Essay: ABC News

Pages: 5 (1720 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Communication - Journalism  ·  Buy This Paper

¶ … Coverage

Millions of Americans turn to the mainstream media for news about current events. Yet increasingly, the news they see may not be the objective coverage many expect. Contemporary television news has become a melange of enticing entertainment, disparate facts, and often forceful opinion. Anchors and reporters highlight those news items they and their networks deem important. Stories tend to follow a particular bias -- liberal or conservative -- depending on station. Material is frequently presented in a fashion calculated to appeal to the emotions -- a far cry from the objective coverage so prized by newsmen of yesteryear. Complex subjects are often presented only in outline with political messages reinforced by non-events such as the President's sports preferences or the first lady's fashion sense. ABC News is one of the nation's premier news outlets. Its nightly presentations reach an extensive audience. Considered liberal by many during the recent presidential campaign, it was not as wholly pro-Obama as some other broadcast and cable networks, such as NBC, MSNBC, and CBS. Indeed, following a presidential debate hosted by ABC on April 16, 2008, the moderators were accused of bias against then candidate Barack Obama. Still, ABC news coverage in February and March of 2009 has been largely pro-Obama in outlook, the network selecting stories that present the president in a generally favorable light. Following the pattern of other networks, ABC news combines reporting of significant events with coverage of pseudo-events to create a picture of its president that is carefully designed to sell a particular worldview to the American public.

The American Broadcasting Company, or ABC, was, from 1944, the name of the organization that purchased the NBC Blue network of radio stations in 1943. ABC entered the fledgling television industry in 1948, long finding itself a distant third to the much larger NBC and CBS networks. The network was not particularly known for its news coverage, only achieving a major reputation after Roone Arledge became president of the news division in 1977. Roone Arledge had previously created ABC's highly successively Wide World of Sports, a venture that gave him valuable experience in reforming the network's news division. Arledge was the creative force behind such ABC news successes as 20/20, World News Tonight, and Nightline. These and other programs quickly raised ABC News to the top of the ratings heap. Arledge hit upon the formula of airing news in "non-traditional formats and at non-traditional times."

At the present time, ABC news boasts that more Americans get their news from ABC News than any other source," an important fact in considering the network's coverage of February and March 2009. On February 9, 2009, ABC opened its news lineup with a story about the negotiations underway regarding President Obama's stimulus bill. Given the severe economic downturn of the past several months, a major task of the new administration has been to find ways to turn the economy around, or at least to stabilize the freefall. The stimulus bill was presented as the brainchild of the President and his closest advisors. Obama was shown urging Congress to pass the package. Such a context creates the sense that it is the President who has the people's best interest at heart. It presents him as a fighter for the greater good against the narrow and, presumably selfish interests, of individual congressmen. A clearly partisan stance as most of the bill's opponents were Republicans, the ABC viewpoint allows the network to boost the President at the expense of the other party. The following day, the same storyline was continued with coverage of Obama's speech about there being no easy way out for Wall St. These remarks were reported at length, with a focus on the President's statement that considerable work needed to be done to get the banks "back on track," and that the current crisis represented a "perfect storm." Highlighted too was the President's comment on how much the Dow Jones Industrial Average had dropped since the announcement of his stimulus plan. By giving so much airtime to these points, ABC plays the role both of consumer watchdog and principled journalistic source, loyal to average Americans. Again, these positions can be interpreted as partisan as no opposing points-of-view are given; it is simply taken for granted that the President's ideas are correct. That opponents are wrong is driven home by an additional story that presents Republicans as taking considerable risks in blocking the plan. The message is clear and direct -- President Obama is trying to help the American people, but Republicans in Congress are not. From these points it follows naturally that ABC must be on the side of the American people -- an example of the marketing pressures that drive much network news coverage.

Opposing points-of-view are finally presented on February 15, with two separate reports on Lindsay Graham and John McCain. Senator Graham is shown saying that bipartisanship is almost nonexistent in the new administration if such a large stimulus bill can be passed by Democrats. He also remarks that the country is "screwed." Senator McCain declares the "New Politics" off to a bad start. The next day it is back to more coverage of Obama's stimulus plan, and his auto task force. A second story goes into more detail about how the auto task force will help with restructuring of the automobile industry. Once more, the network shows its biases by allowing fairly extensive coverage of President Obama's plans while limiting coverage of Republican opposition to nasty-sounding condemnations of the President's plans. Additional stories reveal Obama's continuing concern for the American people and the liberal agenda: he honors victims of a car crash, plans to lift the stem cell ban, and is traveling to Denver (once a Republican stronghold) to sign the stimulus bill. Another story proclaims the President's determination to tackle housing problems next. Overall, the pattern is one of the President as caring and dutiful.

On still other levels, various pseudo-stories further enhance a sense of positive feeling about the new presidency. Michele Obama posing for Vogue follows a story about Hillary Clinton choosing Asia for her first foreign trip as Secretary of State. Hillary Clinton was the chief campaign rival of Barack Obama. Her proposed trip is unglamorous, its purpose vague. The First Lady is called a "cover girl." ABC News tries hard to convey the idea that the Obamas are a model First Couple, looked up to and admired by the American people. The story is chased by one on Abraham Lincoln's Birthday, an obvious attempt to show the Obama victory in the light of civil progress for African-Americans. The point is driven home by a final news story featuring the Governor of New York's criticism of the television show Saturday Night Live for prejudice against blind people. Governor David Paterson is blind, and also Black. In such stories, the fight of African-Americans for equal rights and opportunity is given a personal feel by the focus on the First Lady and the Governor of New York. Prejudice against African-Americans is also subtly linked to other forms of bias. A complete non-event follows -- an informal poll asking viewers to choose one of five named movies as the best American political movie. All involve highly positive portrayals of the American political system, or stories in which right triumphs over greed and corruption because that is "the American Way." A feature on March 2 contrasts Laura's Bush's current lifestyle with that of her lifestyle as first lady. The basic storyline is that it is a difficult adjustment from the exciting life in Washington to the slow pace of Dallas. Implicit is also the idea that history has left the Bushes behind, a new era has dawned as Barack and Michele Obama preside at the White House.

Additional ABC News stories highlight President Obama's commitment to the health of Americans -- a major focus of much contemporary political initiative. On the same day as the Laura Bush piece, the Obama and health connection is made on almost every possible level. A lead story talks about the President's choosing of Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius as his latest nominee for Secretary of Health and human Services. A second story discusses Obama's vow to bring healthcare to all Americans. The President emphasizes the urgency of the situation, and asks for $630 billion in preliminary financing. This is followed by another piece on how much money can be saved by the President's plan to end the Iraq War. Ending the war is not only about saving money, but also about saving lives -- the ultimate healthcare commitment. By closing this collection of stories with the piece on Laura Bush, the Network again reaffirms its pro-Obama biases and shows its preference for large social welfare programs as well as its opposition to the Iraq War. Time and again, ABC News portrays its stories from a left of center perspective. It wants to be seen as a network with a social conscience, one that campaigns… [END OF PREVIEW]

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