Tag Archives: fox news

LIBERAL MEDIA BIAS?: Impact Report #2 Provides the Answer(s)

Is there a liberal bias (or as we prefer to call it, political news slant) in the U.S media? It depends largely on which news content you think matters most.

Based on the data we currently have under analysis, early indications are that the leading broadcast and cable new outlets lean towards the Democratic party. With that said, the recently released Pew Research Center News Interest Index indicates that more people are now turning to cable news for information about the 2012 presidential campaign than to other forms of media. Adjusting for their findings yields an entirely different result.

For Impact Report #2,  we have quantified the amount of network slant (aggregate speaker bias plus editorial influence) and combined it with viewership data in order to assess the total “Impact.” In this installment, we have computed the weighted-average Impact Rating for each network during the weeks of January 16th and January 23rd, focused on their evening/weekday news programming. The results are depicted below:

Aggregate Slant Impact: Weekdays - January 16 to 17

Aggregate Slant Impact: Weekdays - January 16 to 27

As in all of our charts, content favoring the Republican party is represented in red (greater than zero), while that which leans towards the Democratic Party is shown in blue (less than zero). We have indicated depth-of-coverage by lightening the base colors as required. For example, the bases representing NBC,CBS, and to a lesser degree Fox News, were purposely made lighter to reflect the limited transcript coverage for those particular networks. Regardless, the basic message depicted in chart above is that the slant rating base is amplified by the number of people viewing the content. The table below shows the numerical analysis supporting the chart:

The Cumulative Slant Ratings  in column 2 were derived from data previously discussed and shown at this site on Wednesday, February 8th. We have also factored in viewership data for the networks and programs under review. As you can see, the cumulative rating for this report — across all networks and programs we are studying —  slightly favors Democrats/Liberals, as indicated by the numbers highlighted in light blue.

If, however, we account for the Pew Research data, which states that 36% of people regularly go to cable networks to learn about Presidential campaigns (and, we presume, national political news in general) versus only 26% turning to national nightly news programs, our cumulative results shift in favor of Republican/conservative interests (as highlighted in light red).

Liberal or conservative media bias? It all depends on whose news one views.

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TV News Political Bias Impact Ratings: January 16 – 20, 2012 (Revised)

Much debate has been devoted to assessing whether there is a liberal or conservative media bias (or as we prefer to call it, political news slant) in the U.S. Most tend to focus on the source of the bias, but our view is somewhat different. At Mediate Metrics, we prefer to quantify the amount of slant (bias plus editorial influence), combined with the quantity of slant recipients, to assess the full impact of media bias.

As presented in our November 15 post, total objectivity and fairness in the news is a virtual impossibility. Still, our hypothesis is that networks will be less biased when their reputation is built upon informing viewers and being an objective resource. In contrast, news outlets which rely on affirming the political preferences of their loyal viewers will have a natural tendency to be more slanted.

Building on our previous 2 posts, we have added a Political Slant “Impact” Rating comparison for January 16th to the 20th, depicted in Chart 3 below:

CHART 3: Slant Impact Rating - January 16 to 20

As in our other charts, content favoring the Republican party is represented in red (numerically positive), while that which leans towards the Democratic Party is shown in blue (numerically negative). We have graphically indicated depth-of-coverage, or lack thereof, by lightening those colors. For example, the bars representing NBC,CBS, and to a lesser degree Fox News and ABC, were purposely made lighter to reflect the relatively small transcript coverage for those particular networks. Regardless of coverage, the basic message depicted in Chart 3 is that the slant “foundation”, depicted at the base of each pyramid, is amplified by the number of people viewing the content. Table 3 below shows the numerical analysis supporting the chart:

TABLE 3: Political Slant Impact Measures - January 16 to 20, 2012

The Composite Weekday Slant Ratings in column 2, along with the number of statements classified in column 3, were derived from data previously discussed and shown here on Tuesday, January 31st. Statement coverage and “Confidence Factors” relate directly to the color shades in Chart 3. Most importantly, we have factored in viewership data for the networks and programs under review. This is where things get interesting, given that:

  • The nightly news programs from the major broadcast networks achieve the highest ratings per program by far, but their impact is mitigated by the fact that they are only broadcasted for 30 minutes a night;
  • By definition, the 3 top cable networks broadcast a continuous line-up of news shows, each of which is 60 minutes long, and representing as much as 420 minutes of programming/network for the nightly time period (5 PM to 11 PM) under consideration.
  • Public service programming, such as the Republican Presidential debates, was purposely omitted from our calculations since it does not reflect the editorial views (slant) of the network-or-program they were broadcast on.

