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Author Topic: White House Media Analysis
flydye45
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quote:
To many on the outside, it looked like a mistake when Vice President Dick Cheney failed to notify the White House press corps first of his shooting accident. But in the White House, it reflected a strategy of marginalizing the press.

More than ever, the Bush White House ignores traditional news media and presents its message through friendly alternatives, such as talk-show hosts Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity.

And when a reporter appears belligerent in a televised confrontation with the White House spokesman, as NBC's David Gregory did this week, the imagery helps the administration turn the story into one about the press, which energizes a Republican base that hates the media anyway.

More than just a matter of sniping at an enemy, the Bush administration sees the traditional media as hostile. Working to erode their legitimacy in the public's eyes is a critical element of its determination to weaken checks on its power. "It's a completely different landscape," said Jay Rosen, a journalism professor at New York University. "And the White House and political folks have adapted to that environment more than the press has."

Today's media landscape is one that Richard Nixon wouldn't recognize. As president in the 1970s, he faced three broadcast television networks controlling all the airwaves and a handful of big newspapers and newsmagazines that set the news agenda. Even Ronald Reagan in the 1980s had to deal largely with those same media. CNN was new and growing, but not that big a presence. Cable TV talk shows came on once a week for 30 minutes, not all night long on several channels. There was no Internet.

The conventional media hurt their own credibility, of course. High-profile embarrassments, such as CBS's Dan Rather using forged documents to blast Bush, and Jayson Blair of The New York Times making up stories, eroded trust. And polls have documented that newsroom professionals are more liberal, and much less conservative, than the general public.

Still, more than any of its predecessors, Bush's team has learned to deal with the media on the White House's terms.

Cheney, for example, spoke about the shooting in an interview with Fox News, where hosts all week voiced sympathy for him and criticism for the press badgering him. (In fairness, Fox anchor Brit Hume posed many of the same questions that the White House press had asked - but only Hume got answers.)

Cheney also makes frequent appearances on talk radio, where he's often fawned over. "We are thrilled and excited to have with us the vice president of the United States ... for a precious few minutes," Limbaugh said during one recent Cheney visit.

This week Limbaugh echoed the White House line, proclaiming: "This is not about Dick Cheney. It's about the media." This White House isn't afraid to anger the press. Rather, it appears to relish it. At the start of a recent off-camera briefing, for example, White House spokesman Scott McClellan interrupted NBC's Gregory when he asked about the shooting.

"David, hold on, the cameras aren't on right now. You can do this later," McClellan said. On camera later, Gregory appeared abrasive when McClellan stonewalled his questions. While reporters may think such exchanges show that the White House is unresponsive when the public has a right to know, White House aides know the TV imagery makes the press corps look petulant and appear more interested in posturing than in the public interest.

"McClellan is a brick wall disguised as a government official. He wins any time the press bangs its head against the wall," NYU's Rosen said. "Part of the White House strategy is essentially cultural, that resentment against the press is itself converted into a political asset."

Thus Cheney found a ready audience when he suggested that the White House press corps was angry only because he'd left them out of the loop.

"I had a bit of the feeling that the press corps was upset because, to some extent, it was about them," he said. "They didn't like the idea that we called the Corpus Christi Caller-Times instead of The New York Times."

Conservative bloggers echoed that line of attack, despite firm statements from loyal Republicans such as former Defense Department spokeswoman Torie Clarke and former White House press secretary Marlin Fitzwater, who both said that Cheney had acted irresponsibly by not immediately disclosing to the nation that he'd shot someone.

Live TV broadcasts of news briefings also help the White House manipulate the media. Pundits, bloggers and talk-show hosts often spend more time criticizing reporters' questions than the issues they're raising. And reporters probing aggressively for information from polite but unresponsive officials can look like snarling jackals.

"Ideally, televising the briefings should add to the transparency of the White House. But it's become less. It's how the White House can use the event to its advantage," said Ferrel Guillory, director of the Program on Southern Politics, Media and Public Life at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. "It's another staged event. And the journalists in the briefing room are playing the role the White House wants them to play, as adversaries." --- © 2006, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services

I don't know if it's purposeful or not. The press has been hostile for a long time and treating them well probably never occurs to the WH. Why give ammo (or access) to what is increasingly seen as the enemy?

The analysis of the 2004 campaign showed Kerry getting 60% positive coverage, versus much less for the President. I know, it's because he's wrong. [Roll Eyes]

Still, this seems pretty subtle for "the dumbest president ever."

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LetterRip
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flydye45,

quote:
Still, this seems pretty subtle for "the dumbest president ever."
I don't see how the Presidents intelligence matters one way or the other. Assuming that the articles inference of strategy is accurate are you of the opinion that President Bush would by neccessity be the one to craft it and carry it out?

quote:
The analysis of the 2004 campaign showed Kerry getting 60% positive coverage, versus much less for the President. I know, it's because he's wrong. [Roll Eyes]
The source for that appears to be the CMPA, which from a brief search appears to do poor quality 'research' and has a heavy conservative bias in both its study methodology, its financial sponsorship, and its founding members and primary authors.

