book.

It is clear that the dog story was a narrative pushed by the Obama campaign and many liberals in the media as a way of distracting from the issues of the economy, energy and health care that Obama does not want to discuss.  The same can be said of the phony narrative of a "war on women" and the recent campaign on student loan interest rates where Obama tried to pick a fight rather than show leadership and an ability to work with Republicans in Congress.

Another recent story quoted a Obama surrogate as raising questions about polygamy in Romney's family history.  The reporter failed to mention that Obama's father, grand father and great grandfather were all polygamists.  So while the accurately reported what the surrogate said, they failed to add the context.  Perhaps that is just incompetence, but it comes across as bias.  It is a persistent failure to see the vulnerabilities of liberals like Obama.

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