Some compelling notions, however preliminary, can be drawn from this analysis. While the aggregate slant of content delivered during this time period appears to favor Democrats (as depicted in light blue in the “Totals” row), the aggregate impact tilts towards the GOP (as shown in the light red cell, same row).

Admittedly, our classifier and database need further refinement, but we think these initial results are rather intriguing. Still, we’d love to know what you think. Don’t hesitate to leave a comment below, or to send one directly to: barry@mediatemetrics.com.

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Editorial Selection: Fox and MSNBC

Building on the theme of editorial selection and the news, I decided to once again use my “tag cloud” (most popular words) tool on evening and prime time broadcasts from Fox News and MSNBC on November 14th and 15th. As I highlighted yesterday, media outlets can broadcast but a tiny portion of the available news, so I decided to see what these 2 competitors decided to emphasize.

DISCLAIMER #1: I could not wait to get this out, so I’m sure I will be making additional edits and refinements.

DISCLAIMER #2: Tag clouds are not surgical instruments. That fact, combined with the knowledge that I manually culled words that did not directly relate to specific topics and messaging themes should tell the reader to view the following with a critical eye…. as you should with all interpretative journalism.

Which virtually all political news is.

Disclaimers aside, examining the content selection of Fox and MSNBC is like having box seats at a gun fight. It’s clear that MSNBC is putting Republican Presidential candidates under a microscope, taking pot shots at local Republican candidates whenever possible, and positioning themselves as the mouth-piece for the middle class. Similarly, Fox has President Obama and the 2012 election in the cross hairs, featuring topics that cast him or his administration in a negative light, with specific emphasis on job creation (or a lack thereof).

Those are the highlights — or low-lights, depending on your point of view — but there is more information in the clouds if you are willing to stare at them briefly …

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MSNBC “TOP 25” TAG CLOUD:

  • Substantial Republican Primary/Candidate focus, with Herman CAIN (236 occurrences) still drawing the most attention, ROMNEY (82 occurrences) a distant second, and Perry (52 occurrences) in third.
  • Occupy Wall Street is a significant topic, as evidenced by the occurrence of the related tag words MOVEMENT, OCCUPY, and STREET. Why WALL did not make the top 25, I have no idea.
  • SCOTT is in the top 25 primarily due to parallel references to Republican governors Scott Walker (Wisconsin) and Scott Brown (Florida). Similarly, JOHN was also mentioned frequently in relation to Ohio governor John Kasich, but I removed that name because several other JOHNs were intermingled in the word count.
  • Frequent references to AMERICANS (and AMERICANS by default, since my tag cloud tool intermittently extracts root words in parallel) and the middle CLASS seems to represent a positioning theme for MSNBC
  • JUDGE generally shows up in 2 different contexts: 1.) The judge who let Penn State coach Sandusky out on reduced bail and; 2.) The impartiality Judges Scalia and Thomas related to the Supreme Court case on health care.
  • CASE shows up in several different contexts, again related to the tag cloud tools penchant to extract root words — ObamaCARE, HealthCARE, MediCARE, and are “they” sCAREd?