See this analysis

http://media.eriposte.com/3-3.htm

LetterRip

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Eric
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LR --

Maybe you'll find this UCLA study more credible.

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Everard
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I believe we already discussed how poor the methodology used in that study was.

See this thread

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canadian
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The strategery is excellent.


Since Nixon, it seems reporters have all had Watergate envy.

If I was doing a few unsavory things here and there, I'd shut them down, too.

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Digger
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Ev, we also discussed how the study confirmed findings from other studies (which used alternative methodologies) and how said triangulation bolstered each study's conclusions. I recall asking for studies with contrary findings and can still hear the crickets chirping.

Not saying that's the end of it, but it is far from resolved and currently the bias crowd is ahead on points.

[ February 20, 2006, 04:25 PM: Message edited by: Digger ]

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LetterRip
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Digger,

I pointed out some pretty serious holes in the studies presented. It is those making claims of bias who should be presenting good studies showing it. If they believe their case is correct they should be able to show it without rigging the studies.

I gave solid suggestions on how the bias of the study could be strongly reduced, methods that were pretty obvious and should have been used from the beginning if the authors intended the study to be actually worthwhile as opposed to picking their result and then seeing how best to design the study to achieve it.

LetterRip

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KnightEnder
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At the risk of repeating myself, I think the WH press corp blew it on this one. Whether this is some GOP plot to marginalize the press or not I don't know. It seems to be just part of the Bush administrations policy of only caring about, talking to, or dealing with people that like them and that they like. And since there are 51% of those people in the US it ain't such a bad plan.

KE

[ February 20, 2006, 09:13 PM: Message edited by: KnightEnder ]

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Digger
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quote:
I pointed out some pretty serious holes in the studies presented.
I remember the threads, but I never saw any criticisms that I thought invalidated what was presented. I find the triangulation of results to be more compelling than methodological weaknesses of any given study. But, to each our own - which is why I said that the issue is far from settled.

Ultimately, we all have our biases. The people I trust least are the ones who claim to be able to rise above them - or work objectively in spite of them.

[ February 20, 2006, 10:32 PM: Message edited by: Digger ]

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Godot
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Digger,

I know nothing of any of these studies so I can only comment on what's been said here....

quote:
I find the triangulation of results to be more compelling than methodological weaknesses of any given study
That doesn't seem to make much sense, especially from someone who is as sensible as I've come to believe you to be (no sarcasm at all here).

The triangulation of two (possibly) "bad" studies that are purported to be biased toward fixing the information to a desired result lends little credence to the accuracy of either result.

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flydye45
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Reread Ev's posting. Yep, the methodology isn't perfect. Yep, finding bias is "gooey" in that it deals with motivations. Yep, 4 different methodologies all found the same thing.

Where is the vast bulk of data to contradict it? As I asked before; if the methodology was so bad, why haven't there been a slew of professors who came up a refuted it, as was attempted by "The Bell Curve" (though the authors still stand behind their work). There is no contradictory study that I have seen to date. Instead 4 different studies find the same thing.

Does this mean that it isn't a vast right wing conspiracy of pseudo studies? No. It's just the only information we have except Bill Moyers pooh poohing it in snide tones. So where are these ivory tower liberals to create a "perfect" study to refute this once and for all? How many media and communication majors and grad students are out there?

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flydye45
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Correct KE. And they just damaged their credibility much more. So when the shrill and blatantly partisan Helen Thomas finally finds something juicy on Bush, who cares? Helen finds the mere existance of Bush as a crime against reality. What won't she try to ding Bush with? YAWN! They drowned out the message even more.

I find nothing remarkable in giving news stories to people I like and who like me. Much like Pat Leahy discovered; you don't get to accuse me of everything but being a Christian and still get congenial relations and access. Cheney should get off the hook just for what he did to Leahy. [Smile]

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Digger
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quote:
The triangulation of two (possibly) "bad" studies that are purported to be biased toward fixing the information to a desired result lends little credence to the accuracy of either result.
Thanks for the compliment - in all sincerity.

I'll try to explain why I feel the way I do about the various studies that I've seen so far and I'll include some thoughts on the quality of studies in general.

I don't find studies to be of a binary good/bad nature (neither do most of us, I think). There is an entire spectrum of quality ranging from excellent to truly awful. Most studies fall in the middle, with some weaknesses and some strengths. Rarely does any study conclusively answer any question or area of inquiry without lingering doubts. Because of this, I find critiques of studies which focus on methodological weaknesses to have only accomplished a partial goal. Such criticism introduces doubts as to the conclusions reached by a study, but don't invalidate the findings. After all, if the findings are wrong, another study using an alternate or improved methodology should find conflicting results from the original work.

But even studies with weaknesses in methodology can reach generally accurate conclusions. The possibility that the underlying truth was found in spite of the shortcoming in the approach is still there. So, when multiple studies use alternative methodologies (each of which may have unique shortcomings) in approaching similar lines of inquiry and still manage to find a level of agreement in their conclusions, we can have more confidence that the conclusions are approximating the underlying truth.

