Friday, December 08, 2006

Slant of media is driven by audience

Slant of media is driven by audience, not owners, U.S. study shows - Technology & Media - International Herald Tribune: "When the anchorman Matt Lauer declared on the "Today" show last week that his network, NBC, would start referring to the conflict in Iraq as a "civil war," he inadvertently started his own civil war within the American news media.

Fox News refused to follow suit, saying that non-Iraqis were involved in the fighting, "and that makes it something different." Accusations of partisanship flew in all directions.

Yet newspapers around the country have been making decisions on this matter for months. The Los Angeles Times and The Christian Science Monitor have somewhat officially termed the conflict a civil war; The Washington Post has not.

In 2005, phrases like "death tax," "illegal aliens," "Terri Schiavo," and "nuclear power" came mostly from Republicans. Phrases like "minimum wage," "public broadcasting," "middle class" and "oil companies" came mostly from Democrats. Using those phrases, the two economists made a simple index of partisanship that lined up with standard measures like a politician's score on the Americans for Democratic Action's ideological scale.

The study then analyzed 417 newspapers in the United States, accounting for about 70 percent of total newspaper circulation, as if they were politicians. The researchers measured, for example, all the times in articles about Social Security that a newspaper referred to "personal accounts," a Republican term, or to "private accounts," a Democratic one. Their measure of partisan slant came only from the news coverage; they did not include anything from editorial pages.

The index matched most popular perceptions of newspaper partisanship. Papers like The Washington Times or The Deseret Morning News of Salt Lake City, Utah, used Republican phrases while papers like The San Francisco Chronicle and The Boston Globe used Democratic ones."

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