FOX “TOP 25” TAG CLOUD:

  • No references to the Republican Primary candidates by name in the Top 25 tag words. In contrast, PRESIDENT (65 occurrences) and OBAMA (42 occurrences) are the top 2 most popular tag words in the cloud. When viewed in relation to the MSNBC tag cloud, one cannot help but conclude that negative politics extends to these 2 networks.
  • Similar, but not exactly the same, thematic positioning around AMERICA, but not so much on CLASS.
  • BOOK was an area of focus mostly because of controversies surrounding Bill O’Reilly’s new book (“Killing Lincoln”), and Peter Schweizer’s book about alleged congressional insider trading.
  • A greater focus on activities in the SUPER COMMITTEE, and with question on whether a satisfactory DEAL can be made.
  • DEAL was also used in the context of favorable (and ethically questionable) deals made on IPOs and land, leveraging the insider trading immunity afforded to congressman.
  • CONGRESS was primarily used in 2 contexts: 1.) There were several CONGRESS persons on the prime time Fox News programs I analyzed, and; 2.) Numerable references were made along the lines of our “Do-nothing CONGRESS. ..”
  • ELECTION appeared primarily as part of 2 topics: 1.) Forward-looking statements related to the 2012 Presidential election, and; 2.) The fact that negative news related to Solyndra was allegedly throttled by administration officials.
  • FLORIDA made the top 25 based on Florida government officials on the shows whose transcripts I analyzed.
  • JOB and JOBS are in the top group because of a focus on the subject of job creation.
  • LEGAL is attached to either the constitutional rights that should or should not be afforded terrorists, as well as related to immigration issues.
  • The term SPEAKER rose to the top because of references and sound bites from House Speaker John Boehmer, as well as an interview with FORMER SPEAKER of the House Newt Gingrich.

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If you would like to know more about the specific details of my process or the specific programs I included in this analysis, just email me at: barry@mediatemetrics.com.

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White Paper Excerpt: “Bias and Objectivity in the News Media”

I remain convinced that one can measure media bias electronically, at least to some extent, by examining the text of news broadcasts and objectively identifying the speaker’s personal value judgments. With that said, it is far more difficult to extract bias based on that content that is chosen to be aired. The following excerpt, taken from a 2004 white paper published by The Foundation for Critical Thinking titled, “How to Detect Media Bias and Propaganda” by Dr. Richard Paul and Dr. Linda Elder, explains this far more eloquently than I ever could.

Enjoy.

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The logic of constructing news stories is parallel to the logic of writing history. In both cases, for events covered, there is both a massive background of facts and a highly restricted amount of space to devote to those facts. The result in both cases is the same: 99.99999% of the “facts” are never mentioned at all (see Figure 1).

FIGURE 1

If objectivity or fairness in the construction of news stories is thought of as equivalent to presenting all the facts and only the facts (“All the news that’s fit to print”), objectivity and fairness is an illusion. No human knows more than a small percentage of the facts and it is not possible to present all the facts (even if one did know them). It isn’t even possible to present all the important facts, for many criteria compete for determining what is “important.” We must therefore always ask, “What has been left out of this article?” “What would I think if different facts had been highlighted here?” “What if this article had been written by those who hold a point of view opposite to the one embedded in the story as told?”

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Amen.

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RAZING CAIN: Analysis of Prime Time Cable Coverage on Herman’s Sexual Harassment Saga

Using available transcripts (10/31 – 11/1) from  and my tag cloud tool, I compared the prime time coverage differences between CNN, Fox, and MSNBC.  I readily admit that tag clouds are a coarse analytical tool, but some interesting themes  emerge, nonetheless.

Across the board, I removed proper names of network news personalities, and terms that conveyed no significant meaning. In doing so, I was as consistent as possible across all 3 transcripts; my intent was to extract thematic meaning from the accompanying tag clouds. A full list of the words removed from the respective transcripts is available upon request.