The more studies that are undertaken to address a question, the stronger the weight we should give to the conclusions of each individual study - if they remain in agreement. If studies start reaching conflicting results, however, then we have to step back and re-evaluate everything we think we know so far.

The various studies on media bias that I've seen (and there have only been three or four that I can recall) so far have agreed that there is some sort of bias in play. Personally, I don't think the body of evidence is sufficient to close the door on the debate, which is why I keep asking if anyone has examples of studies that reach alternate conclusions. Best (if one wishes to discredit the studies done to date) would be studies that show conservative bias, but even studies that show no bias would give us something more to consider.

The other common criticism that gets directed at studies is to impugn the credibility of the study's author(s) or imply bias via a source of funding for the study. But, as these very studies have pointed out, bias is easy to accuse but very difficult to prove. For the studies under consideration here, there have been accusations of bias on the part of the author(s) or organizations but little, if any, supporting proof. Others may feel differently about the level of 'proof' that's been supplied in this area.

Even if a study is authored by someone with some degree of bias towards a particular outcome, we're still left with the (possibly troubling) prospect that the researcher might still be correct in his or her conclusions. Again, triangulation of results from various studies helps mitigate this concern if different researchers (presumably at least some of which are unbiased) reach similar conclusions.

So, ultimately, thats why my opinion at the moment says that the issue is unresolved, but with the tally leaning in favor of support for the idea that some bias is in play. That's still a pretty limited opinion, however. Not addressed (AFAIK) are questions like, "does any of this really matter?"

And sure, I have my own biases as well - as do we all. Personally, I come into this with a belief that it is very hard to truly rise above one's political opinions when writing. I can see how bias could creep in even if a reporter worked very hard to remain neutral. I think it's human nature. Now, one could easily argue that such a belief on my part makes me more willing to believe the results of the research to date, and I would concede that point. But, that still doesn't adress the fact that we don't have any studies with contrary conclusions (that I've seen) to offset the opinion I'm holding.

[ February 21, 2006, 03:47 PM: Message edited by: Digger ]

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A. Alzabo
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Digger:
quote:
But, that still doesn't adress the fact that we don't have any studies with contrary conclusions (that I've seen) to offset the opinion I'm holding.

Here's a study that shows that political news shows tilt rightward.

Here's Eric Alterman
going over some of the problems with the UCLA study.

Honestly, I don't think there is a liberal or conservative bias (don't mistake that for neutrality, however). I've argued before that our institutional media have serious problems that extend way beyond political ideology. Picking only the blunders that prove they're out to get "your side" is a distraction from the real issues. For every example of liberal bias, I can find one of conservative bias -- something larger must be wrong.

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Adam Masterman
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Nice links, Alzabo.

Alterman points out that the ACLU ranked right of center in this study. Does that mean that, to believe that the media is liberally biased, one needs to stop believing that the ACLU is? How awkward.

Adam

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A. Alzabo
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quote:
Alterman points out that the ACLU ranked right of center in this study. Does that mean that, to believe that the media is liberally biased, one needs to stop believing that the ACLU is? How awkward.

Yeah, it's pretty wacky. They assigned a bias score for just quoting experts affiliated with partisan groups. But if you did that with say, NPR, NPR would come out with a conservative score.

And how do you "balance" quotes from the NAACP (rated liberal)? Give rebuttal time to a pro-racism group? Is there one with comparable standing? Would that even be "conservative"?

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Daruma28
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This thread and all of the ones similar to it (liberal bias in the mainstream media) just make me laugh.

You don't need studies with verified methodologies to realize the obvious reality with your own eyes if you are not succumbing to your own confirmation bias.

Let's just make this real simple:

The following issues and their GENERAL biases as reported on typically by the NYT, LAT, CBS, ABC, NBC - aka the 'Mainstream Media.'

Pro-Choice/Abortion
Pro-Gun Control
Pro-Social Programs
Pro-Progressive Taxation
Pro-SSM
Pro-Secular Atheism/Agnosticism
Pro-"Manmade Global Warming as Fact"

Anti-"Big Business"/Corporation
Anti-Catholicism
Anti-Tax Cuts
Anti-Privatization of ANYTHING

Flip positions on all of these issues and you get the mirror image on the conservative side of FOXNews, WSJ, and RightWing Talk Radio.

Despite the protestations of Eric Alterman or Ornery posters requiring "proof" with verifiable "studies," I think most of us that are attuned to detecting the pervasive biases in media sources on all sides of the ideological aisle know exactly what they're seeing when they see it.

You don't have to believe in it if you don't want to...denial is not just a river in Egypt. [Wink]

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A. Alzabo
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quote:
Despite the protestations of Eric Alterman or Ornery posters requiring "proof" with verifiable "studies," I think most of us that are attuned to detecting the pervasive biases in media sources on all sides of the ideological aisle know exactly what they're seeing when they see it.


Yep, some of us here know what they're seeing even if they don't see it. [Big Grin]
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Storm Saxon
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I sometimes think that the whole bias issue in media is a plant by the 'MM' to make people forget how freaking bad televised news converage is. Partisans fight amongst themselves to prove that one or the other side is biased when the news just flatly sucks--bad research, sensationalistic, lack of context, form over substance. Jebus.

There has been a bit of coverage in what to me would pass for the liberal media about how ****ty the MM is. Most liberals I know readily admit that the MM is qualitatively crap and don't watch it or use it, but when you accuse the media of liberal bias, liberals almost have to defend the crap because it's less of an attack on the media and more of an attack on liberals. The same probably holds true for the non mainstream media for conservatives.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that the quality of the media--how unbiased it is, what it shows--is an issue that thinking people on both the left and right could get behind if only people quit making it into such a partisan issue. Maybe this is one of those fusion issues that WP talks about.

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A. Alzabo
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quote:
I sometimes think that the whole bias issue in media is a plant by the 'MM' to make people forget how freaking bad televised news converage is. Partisans fight amongst themselves to prove that one or the other side is biased when the news just flatly sucks--bad research, sensationalistic, lack of context, form over substance. Jebus.

That's pretty much my stance on the issue. Anyone anywhere on the political spectrum can point to examples where the "MM" suck. And if you only ever look at "slights" against "your side", then the "MM" looks pretty biased. However, if you step back and look more objectively you'll see that they're generally pretty abysmal all over the place -- even in apolitical coverage.
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The Drake
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I'm in the "news is just bad" camp. Heavy rumour-mongering and pontificating, little research and investigation. I don't see this as much different than people who complain about officiating against their home team. The more mistakes are made, the more it looks like bias.

I would say that the opinion pages exhibit the kinds of bias that people are discussing, however.

Take a look at the current nytimes.com front page and you'll see it.

The current editorials page includes:

quote:


Budget Evasions
President Bush's spending and taxing proposals are a mass of missing information.

Time for an Extreme Makeover at the White House
President Bush can still rehabilitate himself if he acts quickly and decisively to reshuffle his administration and approach to governing.

Opinionator: Neocons R.I.P.

Opinionator? Never mind, I'm going to find me a cave...
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Digger
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AA, thanks I hadn't seen either of these before.

Just a couple of quick toughts on them, the media matters study is interesting and I don't see any reason to doubt what they've found, as far as it goes. They looked at three shows and counted up the number of guests putting forth conservative and liberal viewpoints. Determinations of who was saying what are somewhat subjective, but we could probably reach general agreement that they were fair in their assessments. So, for this limited sliver of the news spectrum, the conservative viewpoint gets more airtime. I'm not surprised that given the broad universe of news reporting, conservative bias can be found in certain areas.

Just to throw out one quick hit, mediamatters is an advocacy organization that has a self-proclaimed agenda to fight against conservative misinformation in the media. Not that such a viewpoint invalidates what they've done, but it's a good example of how the source of a study can affect its reading.

As for Alterman's critique of the UCLA study, it illustrates the points I made above with amazing accuracy. He spends the majority of the article taking whacks at the methodology and he suggests, but never explicitly claims, that the researchers themselves are biased.

When we first went over this study, my position was that the methodology was certainly innovative, unique, and, most importantly, untested. As such, I found the results a novelty and wanted to see other attempts to objectively quantify bias - which was what I saw as the study's primary strength. I'm not going to rehash the whole of the discussion, because it was pretty involved. Anyone interested can go back and read it. I'll just leave it as saying that I didn't find that study conclusive in any way. But I did find it interesting.

The big thing I keep wondering about is how much inadvertant bias, if it really is creeping into the news, is affecting public opinion on a variety of issues. But the very fuzzy nature of even identifying inadvertant bias, much less its relative scale and subsequent effect on people will probably go unanswered. I've always been attracted to these thorny questions, but I'm in no position to answer them.

I keep wondering about this, because I keep wondering if all the fuss over bias amounts to a hill of beans. I'm starting to think it really doesn't. If bias really were sublimely altering our opinions, the quickest way to end the effect would be to loudly call attention to the possibility. I think we'd all agree that this is being done with more than some regularity. Maybe our increasing distrust of sources of information is serving to innoculate us from its influence. I know that personally, I do a lot more checking of information than I ever would have dreamed of even 10 years ago.

[ February 21, 2006, 10:21 PM: Message edited by: Digger ]

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LetterRip
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Digger,

you have a substantial flaw in your reasoning - most of the studies that have been done appear to be deliberately biased. If you include studies with deliberately biased methodology - then the only conclusion you can draw from those studies is that the actual results are likely either less significant or in the opposite direction. Ie if your 'cluster of studies' all say 'liberal media bias' of 5% but you know that the methodology results are skewed to that result, then it will tell you that the actual result is likely less than 5% and probably much less than 5% including that it might be negative. 'Meta analysis' of studies (your 'triangulation') only works for random error not 'source bias error'.

