media credibility

Great article from the former editor of the Wall Street Journal describing the decline of the newspaper industry. This is an interesting aside:

A certain fast-and-loose, devil-may-care attitude often prevailed. I remember walking past a photographer’s open car trunk and noticing that he carried a well-preserved but very dead bird among his cameras and lenses. The bird, he explained, was for feature shots on holidays like Memorial Day. He’d perch it on a gravestone or tree limb in a veterans’ cemetery to get the right mood. Nowadays such a trick would get him fired, but in the 1950s, this guy said, there was no time to wait for a live bird to flutter into the frame.

Sort of debunks the idea that there was once a “golden era” of journalism in which ethics were king.

The whole article’s a good read.

By | January 11th, 2008|Uncategorized|0 Comments

The lede in the Des Moines Register:

Barack Obama has pulled ahead in the race for Iowa’s Democratic presidential caucuses, while the party’s national frontrunner Hillary Clinton has slipped to second in the leadoff nominating state, according to The Des Moines Register’s new Iowa Poll.

Here’s the actual numbers:

Obama, an Illinois senator, leads for the first time in the Register’s poll as the choice of 28 percent of likely caucusgoers, up from 22 percent in October. Clinton, a New York senator, was the preferred candidate of 25 percent, down from 29 percent in the previous poll.

Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, who led in the Register’s May poll, held steady with 23 percent, in third place, but part of the three-way battle.

Wow, pretty close race really. Better look at the margin or error:

The telephone survey of 500 likely Democratic caucusgoers was conducted Nov. 25 to 28 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

That’s a huge margin of error. It means that every candidate might really be in a nearly 9-point (8.8) range. Edwards could be as high as 27.4 and Obama could be as low as 23.6. So, the new poll actually shows all three candidates in a statistical dead heat.

Why didn’t the Des Moines Register point this out? Because being honest about polls doesn’t make for good headlines.

All the major news outlets are guilty of similar shenanigans. No wonder media credibility numbers are in the toilet.

By | December 2nd, 2007|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Here’s a couple of early graphs from a NY Times story in June:

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced Tuesday that he was dropping his Republican affiliation, a step that could clear the way for him to make an independent bid for the presidency…

… Even as Mr. Bloomberg continues to say that he has no plans to run for president, his announcement has set off a storm of interest in political circles across the country, where it is being viewed as a signal of his serious contemplation of a campaign. His ability to self-finance a campaign presents him with obvious advantages, including the option of delaying even until next year a decision on whether to run.

Here’s what Bloomberg said in an interview today:

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on Sunday he never considered running for U.S. president and any suggestion he had was concocted by the press.

Bloomberg was at the centre of speculation earlier this year when he left the Republican Party that he planned an independent bid for the presidency in 2008, although he denied it.

Asked if he had ever toyed with the idea, Bloomberg told reporters in this northern English seaside resort: “I did not, the newspapers toyed with that … I’m on record as always saying I was not a candidate for higher, any other office.”

That’s what passes for good journalism these days — complete and utter speculation.

All the news, fit to print optional.

By | September 30th, 2007|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Saul Friedman argues that it’s time to abandon the cliche of objectivity:

Perhaps it’s time for the reporter to do the same, now that modern journalism in most places is done with the myth of objectivity. In fact, beleaguered and bewildered newspapers need to give such freedom or latitude to their reporters as a matter of survival in a journalism that has been taken over by bloggers, good and awful, right- and left-wing interest groups, entertainers who pass as reporters, the 24/7 cable news programs and the Fox News type propagandists for whoever is in power…

In his Washington Post media column Sept. 17, Howard Kurtz wondered why news organizations couldn’t take a stand in their reporting. He asked, “Or is there no realistic way to do what critics demand without becoming partisan?” Telling truth, with good, solid reporting, will be called partisan by those who disagree with the conclusions. That has always come with the terriitory. Kurtz quoted blogger Arianna Huffington:”too many in the Washingtonpress corps want to pretend they are leaving the question of ‘what is truth’ to their readers–refusing to admit there is such a thing as truth…The administration has faith that, because of the way too many in the press operate, all it has to do is sow doubt.” Thus we are forced into writing, in effect, “on the other hand,the White House says…”

… Why can’t reporters who cover their beats well and who become as expert as possible in that field–the law, courts, medicine, consumerism, politics, the Congress, even the presidency–write for their newspapers as if they’re writing a book or a magazine piece? If they are truly expert, as many reporters are, they need not depend on someone else for a meaningless quote. They should be freed from the constraints of “he said, she said” and provide narrative journalism, which is much more interesting than “on the other handism.” And it may come closer to the truth.

But, too often “truth” is just another word for “my belief.” If we start encouraging reporters to abandon even the appearances of objectivity (via trite “he said, she said” reporting), then we’ll produce a press even more susceptible to accusations of bias.

Of course, maybe that’s what we need to do anyway. With U.S. media credibility at record lows, perhaps it’s time to adopt the European model of an overtly partisan press. Then, each paper’s writers could freely report its version of “truth.”

By | September 23rd, 2007|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Here’s the abstract from a peer-reviewed journal article that looks at perceptions of media bias:

Although claims of media bias are abundant, systematic and scientific investigations of potential biases are rare. The present study was an attempt to determine whether a perception of bias would be found in the headlines of lead or major stories taken from the Web sites of two major American news organizations, CNN and FOX News, during the final two months of the 2004 presidential campaign.

Significant perceptions of bias were found. Overall, headlines taken from CNN were rated as significantly more liberal than those taken from FOX News. Headlines taken from FOX News were rated as slightly on the liberal side of neutral. With CNN’s headlines slightly to the left of FOX News’, instructing participants that the headlines came from a particular source did not influence the results.Although the study by no means provides the definitive answer to whether major news organizations have biases, it indicates that perceptions of bias exist.

Wow. Fox News slightly to the left of neutral? Conventional wisdom says that Fox News is conservative and CNN is objective.

The study was published in the Spring 2007 issue of The Havard International Journal of Press/Politics.

By | September 13th, 2007|Uncategorized|0 Comments