Topic: Media Research Center
A MRC Culture & Media Institute report by Colleen Raezler and Brian Fitzpatrick purports to document how Americans "turned against" Sarah Palin because of "a blizzard of bad reports" about her, "running 18 negative stories for every positive one." But the tone of the report is more about complaining that anything negative was reported about Palin at all, that what was reported didn't reflect the McCain campaign's talking points -- and that (channeling Stephen Colbert) facts and reality have a well-known liberal bias.
The report carefully limits it scope to only the broadcast news networks and to coverage in "the two weeks beginning September 29 and ending October 12," thus avoiding having to discuss period after Palin's nomination and Republican National Convention speech, when news coverage of her was largely -- and perhaps disproportionately -- positive.
The report complained: "Most observers agree that Palin did not perform well in the [Katie] Couric interview, but the network coverage dwelled on the worst moments, making Palin look as unprepared and inexperienced as possible." After noting the focus on Palin's refusal to give a straight answer to Couric's questionabout what magazines and newspapers she read, the report stated:
The network coverage of this exchange left the impression that Palin was unable to identify any news sources because she isn’t interested in current events – an implausible supposition to make about an accomplished politician.
The networks would have provided a more accurate portrayal of Palin had they highlighted the Alaska governor’s thoughtful responses to other questions from Couric.
The report doesn't mention the fact that Palin could have simply answered the question and avoided such a focus.
The report also complained that Tina Fey's dead-on "Saturday Night Live" impression of Palin got news play, calling the impression "demeaning" and adding: "Funny stuff, but is it news?" The report also baselessly asserted that "Palin’s strong performance during the October 2 vice-presidential debate sucked the oxygen out of the attacks on her qualifications and intellect," failing to note that polls taken immediatedly after the debate found that a majority of viewers thought that Joe Biden won the debate.
After lamenting that the networks reported "criticism of Palin from a handful of conservative writers," the report added, "The networks failed to mention that Palin enjoyed the enthusiastic support of far more influential conservative pundits, including premier talk show hosts Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and Mark Levin." So a guy who says, ""It's not the National Organization of Liberal Women. It's the National Organization of Ugly Women," is a "premier" conservative radio host in the eyes of Raezler and Fitzpatrick?
The report also expressed annoyance that the networks were "depicting Palin as nothing more than GOP presidential nominee John McCain’s attack dog. ... Rather than investigate the substance of Palin’s accusations against Obama, the media suggested the criticism was somehow improper." In fact, Palin was the McCain campaign's attack dog, substantive allegations or no.
Finally, Raezler and Fitzpatrick get to their key bit of annoyance: "The networks failed to acknowledge adequately that Palin was doing more during her speeches than attacking Obama. She was also talking about issues, McCain’s plans for the nation, and her own qualifications." In other words, the networks weren't spewing campaign talking points to Raezler and Fitzpatrick's satisfaction. Since when is it the news media's job to by a campaign PR service?
Raezler and Fitzpatrick further confuse negative coverage with bias, scoring stories by "negative," "positive" and "neutral," then deciding on that basis which network was the "most biased." Despite suggesting that the "negative" stories were not factual, no evidence is offered to support it.
In other words, this is a study that should not be taken seriously and must be seen through the CMI's pro-Palin, anti-media agenda.
Earlier this year, Raezler penned a CMI report bashing the Dear Abby advice column, asserting that its a"dvice on sexual matters cannot be trusted" because of its alleged "unwillingness to support traditional, common-sense moral values that steer people away from destructive behavior and protect them from harmful situations." The report appears to be a retaliation for Dear Abby author Jeanne Phillips' expressed support for same-sex marriage.