LetterRip

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Digger
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quote:
..most of the studies that have been done appear to be deliberately biased
In your humble opinion, of course.


Edited to add: I didn't mean to make that sound as snarky as it came out, my apologies. But, in this whole discussion, realizing that this is a touchy emotional issue with strong opinions on both sides, I've been clear to point out that my thoughts are my own and I've left it to everyone else to decide for themselves what they think.

It's a pet peeve of mine when controversial ideas or topics are discussed with opinions stated as facts. I know we all slip sometimes, but it's something I've been seeing a lot of lately. If I've been especially harsh of late on this front, it's for this reason and not directed at anyone in particular.

quote:
'Meta analysis' of studies (your 'triangulation') only works for random error not 'source bias error'.
And that's just not true. It can be true, but source bias doesn't automatically invalidate results. I covered all of this already.

[ February 22, 2006, 10:20 AM: Message edited by: Digger ]

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LetterRip
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Digger,

quote:
And that's just not true. It can be true, but source bias doesn't automatically invalidate results. I covered all of this already.
It invalidates the actual results, it just doesn't necessarily invalidate the direction of results.

quote:
It's a pet peeve of mine when controversial ideas or topics are discussed with opinions stated as facts.
I said 'appear to be deliberately biased' as opposed to 'are deliberately biased'.

Of course if something quacks, has feathers, a bill, webbed feet, and is beloved by Ernie - saying it 'appears to be a duck' is being far more generous in the 'doubt' category than is warranted.

If you can refute even some of the numerous critiques that were offered that would be one thing, but one should at least provisionally reject the study until you have reason to believe that the the critiques lack merit.

That isn't to say that you need to reject your opinion/belief that liberal bias exists - just that if you are forming your opinion of such bias based on such studies as opposed to your gut instinct, personal observation, or other studies that haven't had serious critiques, that your decision making process is likely tainted.

Note that it is mostly studies that try to quantify bias in the results that have been flawed, I recall some good studies on beliefs about bias that were well done within the limits of the study.

Also the study that I critiqued - its general design was quite good, and redoing it taking the critiques that were leveled at it into account could likely give useful results.

quote:
When we first went over this study, my position was that the methodology was certainly innovative, unique, and, most importantly, untested. As such, I found the results a novelty and wanted to see other attempts to objectively quantify bias - which was what I saw as the study's primary strength.
Just wanted to quote for agreement - I definitely hope that the study is replicated with the critiques taken into account. It had some wonderful innovations, and the flaws are mostly fairly easily addressed.

LetterRip

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LetterRip
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Digger,

quote:
And that's just not true. It can be true, but source bias doesn't automatically invalidate results. I covered all of this already.
It is true unless you have some way to quantify the error and thus correct for it.

LetterRip

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Digger
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OK, let's revisit Mr. Alterman.

From his critique:
quote:
Apart from its context-free methodology, upon which such a study necessarily depends, something clearly smells funny here.
So, he thinks the objective, instead of subjective, nature of the methododology is a good starting point, but he's not enamored of the results. Fair enough.

quote:
For instance, the researchers looked at the news content of The Wall Street Journal’s news pages – finding it the most liberal of the bunch – for a mere four months in 2002, while CBS News, which comes in as the second most liberal news organization, was studied for more than 12 years. One can’t come to any other conclusion than that this huge discrepancy in length of study represents a major analytical flaw.
I don't see it as an analytical flaw. The duration of review time for various news outlets would only matter if their viewpoint were changing during that time. Longer times are better, certainly, but how much time is enough? How much is too much (if there is such a thing)? Four months of coverage would certainly seem to provide enough reference points to reach a conclusion about an outlet. If CBS has 12 years of data available, why not use it? I don't see how this creates a bias.

He continues in this vein for a while. I don't find this point convincing in the slightest.

quote:
Even worse, the idea of news stories happening within the particular context of a certain time, place, or historical moment is totally ignored in the study.
As is necessary in using an objective methodology. The only way to satisfy Alterman's criticism here would be to contravene the purpose of the study, a catch-22 that can't be resolved by the study's authors. This point is just off-base in my view.

quote:
But the oddest part of the study is that the authors ascribe ideological bias to reporters – and news organizations – for merely quoting experts in their pieces.
That's the methodology. The researchers explain clearly in their study why they took this approach. And Alterman never points out that the liberal/conservative axis is defined not by news organizations or even the 'experts', but by the votes cast by politicians themselves. How better to define a political axis than by the actions of politicians? This criticism misses the mark for me.

As an added point, and one Alterman doesn't make, the ultimate bias as determined by the study requires two transforms of the political spectrum data: first, by using the vote data to determine the leanings of various thinks tanks and organizations (which could introduce error), and then again when the news organizations quote the 'experts' - thus, potentially introducing new erros and compounding any previously introduced errors. This could easily account for some of the counterintuitive findings, like the leanings of the WSJ news articles, and the disposition of the ACLU. That still doesn't mean that the counterintuitive findings are necessarily wrong, however.

