Term Paper: Media Bias in America

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Media Bias

Knowledge is rarely neutral, often consciously shaped by these special interests and then unconsciously imbibed from our earliest childhood experiences as cultural "normality." More ominously, manipulation, misinformation, and deception are inescapably entwined with one's belief in the "truth." Propaganda also impacts on the level of public discourse by positively as well as negatively influencing the democratic process. Propaganda is thus common to how image makers influence, how educators teach, how sellers sell, and how elites govern."

Richard Alan Nelson

Political Media Bias

Without a doubt, political media bias exists, and has for a very long time. In fact the basis of the prolific media in the early development of the nation was simply as a voice for the varied political ideologies to demonstrate their points of contention with opposing views. As is pointed out by a leading expert of media and propaganda, in Philadelphia in 1800 there are 81 printers, many if not most of who sponsor, write and distribute their own politically charged newspapers and pamphlets and by 1810 Philadelphia has 168 printers. The reality of this situation was clear, and the reading public chose based upon their particular affiliation and often had the wherewithal to develop a sense of the other side's arguments so as to be able to function in political conversations and life. The problem today with regard to political media bias is that the factions therein claim subjectivity. It will also be seen in the following subsection that the main media outlets have been whittled down to a relatively small set of giants, who all have their own identity, ideology, agenda and bias but do not provide the stark competition that was seen in the early days of media.

Examples of political media bias run the gamut of political operatives, yet in a basic two party democratic system, this is limited to each party and the extremes that populate the wings. Political media bias has been whittled down in the same manner as the number printers in Philadelphia and of the number of viable political parties has, to a basic two party system where it is unlikely that a start-up or "fringe" party can have any real impact upon the character of the system or the process, and especially if they get very little airtime, on any but the most radical of outlets.

Examples of Political Media Bias

Utilizing one of the most extreme examples of political confusion that has occurred in the recent past as an example the 2000, Gore Bush campaigns and subsequent election Jamieson & Waldman provide a comprehensive play by play of network media coverage, in comparison and point out the number of times each newscaster uses analysis as an aspect of media coverage something the authors view as an evolution of media that goes beyond fact to opinion.

Jamieson & Waldman point out perception in the Gore Bush debacle of 2000, when the media played a significant role in the development of Florida's defacing with regard to election technology;

Unsurprisingly, people's own political predispositions affected whether they found the media suspect. When we asked if they found the coverage of the uncertainty over the election outcome biased, Republicans were evenly split between those who said there was a bias for Gore (46.2%) and those who found no bias (45.7%), with almost none seeing bias in favor of Bush. Most Democrats, on the other hand (65%), found no bias in coverage of the election results, but those who did find bias were, like their Republican counterparts, disposed to see it favoring the other party's candidate. A similar number of independents (61%) saw no bias, while those who did were evenly split on whether it favored Gore or Bush.

Another fascinating example offered by Jamison and Waldman is the demonstrative manner in which the press covered for the early post attack hours (on 9/11) of the Bush administration, when he basically disappeared for many hours and his administration covered for him.

Had such an act occurred in a political campaign, headlines would have reported the deception. Instead, the facts were largely buried. The country needed to believe in a decisive, commanding president in the anxious days after September 11, and the press was not disposed to feature evidence incompatible with that narrative. People generally assume that the press plays an adversarial role to those in power and is quick to unmask, debunk, and challenge. In fact, reporters play this role selectively. If they assume that the country supports the person telling the story (in this case the president) and opposing narratives are not being offered by competing players, the tendency to challenge is dramatically curtailed.

All of theses actions on the part of the press, good intentions or not skew the information regarding the war, and any other conflict associated with it, to the point where be it for the good of the nation or not we have a skewed sense of trust in a president who may have made all the wrong decisions at all the wrong times.

Glossy Perspective of Complicated World

Media provides glossy inaccurate perspective of complicated world, making it less comprehensible to those attempting to make sense of it all. Through the media, regardless of the slant one is witnessing on the given network or program, there is sense that the world should be viewed in simplistic black and white, fit between the commercials kind of way. The depiction of the end of the Iraq war, occurring with the overthrow of Saddam in Spring 2003, is a perfect example. The press is not only aware of its particular bias, it will be shown in later segments of the work that more conservative agendas have more recently, through corporate agenda attempted to balance the liberal (historical slant of the media) with the more conservative views (hence, the Fox Network response to the historical liberal bias.) the situation of being at war significantly effects this coverage as it allows the conservative pundits, including in many ways the actual commentators themselves to bring patriotic and over simplified resolutions to the people with regard to the stress of keeping the nation safe, or at least free from the fear of danger.

Of course, just because reporters and editors say they are Democrats, vote for Democrats, and say they are liberal does not mean that they cannot engage in neutral reportorial practices. However, admissions coming from the press corps itself show remarkable candor about willingness to engage in partisan politics as reportorial practice. Take, for example, former CBS News correspondent Bernard Goldberg in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece in 1996: "There are lots of reasons fewer people are watching network news, and one of them, I'm more convinced than ever, is that our viewers simply don't trust us. And for good reason. The old argument that the networks and other 'media elites' have a liberal bias is so blatantly true that it's hardly worth discussing anymore. No, we don't sit around in dark corners and plan strategies on how we're going to slant the news. We don't have to. It comes naturally to most reporters." Evan Thomas, Newsweek Washington Bureau Chief from 1986 to 1996, plainly stated, "There is a liberal bias. it's demonstrable. You look at some statistics. About 85% of the reporters who cover the White House vote Democratic, they have for a long time. There is a, particularly at the networks, at the lower levels, among the editors and the so-called infrastructure, there is a liberal bias. There is a liberal bias at Newsweek, the magazine I work for." Perhaps most convincing is this statement by legendary anchor Walter Cronkite: "Everybody knows that there's a liberal, that there's a heavy liberal persuasion among correspondents."

The coverage of the Iraq was is in many ways a pinnacle of the historical allowance of bias in reporting regarding wartime coverage. The U.S. became active in the war for reasons given by the political powerful at the time, and the press was remarkably unwilling to challenge these reasons, almost till today. One of the arguments of three journalism researchers is that the press tends to follow the lead of those in charge and that in the case of the Iraq war, the "end" came long before the end, which we have yet to see, when the Saddam statue was destroyed in Firdos Square on April 9, 2003. The researchers argue that the sensationalism of the patriotic removal of the statue from the square marked the near complete end of the war in press coverage, which has seriously skewed the public's opinion of the war since. The public is not reminded daily, as it was in the past of the fact that grievous and almost constant violence is still taking place in Iraq, though it is slowing and that the U.S. is still very much engaged in a war, regardless of its "political" winning of said war. As McChesney points out the mark of a healthy society is full informed consent,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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