Tag Archives: Republican debates

FLASH REPORT: Media Bias by Network – 1/23 to 1/27

Week 2 of our media bias/slant ratings, based on our new-and-improved version 1.2 classifier,  shows some consistencies and variances from our 1/16 – 20 report of last week.

CHART 1: Slant Ratings by Network - Jan. 23 to 27

NOTE: Net content favoring the Republican Party in Chart 2 is portrayed in red; net content favoring the Democratic Party is shown in blue.

CBS and NBC’s party slant ratings, in comparison to last week’s, actually flipped in both cases. This is not altogether surprising, given that content under analysis for those 2 networks is relatively light, and that the nightly news shows we evaluate for both are “straight” news programs. In contrast, the party alignments of Fox, CNN, ABC, and MSNBC remained consistent, week-to-week.

As noted last Monday, our transcript coverage varies by network, program, and date. Correspondingly, our rating confidence is directly proportional to the amount of transcript text available for classification.The exact amount of coverage per network is shown in the table to the right, but we have graphically indicated depth-of-coverage in Chart 1 by way of color shading. For example, the bars representing the slant ratings for both NBC and CBS were purposely made lighter to reflect the relatively small transcript coverage for those particular networks.

Mediate Metrics’ slant measurement system is currently focused on weekday transcripts from the national nightly news programs on the 3 major broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC), along with programming aired from 5 PM until 11 PM eastern time on top 3 cable news channels (CNN, Fox, and MSNBC). Compared to last week, coverage under analysis is significantly improved for ABC and NBC, but has decreased for CBS.

For those new to our site, the numerical slant ratings supporting the Chart 1 emanate from a custom text analysis “classifier,” built to extract statements of political slant from TV news transcripts. (For more on the underlying technology, see our post on Text Analytics Basics at: http://wp.me/p1MQsU-at.) We have trained our classifier to interpret political slant quite conservatively, conforming to strict guidelines for the sake of consistency and objectivity. As such, the ratings we present may be perceived as under-reporting the absolute slant of the actual content under review, but the appropriate way to view our ratings is as relative to similar programming.

To properly evaluate editorial content, we have concluded that the Republican presidential primaries and candidates are subject to intense scrutiny. Related news content tends to be disproportionately negative, and often times does not contain a clear inter-party comparison — an element we consider a crucial condition for the proper evaluation of political slant. As such, we have excluded statements about the Republican Presidential primaries and candidates from our slant ratings at this juncture, unless parallel references to the Democratic party are mentioned in parallel.

We’ll publish slant ratings by program for the same January 23 – 27 time period tomorrow.

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Who’s News? YOU Decide.

The more I study media bias, the more I realize that TV coverage flows (and often overflows) in certain directions because viewers vote with their eyeballs.

The blogosphere is crackling today with reports on the CBS internal memo which directed their debate moderators to devote fewer questions to Michelle Bachmann. The issue certainly has ignited the fanaterati. Don’t get me wrong; editorial selection bias is a very real phenomenon. Still, a thinking person should consider other possibilities.

So here is one: Perhaps we get a disproportionate amount of coverage on certain issues and people because they drive viewership. Combined with the extensive amount of news capacity that needs to be filled, media outlets are motivated to keep popular stories alive because lots of people are following them. As an unfortunate by-product, reporters and commentators fan the  flames over time by digging up all kinds of corner-cases, then sensationalizing them as “New Developments!” And that’s when we enter the realm of the absurd.

Circling back to the issue du jour, giving Michelle Bachmann more debate time does not make sense for the network in that context. It’s an inexact science, but it is a network executive’s job is to promote viewership … which drives ad revenue …which increases company profits, equity value, and personal paychecks.

It’s tempting to see a conspiracy here, and maybe there is one, but I think it is equally possible that this is just capitalism in action.

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