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Monday, September 6, 2021
MRC Is Weirdly Obsessed With Insisting Mormon-Owned Paper Is 'Liberal'
Topic: Media Research Center

Rich Noyes devoted a July 20 post complaining that the editor of the Deseret News, a local newspaper in Salt Lake City, says his paper doesn't have a "leftist agenda." After noting that the editor cited "quasi-scientific sources" to prove his contention about the paper lacking ideological bias, Noyes huffed in response:

Bottom line: these charts may satisfy the Internet’s desire for a quick side-by-side comparison of news sources, but they don’t offer any substantive examples to back up their grades. Just trust them.

That’s not how we study media bias here at NewsBusters. Our daily output consists of endless examples, with transcripts and embedded video so everyone can see the coverage themselves. Our empirical studies focus exclusively on content, rigorously examining all coverage on a specific topic, from one or more designated news sources, for a specific period of time. In my 30+ years of experience, that’s the only way a study’s conclusions have merit.

But the MRC's approach is even less "quasi-scientific" than the bias monitors he dismisses. Yes, the MRC loves cranking out anecdotal examples, but they are used to push partisan narratives, not support legitimate "media research." Further, the MRC always starts with the conclusion -- the non-right-wing media has a "liberal" bias -- and searches for evidence to support that claim while ignoring everything else that might disprove it, as we documented with the methdology its uses in many of its "studies" of "bias" (a subjective measure), which focuses on a tiny sliver of all coverage, ignores neutral coverage, won't make the raw data public and completely refuses to apply the same standards to Fox News.

Noyes then wrote:

And as it happens, I’ve managed two studies of the Deseret News, and both showed coverage skewed pretty heavily against conservatives.

In 2013, our analysis showed the Deseret News tilted 6-to-1 (24 stories vs. four) against Utah Senator Mike Lee and other conservatives’ strategy of holding up government funding as a way to oppose ObamaCare. This wasn’t as lopsided as coverage at the neighboring Salt Lake Tribune, which tilted 41 to zero against the conservative strategy, but it’s hardly a “lean right” result.

Then last year, we looked at coverage of the 4th Congressional District race between incumbent Democrat Ben McAdams and Republican challenger Burgess Owens. Our analysis showed Owens, the conservative, received significant negative coverage, while McAdams faced none. That’s not the work of a paper that “leans right,” either.

As it happens, we critiqued both of those alleged studies at the time. The underlying premise for both -- as it is for much of the MRC's "media research" -- is that any criticism of a conservartive, no matter now newsworthy or justified, is ipso facto evidence of "liberal bias." For the 2013 study, we noted that Noyes was admitting false balance by conceding that public opinion was largely against Lee's strategy of forcing a government shutdown as leverage to defund Obamacare, meaning that the two newspapers were at least somewhat accurately reflecting public opinion. For the 2020 study, Noyes was complaining that several scandals involving Owens were being reported by the News -- even though he seemed to concede that the negative coverage was justified -- while not offering any evidence of scandals involving McAdams that should have been reported but were not.

And in both cases, Noyes censored the fact that the Deseret News is owned by a division of the Churst of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- a.k.a. the Mormons -- meaning that it has little genetic incentive to be a "llberal" media outlet. Nevertherless, Noyes insisted:

To be clear, I do not think the Deseret News is on the same level as a woke/progressive/leftist newspaper like the New York Times. But when we’ve analyzed their political coverage, it reads more like Democratic talking points than a “leans right” newspaper.

The fact that Noyes has determined that the Deseret News is nothing but a "Democratic talking points" based solely on two tiny, highly flawed "studies" done seven years apart tells us all we need to now about just how "quasi-scientific" the MRC's methodology really is. That, and the fact that he apparently believes that "woke," "progressive" and "leftist" mean exactly the same thing.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:53 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, September 6, 2021 1:54 AM EDT

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