This is probably the strongest criticism of the study I've come across (to me, anyway), and I'm the one who is bringing it up.

quote:
In an almost comical aside, the study is so unserious, so intellectually and methodologically flawed, that the authors actually offer recommendations as to how to adjust one's reading and viewing habits to achieve a balanced outlook on the world. "To gain a balanced perspective, a news consumer would need to spend twice as much time watching 'Special Report' as he or she spends reading the New York Times," they write.
Here's an actual point. One would have to accept and embrace the results of the study to an illogical extreme to believe the numerical rankings that are calculated have some real quantitative value which could be used to 'weight' one's media consumption to acheive 'balance'. What units would we measure bias in, anyway?

quote:
Check the fine print and one finds this study—naively touted as both objective and significant by the UCLA public affairs office and published, inexplicably, by the previously respected Quarterly Journal of Economics, edited at Harvard University's Department of Economics, was the product of a significant investment by right-wing think tanks. In 2000-2001, Groseclose was a Hoover Institution national fellow, while Milyo has been granted $40,500 from the American Enterprise Institute; both were Heritage Foundation Salvatori fellows in 1997.
Now Alterman's just getting bitter. Not only does he impugn the authors, via their source of funding (a tactic I've covered already), but he extends his derision to the journal that published the report. Said journal apparently having a good reputation, but no longer for Alterman. They've been forever tainted by publishing a study he didn't like.

Alterman's a pundit. He's a bright guy, and his critique has merit in places, but for me, if there's a grain of salt to be taken while reading on the topic, I'll be taking mine while reading Alterman.

A final note on one of you rcomments LR:
quote:
...one should at least provisionally reject the study until...
That shows a bias in approaching the study as well. I approached it with a neutral point of view until I read it and thought about it on my own. We should not uncritically accept new information, but neither should we view it as guilty until proven innocent.

quote:
It is true unless you have some way to quantify the error...
I'll go back and ask again what units you're using to quantify bias. That's facetious, of course, but it's still on point. Just because a researcher holds a certain opinion or takes money from an organization that holds a certain opinion, doesn't mean they perform shoddy research. It can lead us to believe they might be inclined to do so, but it's still just innuendo.

[ February 22, 2006, 04:12 PM: Message edited by: Digger ]

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LetterRip
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My analysis is much more devastating than Altermans.

quote:
I don't see it as an analytical flaw. The duration of review time for various news outlets would only matter if their viewpoint were changing during that time. Longer times are better, certainly, but how much time is enough?
It is rather important, since the duration and timing of a selected time period could easily skew the results.

Also a 'longer time' isn't neccessarily better. Pick n random days over the time period of interest, and sample each of those days for each news outlet. If you concentrate the samples of one selection in a narrow time period, such as the 3 months example above, then you can get huge errors from a single event. Of course if you have a really rich data set such as the 12 years sample above, you should certainly analyse it and do comparisons against your random sample, and see how, if and why they differ.

Another worthwhile analysis would be to compare the 3 month sample to the same 3 month period of the the 12 year sample, and see how that 3 month period compares to the rest of the sample and the random sample. However a direct comparison of the 3 month to the 12 month is likely to give us erroneous results.

quote:
He continues in this vein for a while. I don't find this point convincing in the slightest.
What is your statistics background? They were comparing data sets that can only be compared with some caution and care as outlined above.

quote:
As is necessary in using an objective methodology. The only way to satisfy Alterman's criticism here would be to contravene the purpose of the study, a catch-22 that can't be resolved by the study's authors. This point is just off-base in my view.
I think you misunderstood the critique, the sampling being non random means that you must examine the context due to the skew issue. Of course even if you random sample a cautious researcher would take note of significant events/storys that might skew some of the data points.

quote:
And Alterman never points out that the liberal/conservative axis is defined not by news organizations or even the 'experts', but by the votes cast by politicians themselves. How better to define a political axis than by the actions of politicians? This criticism misses the mark for me.
Actually the liberal conservative access is defined by a different methodology if I recall correctly. I'd need to reread the paper to be certain.

quote:
Not only does he impugn the authors, via their source of funding (a tactic I've covered already)
Actually questions of funding are important. They just aren't conclusive. One shouldn't reject a paper simply because it was funded by a group that has an interest in alignment with the conclusion. Similarly one shouldn't reject a paper due to political affiliation or other factors. However, it should certainly lead us to examine any conclusion in detail. It should also make us suspicious that flaws are deliberate when they serve the interest of the funding body.

quote:
but he extends his derision to the journal that published the report. Said journal apparently having a good reputation, but no longer for Alterman.
It is clear that the paper wasn't properly peer reviewed otherwise such a silly statement as quoted above never would have been published. It is damaging to a Journals reputation to publish a paper with a statement like that.

quote:
They've been forever tainted by publishing a study he didn't like.
They've likely been tainted by publishing an improperly reviewed article, had the articles conclusion been quite the opposite and had the above flaws the 'taint' would still exist.

