Topic: Media Research Center
The Media Research Center recently did another one of its shoddy analyses of media, this time going local -- attacking two Utah newspapers, the Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News, for its supposedly negative coverage of Sen. Mike Lee and his role in the government shutdown. Rich Noyes wrote:
By a margin of 33-to-1, editorial opinion at both newspapers was harshly against the strategy of linking ObamaCare’s fate to government funding. Coverage in the news pages was scarcely more balanced, with 32 news stories tilting against the conservatives’ strategy, vs. just three in favor and 13 conveying a balanced debate.
As for assessments of Lee himself, editorial opinion was heavily negative — by a margin of 25-to-1 — while news pages tilted in favor of Lee’s critics by a greater than three-to-one margin (17 negative stories vs. five positive ones, with 14 rated as balanced).
[METHODOLOGY: MRC analysts tallied all statements from journalists and quoted sources that explicitly provided an opinion — pro or con — about the strategy of linking ObamaCare to the government funding bill, and/or offered a personal assessment of Senator Mike Lee. If the total number of opinions in a story was tilted in either direction by a greater than three-to-two margin, then the story was scored as either “positive” or “negative” for that topic. If the margin was narrower than three-to-two, the story was scored as providing a “balanced” discussion.]
Noyes seems to be demanding a false balance here. He does acknowledge that public opinion was largely against Lee's strategy of forcing a government shutdown as leverage to defund Obamacare, which means that the newspapers were at least somewhat accurately reflecting public opinion -- something which the MRC has consistently railed against.
Still, Noyes ranted that "This review shows the national media’s liberal spin is also reflected in local coverage of local politicians, even in a reliably red state such as Utah — more documentation of the uphill battle conservatives face as they try to fight the advance of big government in the age of Obama."
This was joined, of course, by indignant ranting by MRC chief Brent Bozell:
“Now that ObamaCare has crashed to earth in a ball of flame, the Utah media that pounded Sen. Mike Lee relentlessly for his attempt to spare the nation this pain owe him a sincere apology. Lee led a courageous fight in Congress to defund ObamaCare in hopes of saving the American people from this big government embarrassment.
“Rather than applauding the principled efforts of their own senator, the Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News parroted the national liberal media’s shutdown hysteria. The wreckage of ObamaCare has vindicated Lee’s efforts to tie the fate of Obama’s doomed health care law to government funding. Even some Democrats are now calling for a delay.
“The honorable thing for the Utah media to do is apologize and acknowledge that while they were too short-sighted to see the oncoming disaster, Sen. Lee saw the forest for the trees.”
Bozell followed this up by sending letters to board members of the Tribune and Deseret News in which he asserts that the papers "parroted the hysterial of the liberal national news media" and demands more false balance: "There are two sides to this story and they deserve equal footing."
But amid all their ranting about the "liberal media," Bozell and the MRC have carefully hidden one inconvenient fact: The Deseret News is owned by the Mormon Church, and it is considered the more conservative of the two Salt Lake City newspapers. It has even published columnists who echo the MRC's talking points on media bias.
It seems that what Bozell and the MRC are doing here is less media analysis and more Heathering, attacking a conservative newspaper for not being conservative enough. It's quite a feat for the MRC to bash a Mormon-owned paper for being too liberal.