Topic: Accuracy in Media
Accuracy in Media has a new writer, Andy Selepak, and he has a new study on media bias considered important enough by AIM that it's listed in his end-of-column bio and referenced by Selepak in a Jan. 1 column. So we took a look at it.
Selepak's study first appeared Nov. 6 as an "AIM Report" item. It purports to document "perceived bias" in the media. Selepak's conclusion: "With liberals being happy with the media, and because conservatives perceive a general media bias, the study suggests that the media in fact are liberal."
Further, Fox News somehow manages to escape any accusations of being conservative. While Selepak states that "The Fox News Channel has become Republicans' most credible source for the news among television and cable news outlets," that doesn't mean it's necessarily biased: He adds that "to an 'impartial observer,' " Fox News and CNN "were the most objective outlets tested."
Selepak also recycles a conservative trope in his evidence supporting the idea of a liberal media bias: "For example, a survey in 1992 showed that 89% of Washington, DC, journalists voted for President Clinton in the 1992 Presidential election." As we reported more than six years ago, that study really doesn't support that conclusion. The largest group of recipients of the questionnaire for that study was smaller papers often with only one reporter or 'bureau chief' in Washington who focuses on local issues and their local members of Congress, not the national issues that reporters for larger papers focus on, making discussion of how these reporters purported fashioned more favorable coverage for Bill Clinton than George H.W. Bush somewhat irrelevant because those reporters were not covering the presidential election to a significant extent.
Further, in documenting how conservatives find that "the media" has a liberal bias, Selepak fails to note the decades of conservative activism by groups like AIM and the Media Research Center -- and the millions of dollars they raise and spend -- designed to plant that very idea in the minds of conservatives. Such activism, particularly compared to a relative lack of it on the liberal side, would seem to be worth mentioning in a study about perceptions of media bias.
Nevertheless, AIM is apparently prepared to milk this study. Selepak summarizes it further in his Jan. 1 column: "The conclusion is inescapable that journalists' political and social beliefs have seeped into their news reporting. People believe what they see, and what they see is liberal bias. Case closed."
Of course, if you've been spending millions of dollars over 30 years telling people that the media is biased, that has an effect on what people believe they see -- in effect, putting a thumb on the scale of perception. That makes the case not as "closed" as Selepak would like it to be.