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Henrietta Post
  • Amy Gehrt: Media bias not so liberal, after all

  • People often accuse the media of having a liberal bias, but a new study suggests that political slant doesn’t exist after all. If anything, the opposite may actually be true.

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  • People often accuse the media of having a liberal bias, but a new study suggests that political slant doesn’t exist after all. If anything, the opposite may actually be true.
    The nonpartisan Pew Research Center Project for Excellence in Journalism has conducted an analysis of presidential race coverage throughout the primary season.
    The study combined results of a computer-assisted analysis of the content and tone of more than 11,000 news outlets from Jan. 2 to April 15 and a more detailed examination of 52 key print, television, radio and online news outlets.
    The report, released Monday, revealed a surprising truth: President Barack Obama’s 2012 coverage was “consistently on the negative side.”
    In fact, the study’s authors found, “Of all the presidential candidates studied in this report, only one figure did not have a single week in 2012 when positive coverage exceeded negative coverage — the incumbent, Democrat Barack Obama.”
    Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, meanwhile, fared much better with the media. In six of the 15 weeks studied, he received mostly favorable coverage, and four additional weeks were about evenly divided between positive and negative.
    Those numbers became even better for Romney after he won the Michigan primary Feb. 28, when the press determined the “delegate math” meant the former Massachusetts governor would be the nominee — despite misgivings from many voters. Since that time, the study shows positive stories for Romney began outnumbering negative ones by a 2-to-1 margin.
    “News coverage of (Romney’s) candidacy became measurably more favorable and the portrayal of his rivals — particularly Rick Santorum — began to be more negative and to shrink in volume,” the report said.
    The study shows strategy and tactics — the so-called “horse race” — remained the major topic of discussion, amounting to 64 percent of this year’s coverage. That number is slightly lower than 2008, when the horse race accounted for 80 percent of stories.
    The issues did receive greater attention this year, however. Twenty-eight percent of stories focused on personal issues, public record and policy positions — nearly twice as many as in 2008.
    “There were discussions about policy because there were real questions about whether tea party and social conservatives would embrace Romney,” said Tom Rosenstiel, director of the PEJ and a co-author of the report. “When Santorum and (Newt) Gingrich attacked Romney on his health care plan, it raised a fairly substantive set of questions.”
    Of course, while the GOP rivals took swipes at each other, they also all had plenty to say about Obama, too.
    “In Obama’s case, his negative coverage was driven by several factors,” the report said. “One was the consistent criticism leveled at him by each of the Republican contenders during primary season. The other involved news coverage of issues — ranging from the tenuous economic recovery to the continuing challenges to his health care legislation — with which he was inextricably linked.”
    Page 2 of 2 - It’s too early to tell whether the tone will shift when the general election campaigning begins in earnest, but it’s clear Romney is the candidate who has most benefited from media coverage thus far.
    So it seems his claim last week that he is a victim of a “vast left-wing conspiracy” driven by the liberal media on a mission “to do the president’s bidding” isn’t true, after all. Perhaps Obama should have been the one playing the victim card instead.
    City editor Amy Gehrt may be reached at agehrt@pekintimes.com.

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