Growing political slant increasingly taints media coverage
Labor Day Weekend is the traditional end of summer and the beginning of election season, when political advertisements bombard the public and any chances of a high-level debate of the issues evaporates. As cable news coverage of the recent Gulf oil disaster indicates, this year promises to be increasingly partisan and bitter.
Few journalists in cable media even maintain a pretense of objectivity. The recent Pew Research Center report referenced in my last post describes the deterioration.
Cable news coverage of the disaster, the report said, increasingly sought to place blame for the spill rather than cover the event itself. Just where the blame belonged seemed to depend on the cable network performing the analysis. Liberal leaning MSNBC concentrated on BP’s failings, while the more conservative Fox News concentrated far more on the failings of the Obama administration, Pew reported. CNN was somewhere in the middle.
“More than half of (CNN’s) coverage was devoted to the containment, cleanup and impact storyline, while less time was devoted to the corporate and government angles, “ according to the Pew report.
MSNBC, “devoted 22% of its coverage to the government storyline and spent more time than either of its rivals on the BP/corporate storyline (31%), Pew said.
Fox News “devoted the least time to the breaking news aspect of the story and the corporate angle. Instead it easily spent the most time on the government storyline, and a good deal of that was critical.”
In yet another indication of media partisanship, it was reported in early August that News Corp., parent of Fox News, donated $1 million to the GOP.
Political donations from media corporations are not new, but rarely are they so large.
In the UK, partisan media are commonplace, even among newspapers, which trumpet their conservative or liberal bias and then go on with the job of reporting the news.
But a majority of the U.S. media have always believed themselves to be different, holding themselves to an objectivity and fairness standard worthy of the First Amendment. The growing trend of partisan coverage, most evident on the cable news channels, threatens that standard and puts further into question the ability of major media to cover a significant event, such as the Deepwater Horizon, without the taint of political slant.
In the coming weeks, as the attack ads flow and the quality of public discourse declines, watch the media, especially the cable networks. Perhaps you will note the subtle, and not-so-subtle slant. Perhaps you will wonder, what kind of treatment would I receive, or would my organization receive, during an interview? And perhaps you will ask yourself, is this a good thing?
Position:Senior Vice President
David draws upon 20 years of journalism experience to counsel clients on media interaction and communications strategy.
- The Exciting Rush to Opinion-Based Journalism Can Create a Real Mess
- Newspapers capture moments in history
- The Chronicles of American Cities: Media are catching on
- The Rodney King video heralded the influence of the engaged citizen and the citizen journalist
- Diverging media: The path of Wikileaks data dumps or the Town Square