8.09.2005

Diagnosis: Chronic Media Bias

It has happened again. We shouldn't be surprised. Within about one week. Two related stories, featuring one Democrat and one Republican, find very different receptions by the media. Media bias? What else?

Exhibit A
Recently, President Bush's health report card was made public. He is in "superior" condition. To be very honest with you, I am glad that the president is in good health. I'm glad he'll be around to complete his job. I'm glad he will be around well beyond his term. But, that news is normally not what I'm going to be talking about with my family, friends and colleagues on any given day.

Apparently, this was not everyone else's reaction. At least not everyone at the LA Times. In his piece entitled, "The (over) exercise of power,"Jonathan Chait had this to say: "What I mean is the fact that Bush has an obsession with exercise that borders on the creepy...Given the importance of his job, it is astonishing how much time Bush has to exercise." (italics mine)

This is the Los Angeles Times? Someone in Los Angeles, the Mecca of health and beauty idolatry, has a problem with the president staying healthy?! Is it possible to have such a thought, much less make such an accusation while identifying in any way with Los Angeles?

Chait continued: "Bush's insistence that the entire populace follow his example, and that his staff join him on a Long March - er, Long Run carries about it the faint whiff of a cult of personality. It also shows how out of touch he is. It's nice for Bush that he can take an hour or two out of every day to run, bike or pump iron. Unfortunately, most of us have more demanding jobs than he does."

I was a high school teacher in LAUSD for about six years. And, Jonathan Chait's disrespect towards the president in that statement competes with some of the most insulting things I've heard children say about teachers. And, even the children know that what they are saying is inappropriate when they do say it. My guess is that the average teenager would be quicker to apologize for degrading a teacher. Would Chait do likewise for the President of the United States? On a side note, I can't help but wonder what Chait was saying about the blue dresses and cigars in the Oval Office under the last administration...just out of curiosity.

Exhibit B

We also recently heard that former President Clinton has taken on the cause of childhood obesity. "I was a fat band boy" was the heading of the CNN story. The report paints the picture of a man who has learned from his deadly (literally) eating habits. The scare that led to his recent heart surgery motivated him to make changes and encourage others to change also.

I find this a good story. I'm glad to hear the former president is feeling better and even helping kids who face issues he dealt with as a child. Nice story. Sweet. But, it wouldn't have captured my attention so much had I not read what I had about President Bush's health.

Here are some of the quotes from the CNN story:

"Health scare prompts ex-president to lead childhood obesity fight."

"The brush with death I had maybe had the biggest impact of all," Clinton recalled. "I realized that one more time I've been given another chance, and I wanted to make the most of it."

"Clinton has made changes since his health scare. He has cut down on french fries, eats more fruits and vegetables and incorporates exercise into his mornings. He said he wants to teach that lesson to American children."

Exhibit B/President Clinton is made to be an inspiration, an example and a pioneer in a noble cause while Exhibit A/President Bush is called a cult weirdo. President Clinton is made to sound like a hero for surviving his past and for taking steps to help children change their habits. President Bush is criticized for the time he spends working out and for the audacity he displays in calling others to follow in his example.

Rodney King's overused "Can't we all get along" cry comes to mind right now. What good is done by criticizing anyone, much less the President of the United States, about encouraging people to live healthier lives? What makes one man's work in the same area righteous and another's an abomination? Unless you see something I don't, it's just plain bias. The disease of the media.

I'm thankful for the work both of those men are doing to promote health among young people--and all people--in this country. We sure do need it.

Actually, we need a balanced diet in many ways. Thankfully, we're each responsible for our own diets. No one forces us to eat fast food just as no one forces us to watch or listen to a limited or one-sided network, on either side of the spectrum. I encourage you to choose from the wide variety accessible to you.

The next crusade I'd like to see us take on is making sure that the media gets a balanced diet and delivers likewise.

31 Comments:

At 8/09/2005 07:07:00 AM, Blogger Poison Pero said...

How dare Bush waste his time "Working Out".

He should be spending his time doing much more necessary things.....Like playing cigar games with interns or something.

I think it's great when the media goes on about stuff like this.......Because normal people see and hear it, and think they are insane.

 
At 8/09/2005 07:15:00 AM, Blogger Lores Rizkalla said...

I agree, Pero. Incidentally, i was still editing the post when you commented. i had just added the line about blue dresses and cigars.

It really is a shame that the very same people who defended a president's right to keep his "private" and "public" lives so separate, are now calling a man "cooky" and a "cult"-like for doing things that would not only NOT embarass him, his family and his nation but could actually benefit all of the above!

