Monday, October 04, 2004

More on Media Bias
There is no breaking news in this John Leo article, but it is a good read. And by "good read" I mean "depressing read." It isn't really new stuff but it reinforces the feeling that you can present rock-solid objective evidence of media slant, and it doesn't make any difference.

The war over press bias has reached a boil that may threaten the whole news business, but the industry seems to think that nothing much is going on. It's just those yahoos in flyover country getting all excited again.
On July 25, the Washington Post press critic, Howard Kurtz, reported that his newspaper had carried 96 references to the issue when Bush appeared to be wrong and only two after the revelation that he looked to be right. The totals for the three major networks and three elite newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times, were 302 before and nine after. According to Kurtz, CBS never did get around to mentioning that the investigations had supported the president.

CBS! Imagine!

Media handling of the charges by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth was even more peculiar. Most major news media stayed silent for nine or 10 days as the story of the charges spread over radio and the Internet. A few bloggers argued that this was an attempt by big-time media outlets to rule the Swifties' charges out of bounds. It seemed that way to me, too. When big media finally did rouse themselves and address the issue, they tended to focus tightly on Democratic talking points, such as who provided the funding and were the Swifties illegal surrogates for the Bush campaign. In many news outlets, the adjective "unsubstantiated" seemed welded to the noun "charges."

A few major papers, including the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times, produced long and incurious reports on the issue, generally hostile to the Swifties. In the New York Times, Kerry's imaginary Christmas-in-Cambodia yarn was pushed way to the back of an endless story, along with the news that Kerry had told the Senate in 1986 that he had entered Cambodia on his swift boat. The Times apparently had no room to mention that Kerry had told this story many times over 25 years and had described it as a life-changing incident seared into his memory.
Kerry refused to make public his journal or his military records, and the media seemed uninterested in pushing for him to do so. (Compare this with the energetic media demands for Bush's National Guard records.) Apparently only one media outlet, the Washington Post, made an effort to open up Kerry's records and received only six of 100 pages. On the whole, big-time media reporting on the Swifties was dismal. No wonder the credibility of the news media is headed south.

Via Kerryspot, I also read a report on that peculiar new compound word "unsubstantiatedSwiftBoatcharges." Times Watch does a good job of documenting the way that new word has multiplied on the pages of the NYT almost as quickly as the word "GeorgeBushwasAWOL." To my eye, the single most galling part of that report was that the Times editorial page ludicrously argued that "Mr. Bush himself also made the issue of military service fair game by posturing as a swashbuckling pilot when welcoming a carrier home from Iraq. Now, the president needs to make a fuller explanation of how he spent his last two years in the Guard." And then, in the words of Times Watch,
Yet for some reason, the military trappings of the Democrats' Vietnam-centric convention didn't make John Kerry's military service "fair game" in the eyes of the Times. Here's an excerpt from an August 19 editorial on the "assault" by the Swift Boat veterans: "It may seem outlandish to launch a campaign broadside by television ad and book flackery devoted to discrediting the respectable Vietnam War record of Senator John Kerry, who has five combat medals. But that is exactly what a Republican-financed group of partisans is doing in presenting itself as Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and tattooing the Democratic presidential nominee with accusations of lying about his service and war wounds."

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