(Jim Clark) – In a routine announcement, ABC Nightly News recently told viewers: “The Administration’s jobs plan includes massive spending on infrastructure which, as hundreds of economists have confirmed, will create jobs and spur consumer spending.”
What was all the folderol about voting to raise the debt ceiling last month? If the first billion dollar stimulus plus the Federal Reserve’s wild spending to bolster government bond sales didn’t move unemployment off the 9 + % level, what idiot economists think that more of the same would produce any different result . . . particularly when we have to borrow the money from China? Or was ABC news just reading a news bulletin issued by the Administration’s propaganda department?
That last question brings up the issue of whether and to what extent the media is biased. Anyone who watched Dan Rather unilaterally try to sink George W. Bush’s 2004 reelection chances with a painfully phony and fraudulent 30-year-old “memo” from Bush’s supposed senior officer in the Air Force Reserve has little doubt. The fiasco cost Rather his career and put a permanent black mark on CBS. But that incident was too obvious. Other than Rathergate, what hard, measurable and quantifiable data are there to prove or disprove media bias?
UCLA Political Science Professor Tim Groseclose has actually come up with an analytical method of measuring the phenomenon which, one could conclude, demonstrates that political science really is a science.
Here’s how it works: the liberal think tank Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) tracks the percentage of times each congressman and senator votes on the liberal side of an issue; they then assign a score to each lawmaker where 100 equals the perfect liberal and zero represents the perfect conservative. Groseclose calls this a “political quotient”.
Dr. Groseclose then examined news coverage, excluding editorials and opinions, over the last 10 years for references to think tanks, such as the liberal NAACP and the conservative Heritage Foundation. Then, speeches of federal lawmakers were examined.
To the extent the media exhibited a pattern of think-tank citations similar to those of the lawmakers, the ADA’s liberal/conservative score was assigned to the matching or nearly matching media. Groseclose calls this a “slant quotient.”
A second liberal-conservative bias measurement was devised by University of Chicago economists Mathew Gentzkow and Jesse Shapiro by counting media use of loaded political phrases. For example,use of the term “death tax” when referring to estate tax discloses a conservative bias.
Still a third method looks for two equally true but seemingly contradictory sets of facts. For example, the Bush tax cuts. It can be said the cuts resulted in: (1) the rich receiving a disproportionate share of reductions and (2) the system becoming more progressive because the share of taxes paid by the rich actually increased. Both statements are true, but media bias is evident when a source emphasizes one slant over the other.
The results: excluding editorials and opinions, the most liberal was (gasp!) the Wall Street Journal (85.1), followed by the New York Times (73.7) tied with CBS Evening News (73.7). The most conservative was the Washington Times (35.4), followed by Fox News (39.7). Right smack dab in the bias-free middle were Jim Lehrer’s News Hour (55.8) and CNN NewsNight with Aaron Brown (56.0).
Readers can check their own political quotients by going online to www.timgroseclose.com and clicking “about the book” (his book, “Left Turn”), then scrolling down to take the ten-question test.
Not surprisingly, I scored 4.1, the same as Michelle Bachman yet more conservative than those flaming liberals Sen. Jim DeMint (5.1) and Newt Gingrich (11.4).
Warning to Democrats: do not try this . . . you may discover you are a closet conservative.
(Jim Clark is President of Republican Advocates, a member of the Washoe County and Nevada GOP Central Committees; he can be reached at email@example.com)