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Grapevine Whine - The Reactionary Noise Machine at Work

Reported by Nancy - December 21, 2005 -

On Wednesday, December 14, a paper that hasn't yet been pubiished was reviewed by UCLA News , a publication of the Office of Media Relations of the University of California - Los Angeles. By Monday morning (12/19), FoxFans were posting links to the review all over the threads on this blog. And by Monday night, Brit Hume had selected that review as "picking" #1 for his Grapevine segment on Special Report. Why all the fuss? Because the "study" reinforces the myth of the liberal media.

At 6:27pm Hume read a teaser: "Wait'll ya hear what a study of news media political leanings has found." After an ad break & headlines, Hume opened the Grapevine with this:

The majority of mainstream media tilts to the left -- that according to a revised study by UCLA, set for publication next week. Among the findings: The Wall Street Journal, despite its conservative opinion pages, is the most liberal outlet, followed by CBS' Evening News, The New York Times, & the Los Angeles Times. In fact, of the 20 major media outlets studied, 18 of them scored left-of-center. This programs ranked among the most centrist news shows include The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer & ABC's Good Morning America. The study examines US media coverage over the last 10 years, comparing individual news outlets with individual lawmakers. Lawmakers were scored on the basis of votes & speeches, while media organizations were scored on their references to think tanks & policy groups.

Comments: Amazing how quickly this moved from a press release by a Media Relations office to national news on Special Report!

It's ridiculous to be discussing a paper that hasn't been published yet. The "review" (aka press release) says, "The results appear in the latest issue of the Quarterly Journal of Economics, which will become available in mid-December." I went to the Quarterly Journal of Economics website, but the paper is still listed as "forthcoming." So all there is to work with is the review, not the paper itself. It's irresponsible of Hume to be reporting this press release as fact.

But let's discuss Hume's reporting of it:

Hume (or his research staff) didn't even read the review correctly & simply regurgitated the phrases from the press release. Saying that "The study examines US media coverage over the last 10 years, comparing individual news outlets" parrots the PR release, which does indeed use the phrase "media outlet" repeatedly (e.g., "a range of media outlets" & "Of the 20 major media outlets studied"). In fact, what was studied were 9 newspapers or magazines, one internet site, one radio program & 9 nationally televised news programs:

The Wall Street Journal news pages
The New York Times
The Drudge Report
CBS' "Evening News"
The Los Angeles Times
Fox News' "Special Report With Brit Hume"
The Washington Times
"NewsHour With Jim Lehrer" [the press release does NOT say that this is on PBS]
CNN's "NewsNight With Aaron Brown"
ABC's "Good Morning America"
ABC's "World News Tonight"
NBC's "Nightly News"
USA Today
NBC's "Today Show"
Time magazine
U.S. News & World Report
NPR's "Morning Edition"
CBS' "Early Show"
The Washington Post.

This is hardly comprehensive -- an entire cable news network, MSNBC, isn't even represented. And as an additional contortion to skew the outcome, they specifically excluded the WSJ's editorial pages but, at least as far as one can tell from the PR release, not the editorial pages of other "outlets" included.

Neither Merriam-Webster nor dictionary.com defines the phrase "media outlet" but I hope we can all agree that an individual news proram is not a news outlet .

Can you say CHERRY-PICK? I knew you could!

If you'd like to complain to Fox about this, email: special@foxnews.com

Our reader Mike The Liberal (thanks, Mike!) set up a thread in our forum for those who wish to discuss this unpublished paper further: please use this link to access that discussion

NOTE TO READERS: Please stay on topic (the reactionary noise machine, the myth of the liberal media). O/T comments will be deleted. Thanks.