 
At 8/09/2005 07:46:00 AM, Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

Chait's article, which I believe is an op-ed piece, didn't upset me at all. It's one of those examples, though, of just how ridiculous liberal Bush-haters can be in scraping the barrel for any flaws they can find in his personal character. I guess some of them have gotten weary of pushing the standard caricature of "Bush is a moron/Bush is stupid" line of criticism.

I just laugh.

Really, an article like that only helps the Republicans and President Bush, in my opinion.

 
At 8/09/2005 07:52:00 AM, Blogger Lores Rizkalla said...

you're right, wordsmith. it was an op-ed piece. and, yes, it's a nice moment of giving them plenty of rope. they seem to know what to do with it.

but, i continue to be amazed by the simultaneous Clinton adoration over such similar issues. i don't know how convinced i am of the public seeing the discrepancy. i hope so.

 
At 8/09/2005 02:33:00 PM, Blogger Mary Lane said...

I read that same article and I was so upset when I read it as well. I mean, come on, it was the LOS ANGELES Times. I ended up writing to the editor of the paper because of sheer ridiculousness of it all. I mean, talk about discrediting a newspaper, adding extreme bias, etc. No response from that end though. Figures...

 
At 8/09/2005 02:59:00 PM, Blogger Layman said...

Insightful as usual, Lores.

 
At 8/09/2005 03:41:00 PM, Anonymous KO said...

"Unfortunately, most of us have more demanding jobs than he does."
Is he kidding?? How can he write this line (among the many, but esp. this one) and expect anyone to take him seriously? Like you, Lores, and Wordsmith, have said, I hope this gives the general public even more opportunity to not take the liberal media seriously.

By the way, I saw a bumper sticker yesterday that said, "I think, therefore I don't listen to the media." Appropriate for today's blog!

And, Lores, your "little fan" here recognized you once again!

 
At 8/09/2005 03:54:00 PM, Anonymous David said...

You all were doing great with the analysis until you got to the cigar and blue dress comment. Then you jumped right into the same category as that LA Times writer.

 
At 8/09/2005 04:24:00 PM, Blogger Lores Rizkalla said...

David, i have to admit i thought about whether to mention that.

However, i believe asking the question of whether a writer who is coming down so hard on the president for what needs to be doing had the same concern over things that should NOT have been done on taxpayer time and money is a fair one.

 
At 8/09/2005 07:35:00 PM, Blogger pawlr said...

Some important facts to think about when considering the relative work schedules of Clinton and Bush during their presidential terms.

Clinton: in 8 years, 152 days.

Bush: in 5 years, 319 days.

This is the factual basis for the L.A. Times article, in the context of Bush taking over 20% of his time on vacation.

I love it when "normal people" see and hear facts like this which only prove which party's presidents work harder to serve the people of this country.

I also find it troubling the way you compare the relationship between the press and the President as analogous to the relationship between a teacher and her teen-age students. Last I checked, the President's job is to serve at the behest of the people of the U.S. As such, he is a public figure open to criticism. To suggest that we as citizens are like children and our leaders like parents is to suggest that our elected leaders act "in loco parentis".

This is a pretty revoltingly Orwellian suggestion to anyone who believes that in a Democracy, leaders should serve the public and be responsive to their needs.

 
At 8/09/2005 07:42:00 PM, Blogger mlwhitt said...

I think Bush sound be a good example to all of the lazy people in this country that complain about bad health and being over weight. How can they grumble about a President that actually gets off this arse and works out? When I heard them barking about his exercising too much I started laughing my butt off.

 
At 8/09/2005 07:55:00 PM, Blogger Lores Rizkalla said...

pawlr, i know you're not intentionally trying to get off topic, right. my reference to students and teachers is not intended as an exact comparison. in context, i believe it is clear that 1) i'm drawing a comparison from a group that can be the most disrespectful. 2) we're talking about showing respect for a position, regardless of how you feel about the person.

 
At 8/09/2005 08:19:00 PM, Blogger Lores Rizkalla said...

KO, i don't think the rest of this blog community should be deprived of seeing the "little fan" of Just A Woman...maybe he should make an appearance!

 
At 8/09/2005 08:24:00 PM, Anonymous KO said...

Lores, as a few of your regulars have been experimenting with putting on pictures, I too will have to figure it out! Is the blogging world ready for such a face?! :)

 
At 8/09/2005 08:25:00 PM, Blogger Lores Rizkalla said...

KO, the blogging world could shut down with such a face :)

 
At 8/10/2005 12:51:00 AM, Blogger tugboatcapn said...

How DARE President Bush be healthy!!
Everyone knows that he should keel over dead as soon as possible for stealing the 2000 election, and starting an immoral war for oil against brown people!
Long live president Slick Willie!!

I think I am going to be sick...

 
At 8/10/2005 01:18:00 AM, Blogger Mark said...

Don't ya just love media bias?

