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Tuesday, April 24, 2012
MRC Unhappy That Another Pew Study Contradicts Its Agenda
Topic: Media Research Center

Last fall, we noted how the Media Research Center tried to discredit a Pew Research Center Project for Excellence in Journalism because if offered evidence that ran contrary to the MRC's raison d'etre narrative that the media has a hopeless liberal bias.

Well, the PEJ has issued a new study -- this one claiming that coverage of President Obama has been "mostly negative," while Mitt Romney saw more positive coverage after he began winning more presidential primaries -- and the MRC is trying to discredit it again.

As he did previously, MRC research director Rich Noyes complains again in an April 23 NewsBusters post about PEJ's methodology:

But "the press" hasn't been tougher on Obama than the Republicans. PEJ's "good press/bad press" statistic mixes reports of the campaign horse race (who's ahead, who's behind) with judgmental coverage of a candidate's background, issue positions, etc. And, according to PEJ's own statistics, the vast majority of the reports they examined (they peg it at 64%) are about campaign strategy.

[Check out my earlier blog post for more explanation of the flaws in PEJ's methodology.]

What this all means is that the GOP candidates got better "good press" scores because they each won primaries this year. This is obvious when you look at the report's explanation of how Romney, Santorum and Gingrich each fared with "the press" (I'm stripping out the statistics, because they are a meaningless distraction):


In other words, PEJ is not actually tracking how the press -- journalists, reporters, commentators, etc. -- are evaluating, ranking, spinning, etc., the campaign. Their sample is so heavy with redundant Web posting of the same horse race results that it completely masks the spin that journalists impart to the coverage.

Think about it this way: Can any serious media observer argue that the media elite have been more positive towards Christian conservative Rick Santorum than Barack Obama? On its face, this study is not measuring what it purports to measure, i.e., the tone of campaign journalism.

Undoubtedly, given the resources they've put into this project, you'll see additional reports throughout the campaign year. If President Obama takes a polling lead over Mitt Romney, you'll see PEJ claim a burst of good press for the Democrat; if Romney takes the lead, they'll continue to say that the press is beating up on Obama. Don't believe it.

Noyes offer no evidence whatsoever to back up his assertions -- perhaps because the MRC's methodology tends to be so shoddy and so ridiculously stacked. For instance, it judged the political slant of questions at Republican debates hosted by CNN and NBC -- but not debates hosted by Fox News.

Unlike the MRC, which mostly limits itself to bashing the three TV networks and ignoring Fox News completely, the PEJ study examines pretty much all media outlets -- more than 11,000 according to the study, along with a smaller breakout of a sample of 52 key news outlets.

Further, if Noyes was the "serious media observer" he claims to be, he wouldn't be tossing around terms like "media elite" in such a pejorative way. The work of Noyes and the MRC is simply too agenda-driven to be taken seriously beyond the political activists it's intended to motivate. That's not research, that's propaganda.

The MRC starts with a conclusion -- the media has a liberal bias -- and finds evidence to back it up. PEJ, by contrast, follows the evidence wherever it goes.

Josh St. Louis parrots Noyes' complaints in an April 24 NewsBusters post bashing MSNBC's Martin Bashir for noting the "faulty" Pew study. He goes on to huff: "It's unfortunate that a division of Pew devoted to "excellence in journalism" uses such flimsy methodology to argue against the clear liberal media bias present in campaign coverage."

There are "serious media observers" out there, but they sure don't work for the MRC.

Posted by Terry K. at 12:13 PM EDT

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