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Two Cheers for Newhounds

My latest media column for the Rocky Mountain News praises the citizen activist website Newshounds.us for providing checks and balances to Bill O'Reilly's extremely deceptive coverage of a controversy at Boulder High School. (The coverage is discussed in depth in an Issue Paper I wrote for the Independence Institute.) I wish that Newshounds were less angry in its tone, but I do think that it sometimes plays a useful role in providing facts which are omitted in Fox's coverage of issues.

The column also discusses a new ranking of the most influential political blogs in Colorado (my Independence Institute colleague Ben Degrow won second place for Mount Virtus), and the Denver Post's failure to fully correct a major error: incorrectly claiming that Powell, speaking in Aspen, had predicted a Sunni victory in Iraq; he actually predicted a Shia victory.

scote (mail):
Watching Fox News all day sounds like one of the worst jobs in America. Maybe Newshounds should call up Mike Rowe and suggest he work there for a day...

From the article

I agree with Newshounds that Fox is slanted to the right, but to a lesser degree than CBS, ABC and NBC slant left, as detailed in a 2005 Quarterly Journal of Economics study

I have a really hard time believing that CBS, ABC and NBC are more left than FOX is right. I think Media matters does a good job of showing that study is bunk. By the study's coding standard the ACLU is conservative, which I'm sure will be news to VC readers.


[DK: I did a follow-up column on the MMA criticsm of the study. http://davekopel.com/Media/RMN/2006/Criticism-of-bias-study-is-silly.htm. One excerpt from that column: "The MM critique did, to its credit, also attempt to address the merits of the UCLA/Missouri paper, although not very successfully. For example, MM expressed consternation that the American Civil Liberties Union (disclosure: I have been a card-carrying member since 1978) was scored at 49.8 percent, based on its citations by members of Congress. That put the ACLU almost at the exact center of the congressional political spectrum. Apparently the MM author had not read the UCLA/Missouri study adequately, since the professors addressed precisely this point: during the debate over the McCain-Feingold political speech censorship bill, opponents of the bill frequently and approvingly cited the ACLU's stance on the bill - which of course was consistent with the ACLU's long-standing support for complete freedom of speech. Indeed, one-eighth of the congressional mentions in the time period studied came from conservative Republican Mitch McConnell, the lead opponent of the censorship bill. Several other points raised by MM were also already addressed in the study."]
7.14.2007 5:27pm
scote (mail):
I'm also a little surprised that you haven't given props to Media Matters and Media Matters Colorado who have been all over this issue, complete with non-YouTube video and audio archives

If you are going to discuss the many, many failings of Bill O'Reilly it a curious--if not stunning--omission to fail to mention his arch-nemis Media Matters, who expertly fact check O'Reilly to his extreme consternation, so much so that he spends a fair amount of time excoriating "Left Wing smear sites" on air--by which he means Media Matters, though News hounds may also be included. In spite of all his vitriol aimed at Media Matters, O'Reilly has never shown any of Media Matters' fact check articles to be anything but completely true.


[DK: As you point out, MMC has done some good work on the issue. I was disappointed that they let the issue go for about 2 1/2 weeks with no response (since they are usually very quick in their responses), and their first foray into the topic was on a tertiary point [whether there was "outrage" in Boulder] rather than on the distortions about the content of the Boulder High panel itself. Since then, they've done several good pieces, including (my favorite) one in which they pointed out that O'Reilly, appearing on a Denver radio show, claimed that I had said, on O'Reilly's show, the opposite of what I did say. (I had said that the BHS panel was flawed because it was unbalanced, and O'Reilly claimed that I had said that there was no problem with the lack of balance.) On the Boulder High issue, it's really been Newshounds, rather than MMC, which has been the focal point for the local community rallying against O'Reilly's falsehoods; Newshounds deserves a lot of credit for providing the Boulder High students with a platform.


In any case, MMC is familiar to people who read my column, and the column of my bi-weekly counterpart Jason Salzman. Newshounds is not known by our audience, so that's why I focused the column on them. Similarly, in the final section of the column, I wrote about SquareState, a Colorado Democratic blog, rather than about some of the other Colorado Dem. blogs which I had praised in previous columns.]
7.14.2007 6:08pm
Greedy Clerk (mail):
But, but, but, Glenn Reynolds who is a perfectly non-partisan, centrist, liberatarian tells me that Media Matters is a left wing organization, just like O'Reilly, who also like Glenn Reynolds, is a perfectly non-partisan, centrist.
7.14.2007 6:13pm
frankcross (mail):
Media Matters is obviously left, but that's good. They are determined to keep a check on the right wing, and vice versa.