 
At 8/10/2005 01:19:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 8/10/2005 01:49:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 8/10/2005 09:41:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I may have totally missed the point but both of the articles did not seem like media bias to me.
The difference between the articles that struck me was not that one subject was a Republican and the other a Democrat, but that one piece was about an EX-president and the other piece was about the current leader of the free world.
Now, while I do not particularly care about the current President's exercise habits or how long he runs, all I ask is that he be reachable in case of an emergency (My guess is that he is).
As a work-a-holic society, I don't think that it is a shock that a person is judgmental about the fact that the President takes one to two hours out of his day to exercise.
Personally, I hope that if President Bush had a choice between taking a call from Kim Jong II regarding his nuclear weapons programs and going on a jog, he would choose the former and not the latter.
The cnn.com piece was about an ex-president i.e. a person who used to run the free world and now really has nothing else to do, so he decided to take up the cause of childhood obesity. That is what ex-presidents do, they take up causes.
The more disturbing point to me in the la times article was that Bush reportedly fired his economic advisor, in part, for being overwieght. Granted, this may simply be a juicy piece of Washington gossip and it is very possible that there is not a shred of truth to the story. However, in the event that there is some truth to it, I have a serious problem with the fact that one's weight-or problem with it- is now factored into one's fitness for a job (no pun intended). President Bush can do all the health promoting that he wants, but I ask that he not start hiring and firing people based on whether or not they exercise. I really do not care if the next Supreme Court justice is a great runner. Instead, I ask that he be the most capable person (based on his resume) for the job.
I am sure that when President Bush is done with his current term, the media will write puff pieces on the then Ex-President's crusade to keep America fit.

 
At 8/11/2005 04:41:00 PM, Blogger Jaymeister said...

I think you're comparing apples to oranges here. If both articels had been news items posted in the same media outlet, then you'd have a point. But the Bush piece was an opinion piece in the L.A. Times, and the Clinton story was a news item on CNN. Should I use the Wall Street Journal editorial page as evidence of bias in Time magazine?

 
At 8/11/2005 05:45:00 PM, Blogger Lores Rizkalla said...

jaymeister, first i want to welcome you to the site. we're glad to have your viewpoint here.

now, about your comment...if the bush-hatred and clinton-adoration weren't already so incredibly prevalent throughout the media, then you would have a point.

 
At 8/11/2005 06:16:00 PM, Blogger Jaymeister said...

Lores, it's a pleasure to post here and to read your blog. I invite you to check mine out as well - I'm just a rookie in this racket.

The reponse you just gave seems to be begging the question. If you want to bemoan bias, then you really should limit your analysis to news items, since opinion pieces are supposed to be subjective by definition. If such bias is "prevalent throughout the media", surely you can do better at exposing it than the examples you cited. Nonetheless, for every example of Bush-hatred that you show me, I can produce an example of the opposite. Objectivity, like altruism, is not a real-world quality. Every editorial decision is biased. But let's see who's accurately reporting the facts.

 
At 8/12/2005 12:02:00 AM, Anonymous Perkins said...

There is some room for analyzing the opinion sections of the news for evidence of bias. Remember, not everything gets printed. The editors pick and choose what they want in their paper or on their television program. Just try to get something conservative printed in one of the major newspapers. Odds are you can't. Unless you write it in such a way as to make yourself seem foolish.

These articles were probably not the best choices to demonstrate the bias that seems to pervade the major media... Better examples would be all the old stories that get reworked and printed as if they were current news, the stories that only show one side, and some of the outright falsehoods that get perpetuated. (For example, there was a whole bunch of Bush bashing that went on because, according to the major media, the 911 commission discovered that Saddam had absolutely nothing to do with any terrorism. I read the commission's report. They said no such thing.)

These people don't seem to realize that the world is changing. They no longer have a monopoly on the flow of information. Whether their apparent bias is intentional or merely the result of laziness I cannot say. However, I do know that if they don't do something about it they won't be in business much longer.

 
At 8/12/2005 01:20:00 AM, Blogger Jaymeister said...

perkins,

We could go on and on and dance around the issue of liberal bias in the mainstream media. The larger point is that you appear to be refusing to concede that bias is omnipresent.

Just look at the title to this thread - "Diagnosis: Chronic Media Bias". It does not mention liberal bias specifically, but it is assumed that this is what Lores meant before you even read a word of the content. This implies that bias itself is a strictly liberal enterprise. Moreover, it implies that bias only exists if you disagree with the coverage. For example, would you complain about bias in media outlets than lean to the Right? Or do you believe that media who share your point of view are "unbiased"? I'd love for you to point me toward a publication/television station/web site that is completely unbiased.

