Monday, October 27, 2008

There's no substitute for good data 

It is no secret that the press has been in the bag for Senator Obama. �Howard Kurtz' last Friday made it quite plain:

Fifty-seven percent of the print and broadcast stories about the Republican nominee were decidedly negative, the Project for Excellence in Journalism says in a report out today, while 14 percent were positive. The McCain campaign has repeatedly complained that the mainstream media are biased toward the senator from Illinois.�

Obama's coverage was more balanced during the six-week period from Sept. 8 through last Thursday, with 36 percent of the stories clearly positive, 35 percent neutral or mixed and 29 percent negative.�

McCain has struggled during this period and slipped in the polls, which is one of the reasons for the more negative assessments by the 48 news outlets studied by the Washington-based group. But the imbalance is striking nonetheless.
We have joked often about bias at the StarTribune, which made last Saturday's endorsement of Senator Coleman for re-election all the more remarkable. When it turns out that the media are taking their children to Obama events to get souvenirs, it strains credulity to think they do not have some investment in the history that an Obama win would create in their minds, and damn the consequences both to the country of his policies later and to the newspapers' own reputations.

I have received several emails and phone calls over the last week furious with coverage of the local newspaper. There has been a steady drumbeat of negative front-page articles regarding Rep. Bachmann -- this one on her withdrawing a pardon request for someone subsequently pleading guilty in the Petters scandal ran as their Sunday headline; if you can explain that choice as anything other than an attack to smear Bachmann by implication, the comments box is open -- and a preference for higher taxes for public works that borders on fetishism. It is almost an article of faith that this is true among local Republican leaders. �

But at the same time, I know many of the reporters and most of the editorial board, and I do not want to believe this of them. �I do not believe them to be intentional in that bias. �They may have it despite their attempts to work around them. �I don't think perception should be allowed to decide this without some supporting evidence.

So I have a proposal. I wish to replicate the Project for Excellence in Journalism study for our local newspaper. �I need a few hours of volunteer time and access to the Times' archives for the last two months. �I propose using the public library for the archive. �Send an email to the comment box if you wish to participate. �I am particularly hoping one or two liberal readers to join this project. �We would replicate this for Obama/McCain, Coleman/Franken/Barkley and Bachmann/Tinklenberg. �I would hope to finish the project quickly, though finishing it in time for the elections is not important. �This is not a partisan event. �It's an attempt to give evidence on the quality of our own area paper's news coverage.

Labels: , ,