The Groseclose/Milyo study as published was a good one. But it was also timebound. It occurred when both Congress and the President were Republican and normalized on the congressional median. It might find different results, today, when Congress is Democratic. Moreover, it inevitably would characterize an anti-government bias as a liberal one, given the makeup of government at the time. Yet such a media anti-government bias may be independent of ideology.
7.14.2007 7:08pm
scote (mail):

I did a follow-up column on the MMA criticsm of the study. [snip] One excerpt from that column: "The MM critique did, to its credit, also attempt to address the merits of the UCLA/Missouri paper, although not very successfully. For example, MM expressed consternation that the American Civil Liberties Union (disclosure: I have been a card-carrying member since 1978) was scored at 49.8 percent, based on its citations by members of Congress. That put the ACLU almost at the exact center of the congressional political spectrum. Apparently the MM author had not read the UCLA/Missouri study adequately, since the professors addressed precisely this point: during the debate over the McCain-Feingold political speech censorship bill, opponents of the bill frequently and approvingly cited the ACLU's stance on the bill - which of course was consistent with the ACLU's long-standing support for complete freedom of speech. Indeed, one-eighth of the congressional mentions in the time period studied came from conservative Republican Mitch McConnell, the lead opponent of the censorship bill. Several other points raised by MM were also already addressed in the study

You make it sound like you wrote a thorough scholarly refutation. Such is not the case.

That small block of text you cite is pretty much the entirety of your "follow up." In your brief article, you say that funding sources shouldn't be considered a potential source of bias, that it is reasonable to say that the ACLU is conservative and that the study "addressed" the issues that Media Matters brought up without detailing what issues the study allegedly addressed or how.

Altogether, that is a very thin and un-satisfying "refutation" of Media Matters' detailed critique.

The study's findings are contradicted by pretty much every other media bias study. For example the study found that The News Hour on PBS is centrist, however The News Hour consistently books more Republicans and conservatives as guests than Democrats or liberals. In a study by FAIR, it was shown that Republicans outnumbered Democrats 2:1 from 2005-2006.

Media Matters aren't the only one's to disagree with the study's curious methodology.


Speaking of bias, one wonder's if Media Matters' Left Wing perspective isn't the reason you failed to mention them in reference to the O'Reilly / Boulder High incident. I'd be hard pressed to think that any one knowledgeable and active in the issue wouldn't know of Media Matters as a, if not the, leading resource on the subject. And while Media Matters is not impartial, they have a heavy emphasis on factual information. Perhaps you just couldn't bring your self to say "two cheers for Media Matters" even though they have most likely provided even more coverage of the incident than Newshounds?

BTW,
I think it is more than a tad gauche to comment by editing posts rather than just replying like a normal person, even if you are a mod.
7.14.2007 7:29pm
frankcross (mail):
You need to read the study. They did their evaluation both with and without the ACLU results, which seemed anomalous.

QJEcon is arguably the best economics journal out there. The thinkprogress site has some valid questions but none that really undermine the study. There is a valid question about whether the sources quoted by the media are a valid measure of media bias. But it's pretty difficult to construct a truly neutral analysis.

The "Republican guests" measure is skewed by the same factor that I suggested might influence the study. The News Hour will interview members of the Administration. If it is a Republican Administration, there will be more Republicans interviewed.
7.14.2007 8:22pm
scote (mail):
frankcross wrote:

QJEcon is arguably the best economics journal out there. [emphasis mine]

I assume they aren't really known for media bias studies.

Of course, the criticisms I've mentioned are not the only ones out there. There also criticisms by Brendean Nyahn, David Warsh ,Dow Jones [via pointer online], Mark Liberman, Jay Cost, eRiposte and Paul Rosenberg.

DK wrote:

In any case, MMC is familiar to people who read my column, and the column of my bi-weekly counterpart Jason Salzman.

Speaking of Jason Salzman, he also believed the media study was flawed.
7.14.2007 10:19pm
frankcross (mail):
No, they're not known for media bias, but they are known to be sticklers for methodology. Rather than just listing critics, it might be good to present the actual arguments that you found compelling.

Now, I wouldn't worship the results of this study. As I said, any study of media bias is going to be difficult. But it's probably the best out there.
7.14.2007 10:28pm
scote (mail):

Rather than just listing critics, it might be good to present the actual arguments that you found compelling.

Valid point. I'm heading out the door and I mostly wanted to make the point that there is a body of criticism of this report and it it isn't just Media Matters.

In any case DK's "refutation" of Media Matters' critique was lacking...
7.14.2007 10:37pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):
O'Reilly is a populist who is more MOR than conservative. He's pro-abortion and ani-death penalty for example.

I do note a lot of errors in O'Reilly's presentations -- David is certainly not a 'secular progressive'.

The most significant part of this conflict though is what David is doing with a child in a slave school? I never consigned my children to such institutions.
7.16.2007 12:05pm