One last point: You are correct that editors pick and choose what they want to cover. (I had previously stated that every editorial decision is biased.) Keep in mind who their stakeholders are - large media conglomerates for the most part, who are more interested in serving their bottom line than serving the public - not exactly a liberal ideal. It's their right to operate that way, but that doesn't necessarily make it good for an informed citizenry. It's probably best to trust nobody. In the meantime, keep working the refs.

 
At 8/12/2005 03:02:00 PM, Blogger Jaymeister said...

Let me frame my argument another way:

You are conservative, and I am liberal. Let us agree that the perspective of most mainstream media falls somewhere in between our perspectives on the spectrum. Therefore, from your point of view, coverage will always seems liberally biased and from mine it will seem conservatively biased. The degree of bias is proportional to how extreme we are in our views, but there is no such thing as an absence of bias. And the perception of bias is biased in and of itself, because our sense of truth is coloured by our own biases. We're not robots.

 
At 8/12/2005 07:38:00 PM, Blogger Lores Rizkalla said...

jaymeister, i don't think anyone would argue that there's such a thing as no bias. i agree that as long as there is a human involved, there will be bias.

but, we can say objectively that the mainstream media outlets have an overwhelming bias against conservative values.

jaymeister, i wish to get beyond all the debating for a moment...i wish you a wonderful weekend :)

 
At 8/12/2005 08:35:00 PM, Blogger Jaymeister said...

Lores, I hope you'll allow me one more point, which you can respond to after the weekend if at all.

You said that the MSM have "an overwhelming bias against conservative values". That really needs to be clarified. If you're talking about social issues, I'll grudgingly agree with you, without the use of the word "overwhelming". After all, the Right does get its voice represented. When it comes to economic issues, the MSM is overwhelmingly conservative. (You don't see too many anti-capitalists writing on the business pages.) In terms of government programs and the like, I think the mainstream message from the media is that big government is a bad thing. And in terms of foreign policy, remember that it was Judith Miller and Thomas Friedman in the "Liberal New York Times" that led the media trumpet charge to war. If there weren't biases in both directions in the Old Media, there wouldn't be a left wing blogosphere too.

Whatever the bias in the MSM, at least you can admit that both sides get their voices heard to a degree. (You can't say that Jerry Falwell and Ann Coulter don't get enough face time.) But for the sake of argument, let's assume for a moment that the MSM is indeed overwhelmingly biased against conservative values. Judging by the New Media that you consume (the sources that you post and the links you provide), you like to get your information from sources that are downright hostile toward liberal values. So please explain to me how you are more fulfilled by that?

The answer is that bias is okay to you, as long as it is toward you. Or do you consider NewsMax and Drudge neutral sources of information?

Wouldn't the ideal media source have posts from both sides, and encourage civil debate? Wouldn't that be the definition of "We Report, You Decide"?

Now that I have that off my chest, I wish you a wonderful weekend, Lores. I do appreciate your tone.

 
At 8/12/2005 09:12:00 PM, Blogger Lores Rizkalla said...

jaymeister, i appreciate your question. i intentionally used the term "conservative values" rather than "conservative personalities." there are token conservatives who are given more face time than some of us would prefer. they've become the face of the conservative movement, even though there is quite a disconnect b/w them and many (if not most) conservatives.

but, that being said, i recognize there will always be some face/name that is said to represent a group simply because they identify with the movement.

there is no question that Drudge and Newsmax lean right. Drudge links to everyone, left and right, just for the record. But, neither of these sites is pretending to be neutral.

Last, yes, I do think that the ideal news source would provide a broad spectrum, even beyond the typical liberal-conservative paradigm. Oh my gosh, jaymeister...i think we've arrived at an agreement.

good way to go into the weekend. can you tell i'm really ready for the weekend! take care!

 
At 8/14/2005 08:05:00 PM, Blogger Doug said...

How many days, exactly, has Bush been on vacation since taking office (literally) in 2001?

Just curious.

Selection bias is the most thoroughgoing and tough-to-avoid bias in the MSM, that and the fact that they have to please their advertisers, which means pleasing the largest possible sector of people. Which entails dumbing down, at minimum, and heightened emotionalism and sensationalism all the time.

Now, with Iraq in flames, and Bush's numbers at all-time lows on Iraq and in general, the GOP almost losing in a heavily conservative area of Ohio, Rove's problems (switching Fitzgerald's boss is pretty obvious but I don't think he cares), and on and on...are you guys just a tad nervous? And does this Bush v. Clinton post reflect that? I don't know, really -- but the posts on this blog are "echo-chamber-like," along with mostly dismissal of others' ideas, if they don't jive with Writ.

Anyway, I hope to see myself proven wrong.

 
At 8/14/2005 11:25:00 PM, Blogger pawlr said...

Doug, I posted this upthread:

Clinton: in 8 years, 152 days.

Bush: in 5 years, 319 days.

Media Bias, my foot.

 

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