Topic: Media Research Center
The Media Research Center has been getting some great right-wing press for its latest so-called study. For example, conservative media reporter Joe Concha gushed in an appearance on Fox News, "I get they're conservative, but no one challenges their data."
The MRC's new "study" by Rich Noyes and Mike Ciandella arrived under the headline "The Liberal Media’s Summer of Pummeling Trump." And therein lies the MRC's first deception. The "study" does not examine the entire media, or even the entire "liberal media" -- it looks only at the evening newscasts on ABC, NBC and CBS. That's a very tiny sliver of the media, a half-hour on three channels. Throughout their report, Noyes and Ciandella repeatedly conflate this sliver with all of "TV."
Noyes and Ciandella then offered what they claimed was a "methodology":
Methodology: Our measure of spin was designed to isolate the networks’ own slant, not the back-and-forth of partisan politics. Thus, our analysts ignored soundbites which merely showcased the traditional party line (Republicans supporting Trump, Democrats criticizing him), and instead tallied evaluative statements which imparted a clear positive or negative tone to the story, such as statements from experts presented as non-partisan, voters, or opinionated statements from the networks’ own reporters.
Using these criteria, MRC analysts tallied 1,567 evaluative statements about the Trump administration in June, July and August, of which 1,422 (91%) were negative vs. a mere 145 (9%) which were positive. Since Trump took office on January 20, there have been 4,144 such evaluative statements, of which 3,712 (90%) were negative, vs. 432 (10%) which were positive.
First: "Spin" is not something that can be measured objectively -- it's an entirely subjective value. Similarly, "positive" and "negative" are subjective as well. Given the MRC's inherent bias against those very evening newscasts, it's predisposed to find negative evaluations, making its results even more biased and making that 91% number highly suspicious.
Second: The "evaluative statements" were only only positive or negative? There were no neutral evaluations? It's unlikely that all of the statements were so binary.
Third: Noyes and Ciandella make no evaluation of whether the Trump actions that were evaluated deserved the negative responses they claim to have documented, despite claiming that "All Presidents deserve critical news coverage from time to time." Instead, they assert without evidence that Trump is as "highly controversial" as President Obama was, but "Obama’s policies matched the liberal media’s preferences, while Trump’s agenda clearly clashes with the establishment media’s world view."
Fourth: Noyes and Ciandella don't provide a list of the "evaluative statements" they tallied, which makes this something of a black-box exercise. Perhaps they don't want people to know just how subjective their judgments are.
While Concha doesn't appear to think so, there's plenty to challenge about the MRC's data -- and it demonstrates that this study does not display scientific rigor and is too biased to be taken seriously as anything other than red meat for right-wing activists. You know, like most MRC "studies."