Friday, December 23, 2005

Put Your Left Foot In...

I hear that the media has "liberal bias" all the time. Based on my own experience, the opposite is often true and the latest information about the UCLA study that labelled the media "liberal" based on how they referenced think tanks shows just how biased the study itself was. Gives me a warm fuzzy, it does.

Media Matters has some interesting information about the study:
News outlets including CNN cited a study of several major media outlets by a UCLA political scientist and a University of Missouri-Columbia economist purporting to "show a strong liberal bias." But the study employed a measure of "bias" so problematic that its findings are next to useless, and the authors -- both former fellows at conservative think tanks cited in the study to illustrate liberal bias -- seem unaware of the substantial scholarly work that exists on the topic.
I (like many other reasonable people) viewed the much-trumpeted 'liberal media bias' as suspicous, at best, and finding out this bit of info was no real surprise:
...the authors have previously received funding from the three premier conservative think tanks in the United States: the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research (AEI), The Heritage Foundation, and the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace.
The assumptions of the study were..well, incomprehensible to me. And the determination of which groups are liberal and conservative actually defies logic. The ACLU is considered a conservative body? In what alternate universe is that true? Defense contractors are liberal? Black is white. War is peace. This stuff just hurts my brain to try to understand it. Here's how they define media bias:
...If a member of Congress cites a think tank approvingly, and if that think tank is also cited by a news organization, then the news organization has a "bias" making it an ideological mirror of the member of Congress who cited the think tank.
What is 'approvingly', and how is mentioning a group considered bias if it is relevant to the discussion? If the standards of analysis and definition are this low -- and bizarre -- then I can only conclude that the authors and proponents of the study designed it specifically to show their presumed result. It was never intended to deterine actual bias, just to "support" the idea that the media is liberal. Jigger the results enough and you could "prove" just about anything, I guess.

I'm sure that they assumed people would hear the headline - 'liberal media bias!' - and never actually pay attention to the study itself. The media (belying this supposed liberal bias, I guess) trumpeted the findings and that was that. No one questioned it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

From Media Matter's own page: "Launched in May 2004, Media Matters for America put in place, for the first time, the means to systematically monitor a cross section of print, broadcast, cable, radio, and Internet media outlets for conservative misinformation — news or commentary that is not accurate, reliable, or credible and that forwards the conservative agenda — every day, in real time." [Emphasis added]

Objective source? Um no. I suppose maybe, if you swallow their premise. Hook, line and sinker...