CNN

  • Tag cloud indicates in-depth coverage on Cain’s SEXUAL (45 occurrences) harassment issue.
  • Had Politco’s John Martin on show, who helped break the story.
  • Much more scrutiny on the AGREEMENT (42 occurrences) and SETTLEMENT (37 occurrences) than other networks.
  • CAIN (269 occurrences) coverage dwarfs other topics, particularly if one considers all the related terms in the tag cloud. The related terms of PRESIDENT (61 occurrences) and OBAMA (46 occurrences) are the only other major discussion topics of note.
  •  Word count – 34,889

FOX

  • BLACK (23 occurrences) is somewhat overstated because of the interviews with former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, but most mentions relate to Herman Cain being a black conservative.
  • Use of DON’T is somewhat conspicuous (123 occurrences). Lots of “I don’t think they …” and “don’t you believe that ..”
  • PRESIDENT (86 occurrences) and OBAMA (56 occurrences) still a major news focus. General distribution of topics discussed, beyond the Cain sexual harassment issue, appears more diverse than CNN’s in this time period.
  •  Word count – 34,644

MSNBC

  • MSNBC’s analysis is skewed towards 10/31. For some reason, they only posted 1 transcript (Politics Nation) on their 11/1 shows.
  •  Based on the 25 most popular tag words included in the cloud, their coverage of the core issues is similar to Fox’s and CNN’s. Still, it’s hard to tell if the limited 11/1 transcript coverage made a difference.
  •  Politics Nation is represented twice in this sample, and that show highlighted the Republican Congressional resolution reaffirming “In God We Trust” (GOD – 50 occurrences), and on the Republican Congressional initiative to cut food stamp subsidies (FOOD – 42 occurrences).
  •  Like Fox, the use of DON’T (169 occurrences) is conspicuously prominent. (“I don’t find” … “we don’t have time” …”maybe they don’t …”)
  • Raw word count of PRESIDENT (92 occurrences) and OBAMA (61 occurrences) is on par with Fox, but the total word count of the MSNBC transcripts is ~ 29% higher than the other 2 networks.
  •  Word count – 45,611
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Detecting Media Bias: Tag Clouds for Fox News and MSNBC

As an experiment, I decided to create tag clouds of the aggregated news transcripts from both Fox and MSNBC — obtained from the LexisNexis database, covering from October 20th to the 28th — just to see if any themes emerged.

Fox Tag Cloud

MSNBC Tag Cloud

I’ll follow this posting up in the next few days with my observations, but I’d like to get insights from others before offering up my own.

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Quantifying the Impact of TV News Bias – Example #1

The following example represents my core method of quantifying the impact of media bias, using only program segments from the top 3 cable news networks in this particular example. The underlying “Raw Bias Index” data I am using is in fact quite coarse, so consider this an alpha trial put forth for review and discussion.

Much debate has been devoted to assessing whether there is a liberal or conservative media bias. Qualitatively, a case can be made for both, but quantifying the effective bias is a more complex endeavor.

In my recent studies of television news programming, it occurred to me that the quantity of liberal TV outlets seemed greater than conservative channels, but their “share-of-voice” may still be lesser. The true impact of a particular TV news program can only be determined by considering both bias and reach.

In order to add a viewership variable, I used the Nielsen Cable News Ratings from September 8, first calculating the average rating of the 6 largest cable news networks for the entire day. (Source: TV by the Numbers – Zap2It website. http://tvbythenumbers.zap2it.com/2011/09/09/fox-news-leads-presidential-address-viewing-among-cable-news-ratings-for-thursday-september-8-2011/103155/ )

 NOTE: “P2+”= Viewers over the age of 2.

I then calculated a “Viewership Weighting” factor for each of the post-Presidential address programs from CNN, Fox, and MSNBC that I had previously created a Raw Bias Index for (see Sept. 11 post below), and com combined them to create a “Raw Impact Index.”

Needless to say, prime time news is viewed much more extensively than its daytime cousins, hence the large viewership weighting factors. Still, one can readily see in this crude example that viewership, not the number of TV outlets, is key to determining the overall impact of news bias.

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PLEASE NOTE that this is but an example, and is not meant in any way to be an accurate-or-comprehensive measure of TV news bias today.

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Is this methodology simplistic? You bet. I fully expect critiques from those more experienced in media measurement and proficient with survey science. Regardless, simpler is often times better.

As always, I remain open to feedback, and encourage you to leave yours in the comments section.

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