Thursday, November 13, 2008

Get off my Queue!: America's Election HQ

Is Fox News biased? They don't think so. In their defense, they've been bending over backwards to cite a study that found that their coverage on the presidential elections was more "fair and balanced" than the coverage of the other major news outlets. Their McCain coverage was about 50% positive, 50% negative; ditto their coverage of Obama. Other networks had a higher ratio of negative McCain stories, and a lower ratio negative Obama stories.

But what does that mean?

Would an unbiased network parcel out positive news stories to each camp, making sure that everyone got the same amount? Or is it that there were simply more negative newsworthy items about McCain, so that an unfair bias looks like parity on the surface?

After all, you wouldn't expect an unbiased news agency to have an equal number of positive/negative stories about President Bush and President Saddam Hussein, would you?

Quantifying news stories is a very difficult thing to do, anyway. Some negative stories are very damaging, while others are barely blips on the screen. The timing and vehemence impact the actual effect that the news might have on the voting electorate.

To me, one way to determine bias would be if there was 1) someone within the organization who had the power to control the news, and 2) that person actively used that power to compel the organization to carry out a conservative agenda.

It doesn't seem likely that something like that would be public knowledge. But lo and behold, the "Moody memos" have been leaked to the general public. As per wikipedia:

Photocopied memos from Fox News executive John Moody instructed the network's on-air anchors and reporters to use positive language when discussing pro-life viewpoints, the Iraq war, and tax cuts, as well as requesting that the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal be put in context with the other violence in the area.[58] Such memos were reproduced for the film Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism, which included Moody quotes such as, "The soldiers [seen on FOX in Iraq] in the foreground should be identified as 'sharpshooters,' not 'snipers,' which carries a negative connotation."

Okay, okay. I was going to leave this question open-ended in the name of faux-fairness, but there's no getting around it: Fox News is biased.

But I watch them to get all sides of the story. In fact, I probably watch more Limbaugh/O'Reilly/Hannity/Hume than MSNBC. Something about watching the people who are blatantly wrong about so many things is very compelling.

In fact, I found Fox's daily election digest to be a very informative, well-produced piece that succinctly summed up the election news of the day. If there was any conservative slant to these five mintue segments, it was subtle and easy to ignore.

I'm kicking it off my queue not because it's terrible, but because, with the election behind us, I'm no longer satisfied with the surface recap. As we watch the transition from a Bush administration to an Obama administration, against the background of a frightening economic downturn, I want news stories that dig a little deeper.

So, get off my queue for now, Fox. I'll see you in four years. Two if you're lucky.

No comments: