May 07, 2004

Onscreen, Mr. Data

Lefty ex-righty David Brock's new enterprise, Media Matters for America, is a strange one indeed. It proves, as James Taranto put it the other day, that "liberals are willing to spend $2 million funding a Web site that does nothing more than expose conservative commentators for engaging in conservative commentary." The peculiarity doesn't end there, though.

A poll commissioned by the new site purports to show that a plurality of the public thinks conservatives have more influence than liberals in the mass media. If the poll is right, that has a number of interesting implications, some less obvious than others. The problem is that what Media Matters calls the "complete report" (pdf) on the poll is nothing of the kind.

It doesn't show demographic breakdown within the sample, or how many survey participants self-identified as "conservative," "liberal," etc. It doesn't include a list of questions in the order they were asked, and doesn't include the exact wording for most questions. Instead, the "complete report" is an analysis of the poll and a presentation of some, but not all, of its data.

That all makes it impossible to independently interpret the poll meaningfully. And since this poll will "serve as a Media Matters for America baseline for examining changes over time in the public's media choices and attitudes," it's going to be hard to take very seriously much of the analysis that comes out of Brock's outfit.

Posted by John Tabin at May 7, 2004 01:57 AM

Media Matters for America is a peculiar enterprise, and for the reasons you cited. You did, however, fail to mention what most renders it irrelevant: that any intelligent, astute person does not need a focus group to be told that there is a very significant right-wing slant to the media.

Posted by: Anonymous at May 12, 2004 01:20 PM

Which "the media" are you talking about? It's not so homogenous as it used to be. And since, with the exception of the Wall Street Journal, almost every news source with a pedigree longer than 25 years is clearly slanted leftward, the right-wing media complaint rings rather hollow.

Posted by: John Tabin at May 12, 2004 08:53 PM

Since pedigree has little to do with readership, listenership or viewership (is that a word?) - who cares.

'The media' I am referring to is the one from which most people get their news, I needn't list every source here.

For all it's statistical irreverance, Media Matters just did a very interesting add targeting Rush. I feel like that is the kind of message that speaks for itself, needing no data citation.

Posted by: Anonymous at May 13, 2004 12:17 PM

Pedigree is influence, to a tremendous degree. Every newscast except for Fox News takes its cues from the front pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post. Every local newspaper across the country runs dispatches from the AP and Reuters. All but a few big-city broadsheets lean to the left. While it's true that newer media are ascendant, if you think there's a right-wing slant to where "most people get their news," you're just wrong.

Posted by: John Tabin at May 13, 2004 08:23 PM

This sort of argument is based on value judgements, and I still contend that the notion of a vast left-leaning mainstream media is nonsense.

Also, consider that by "where most people get there news" I wasn't referring to simply reading AP and Reuters dispatches, but editorials, local stories, commentary and op-eds. I think it's fair to say that people have opinions influenced by these.

Posted by: Anonymous at May 17, 2004 11:21 AM

I love it when liberals like anonymous (your name is a classic liberal trick, by the way) try to accuse their enemies of that which they themselves are most guilty. Conservative slant to the media! That is hysterical! I suppose the barrage of accusations against the President for the last six months comes from a conservative bent in the media! I suppose the (bogus) National Guard story (straight out of Michael Moore and repeated by Terry McCaulif) was a conservative reaction by right wing extremists. An unbiased media would have dispatched that immediately-it was a classic ``have you stopped beating your wife`` trap and had NO news value. I suppose the mountain of coverage Abu Ghraib has received, or the blaring headlines of anything bad in Iraq, and the lilliputian coverage of ANY good news in Iraq, is being done for some sinister purpose by a black cabal hidden in the bowels of the great right wing conspiracy. I suppose the New York Times, Washington Post, L.A. Times, CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, NPR, TIME, NEWSWEEK, USA TODAY, ETC. are all part of a secret right-wing plot to take over America. Gee, I`m glad you cleared that up for me!

Posted by: Tim Birdnow at May 22, 2004 08:29 AM

Hey Anonymous,

None of the networks carried the Presidents speech about his future plans for Iraq! This was a major address by the President of the United States during an election year, and the press completely ignored it. Right-wing bias in the media indeed!

Posted by: Tim Birdnow at May 25, 2004 08:24 AM