quote:
Alterman's a pundit. He's a bright guy, and his critique has merit in places, but for me, if there's a grain of salt to be taken while reading on the topic, I'll be taking mine while reading Alterman.
I certainly agree that you should take his critique with a grain of salt, that is true of pretty much all sources.

quote:
That shows a bias in approaching the study as well. I approached it with a neutral point of view until I read it and thought about it on my own. We should not uncritically accept new information, but neither should we view it as guilty until proven innocent.
Nope you misunderstood. You provisionally accept the article as true until you either encounter flaws in the study or find better data contrary to the study. If you find a critique pointing out flaws in the study you then should provisionally accept the critiques as having merit until you find rebuttals to the critiques, and thus provisionally reject the original study until such time as the critiques are satisfied. If you are skilled in the area, then you can probably provisionally accept some parts of the study and reject others.

quote:
I'll go back and ask again what units you're using to quantify bias. That's facetious, of course, but it's still on point. Just because a researcher holds a certain opinion or takes money from an organization that holds a certain opinion, doesn't mean they perform shoddy research. It can lead us to believe they might be inclined to do so, but it's still just innuendo.
Ah you misunderstood - I meant bias in the actual methodology. I mostly find the researcher/funding bias unimportant except that it directs me towards what likely methodological errors I can expect to encounter.

For instance - the Cato study on privatization of schooling. Given Catos stance on the subject they aren't likely to publish any paper where they conclude other than privatization is a good thing. Their conclusion was that privatized schools gave better results for less money. So I examined there paper and what it showed was that secular private schools cost more and had slightly better results; and private religious schools cost less and had worse results. However the cost difference of religious schools (upon a bit of digging) is that they pay teachers far less with fewer benefits, the infrastructure and maintenance costs were subsidized (in general completely paid for) by the affiliated church and significant volunteer effort. With the actual result being the real cost was higher and had worse results. This also completely ignored the selection bias/cherry picking that private schools can engage in resulting in those that are both cheaper and easier to educate being more likely to be accepted by a private school. Which would imply that private schools generally had higher costs and worse outcomes than public schools when using students of a comparable basis.

LetterRip

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velcro
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Slight tangent;

Even if you grant that there is a bias, particularly regarding voting habits of reporters, consider this-

The reporters in question are the ones who spend 40+ hours a week looking at the issues. They know more than almost any other voter about the details, not just the sound bites. On the campaign trail, they may spend more time with the candidate than the candidate's family. They see them when they are tired and exposed. Assuming that reporters are a typical cross-section of America, or atleast American campuses, they ought to be 50/50 Republican/Democrat. If they lean heavily one way, I don't think bias, I think experts.

If all the sports reporters pick the Steelers to win the SuperBowl, do we say they are biased, or do we trust the people who make their living studying the situation and writing about it?

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Except velcro, politics isn't a cut and dried "win or lose" proposition. And what is winning (succeeding) to one reporter is losing (failing) to another. It’s a pretty shoddy analogy. If one sports reporter hates the NFC and loves the AFC, and no matter how many mistakes the Steelers (AFC team) keep making every week, he continues picking them to "win", he is no longer an expert, but biased.

The same is true with the NFC, even though the NFC is obviously superior. No wait, I switched from the Cowboys to the Texans, so the AFC is obviously superior. See?

Politics is infinitely more complex than football, and the football experts still can't pick a clear winner on any given day. The real experts, the bookies, get by on the slim percentage that their "expert analysis" and inside knowledge gives them. If the winners were that easy to pick, even with expert inside knowledge, they wouldn't play the games.

quote:
Assuming that reporters are a typical cross-section of America, or atleast American campuses, they ought to be 50/50 Republican/Democrat. If they lean heavily one way, I don't think bias, I think experts.

I would like to believe it is true since most of the media leans liberal, but I think you are starting out with a faulty assumption. I think most reporters start off liberal/democrat. And no matter how much time they spend with them on the campaign trail, they aren't there behind closed doors when the deals are made and the give and take compromises that makes politics run goes down. They have to interprete the outcome through their own personal prisms just like the rest of us.

I think you are a very smart guy, but at least on this one your analogy is faulty. In fact, your point might even be correct, but your analogy is wrong. But hey, welcome to Ornery, right? [Smile]

KE

[ February 26, 2006, 01:38 AM: Message edited by: KnightEnder ]

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flydye45
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The other flaw is that the prospective employees are hired according to liberal professor recommendations and continually scrutinized by their employers for being "the proper fit".

Having a conservative world view may not be a poison pill career wise, but it cannot help in a competitive job market, nor can one ignore the "indoctrination" factor. If Joe Anchor believes thus and so, then impressionable interns may pick up some of his viewpoints, even if he could not light up a christmas bulb intellectually.

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velcro
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KE,

I think you overextended my analogy. I only meant to show that if most experts agree, it may just mean that they are right, not necessarily that they are biased. Here is another analogy. Most people who know a lot about science believe that the theory of evolution is valid. Are they biased, or right? Too objective? How about history. Most historians say that say Lincoln was a great President. Biased? Or that Shakespeare was a great writer?

