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Media bias. Partisanship, objectivity and the eternal search for the truth. Historical underpinnings. Colonial printer-publishers had no notion of objectivity Nevertheless, advertising needs could be a check on pure partisanship. Boston Massacre.

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media bias

Media bias

Partisanship, objectivity andthe eternal search for the truth

historical underpinnings
Historical underpinnings
  • Colonial printer-publishers had no notion of objectivity
  • Nevertheless, advertising needs could be a check on pure partisanship
boston massacre
Boston Massacre
  • Coverage was almost pure fiction, written largely by Samuel Adams
  • Pro-British publishers had been driven out of town several years earlier
an advance in reporting
An advance in reporting
  • Isaiah Thomas provided an accurate eyewitness account of the Battles of Lexington and Concord for his newspaper, the Massachusetts Spy
the federal period
The Federal period
  • Jefferson and Adams battled it out through partisan newspapers
early stirrings of objectivity
Early stirrings of objectivity
  • James Gordon Bennett (left) and the penny press had a mass audience
  • Associated Press, Civil War gave rise to objective voice
  • Department store advertising changed economics in late 19th century
yellow but not partisan
Yellow, but not partisan
  • Pulitzer and Hearst were sensationalistic, but their papers weren’t party organs
  • Adolph Ochs buys the New York Times in 1896
  • The modern era begins
rise of professionalism
Rise of professionalism
  • Journalism schools, professional associations
  • Reporters werepro-FDR, publishers endorsed Republicans
  • Censorship during World War II
a crisis of objectivity
A crisis of objectivity
  • McCarthy era exposed its limits
  • Stories were accurate but not true
  • How can we stay neutral while pursuing the truth?
civil rights era
Civil-rights era
  • Media on the side of equal rights
  • Opponents portrayed as ignorant
  • Backlash gaverise to modern conservative movement
vietnam war
Vietnam War
  • Reporters like David Halberstam (left) reported war was going badly
  • Media blamed for losing the war
  • Parallels today to the war in Iraq
the state of objectivity
The state of objectivity
  • Kovach and Rosenstiel: “Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth”
  • Lippmann defined objectivity as a method, not a result
case study global warming
Case study: Global warming
  • What is the overwhelming scientific consensus?
  • Why do the media report this as though there were genuine disagreement?
are the media liberal
Are the media liberal?

Credit: MediaResearch Center

  • Washington reporters vote Democratic
  • Do personal views affect fair coverage?
  • Should we have balanced news staffs?
nixon and the media
Nixon and the media
  • “Silent Majority” was unhappy with cultural change
  • White middle-class voters were trending Republican
  • Media seen asliberal elitists
spiro agnew
Spiro Agnew
  • Denounced media as “nattering nabobs of negativism”
  • Battled press over Pentagon Papers and Watergate
  • Accusation against the media lived on
ronald reagan
Ronald Reagan
  • Perception was that media were tough on him
  • Lowest moment was Iran-Contra affair
  • Little evidence of negative coverage
rise of conservative media
Rise of conservative media
  • Rush Limbaugh and other radio hosts attract millions
  • Wall Street Journal editorial page
  • Fox News Channel appeals to sense of resentment
william kristol
William Kristol

“I admit it — the liberal media were never that powerful, and the whole thing was often used as an excuse by conservatives for conservative failures”

the so called liberal media
The so-called liberal media
  • Whitewater a scandal that wasn’t
  • Lewinsky a bigger deal with the press than the public
  • Gore was smeared with phony claim that he’d “invented the Internet”
a theory of media bias
A theory of media bias
  • Mainstream is liberal on cultural issues like gay marriage
  • Small but influential conservative press “works the refs”
  • Political reporters strain not to beseen as biased
voices on the left
Voices on the left
  • Small publications like The Nation
  • Radio hosts like Ed Schultz (left) and Stephanie Miller
  • Left-leaning Web sites like the Daily Kos and Blue Mass. Group