Less than one day after dismissing the idea that the media has a liberal bias, it looks as though I may have to eat some of my words. That evening, NPR ran this story about how network news coverage is heavily bias in favor of Barack Obama.
The Tyndall Report has monitored news coverage of presidential candidates since 1988. This election cycle, they claim that there is an unprecedented bias in favor of one candidate. As evidence, they point out that there has been “41 stories by the three network newscasts on Obama between May 2 and July 2; in comparison, there are 17 stories about Republican Sen. John McCain.”
That is certainly unbalanced. But is it really unfair? The first thing I thought as I read the article was that the dates Tyndall chose seem arbitrary. Why a two month period? Why start on the 2nd? I suspect those dates were chosen to “pad” the stats. I bet they looked for the time period in which the coverage was most unbalanced. Furthermore, I noticed that the time period overlaps with the last weeks of the hotly contested Democratic primary. Of course Obama (and Clinton) would be mentioned more than McCain for much of that time period. I also wondered why Tyndall limits his data to just the three major television news networks.
In their own defense, the networks pointed out that not only was coverage of Obama due to the primary, but also that they don’t set the number of interviews, the candidates do. Obama has made himself more available. Furthermore, the public knows less about Obama than they do about McCain so they have an obligation to inform them. Lastly, the networks claim that future coverage will balance out as we approach the election.
One last note, even Tyndall points out that even though Obama has received more coverage, it has not all been positive coverage. “Obama is the center of attention in this election, and we can just predict that will happen all the way through to November. This is a test for Obama to see if he has the chops to become president.”