You have every right to believe that my assumption that new reporters are generally neutral is faulty. But so far, you have not provided any evidence to prove it faulty. I think that given a neutral assumption, a non-neutral counterassumption must be proven. BTW, thanks for the compliment.

Fly, you are assuming that journalism professors are biased (a non-neutral assumption), and the leaders of the industry are biased. I'm not saying they are right or wrong, just that when the majority of people who make it their business to know a subject deeply agree on something, it is often expertise and experience, not bias.

Finally, given the majority of news outlets owned by large corporations, and the preference of large corporations for conservative causes, common sense would seem to indicate a preference for conservative bias.

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Daruma28
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quote:
Finally, given the majority of news outlets owned by large corporations, and the preference of large corporations for conservative causes, common sense would seem to indicate a preference for conservative bias.
But if you actually did your research velcro, you would find out that this is in fact NOT true.

Most large corporations play both sides of the fence and donate to both parties. That way their bases are covered regardless of who wins the elections.

Of course there are exceptions to that, where a company like say Ben & Jerries is proudly liberal/lefitst and donate solely to Democrats, but for the most part, MOST big corporations donate to both the GOP and the DNC.

So saying "big media is really big corporations, and all big corporations are conservative/republican" is a total red herring often stated by leftists/liberals/democrats that refuse to acknowledge the otherwise plainly obvious liberal bias in much of mainstream media reporting.

BTW - I always love how leftists, liberals, Democrats, progressives love to gripe about corporate donations to influence politics...when in fact if you look at the rankings of top donations to parties, in the top 10 of most donations to parties, it is all Union and Trade Association groups that gave to Democrats (except the National Assn of Realtors, who gave to both parties).

Don't believe me?

Research it yourself: http://www.opensecrets.org

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KnightEnder
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I don't know Daruma, sounds like perfectly sound reasoning to me. [Smile] In fact, even though I was positive the media as a majority leaned towards the left, the logic of velcro's argument has swayed me.

KE

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Daruma28
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But the logic doesn't comport with the reality KE.

Have a look at http://opensecrets.org/orgs/list.asp?Order=A

Although most corporations may slightly favor one side or the other, most generally hedge their bets and donate almost equal amounts to both parties.

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flydye45
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velcro,

quote:
Dan Rather told Bill Clinton at a CBS affiliates meeting in 1993: “If [co-anchor Connie Chung and I] could be one-hundredth as great as you and Hillary Rodham Clinton have been together in the White House, we’d take it right now and walk away winners. . . . Thank you very much, and tell Mrs. Clinton we respect her, and we’re pulling for her.”
This must be an example of that expertise you were mentioning. [Big Grin]

[ February 28, 2006, 02:32 PM: Message edited by: flydye45 ]

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velcro
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First, I should clarify. By "preference of large corporations for conservative causes", I did not mean donations. I meant corporations in general favor less regulation, lower corporate taxes, more free trade, etc. which, in general are conservative causes.

Second, in flydye's example, I think I am missing something. Obviously Dan Rather and Connie Chung like the Clintons.

But in addition, they have followed their careers, along with all major politicians, closely for years. They have probably interviewed them, and the people who work closely with them, at least a few times. They talk regularly with other people who know about them and what they do. So they are experts. And they have an opinion based on their expertise. So yes, I guess they are biased, in the same sense that historians are biased toward Lincoln and English professors are biased toward Shakespeare.

Note: I am not comparing Clinton to Lincoln, just noting that bias by "experts" is valued opinion, but people ignorant of the facts and context is just bias. Of course who is the expert and who is the ignoramus is also a matter of opinion, but I think it is safe to say that journalists are "experts" on politicians.

As far as unions vs. corporations, that is for another thread, but my 2 cents is that campaign donations should only be made by individual voters. However, unions seem a lot closer to a bunch of voters combining resources than corporations do.

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LetterRip
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Daruma,

thanks for the site, I wish it showed down to a million.

quote:
Although most corporations may slightly favor one side or the other, most generally hedge their bets and donate almost equal amounts to both parties.
Their indicators are bizarre and highly misleading, outspending more than two to one on a party is only 'leans'? That is strongly favoring one party over the other. Leans would be more appropriately defined as less than a 10 or 15% swing in spending.

Anything more than a 15% swing in funding is pretty significant. There was almost never an 'almost equal amounts'. I imported into a spreadsheet and did percentage funding swings.

It is fairly heavily industry specific, for instance the military, accounting, tobacco, savings and loans, pharmaceuticals, energy, transport, and alcohol, all heavily favor republican candidates. Communications had a moderate republican bias. Unions, entertainment companies, lawyers, and human rights activists heavily favor democratic candidates.

Banking seems to be a bit odd, there seem some who heavily favor republicans, a few who moderate favor democrats and then a few which are roughly equal.

Anyone have an idea why transport so heavily favors republicans? Is it to counter balance the unions?

LetterRip

[ March 01, 2006, 12:31 AM: Message edited by: LetterRip ]

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