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Two Investigations of Media Bias, one from an unexpected source

by | Jun 1, 2012

By Dave Andrusko

Over in “A Tale of Two Planned Parenthood Controversies: Wall-to-Wall Komen vs. Silence for Live Action,” we bring you a devastating critique of media one-sidedness, produced by the Media Research Center(MRC). In a word, four separate stories aired on ABC, CBS, and NBC detailing the Susan G. Komen Foundation/PPFA controversy which culminated with Komen in total capitulation mode in just the first 48 hours. In the 48 hours after Live Action “releases a video showing a Planned Parenthood staffer helping a Live Action actor obtain a sex-selection abortion, these “same networks aired no stories and spent no time on the controversy.”

MRC specializes in capturing bias on the major networks. POLITICO is seen by most as a liberal outlet with a less than overwhelming fondness for Republicans. So when Jim VanderHei and Mike Allen took the Washington Post and the New York Times to the woodshed for their harsh nitpicking treatment of Mitt and Ann Romney and their powder-puff handling of Obama, you know they would come under withering attack for breaking ranks.

And so they did. It was amazing to see how many different ways the Post and the Times and other admirers of the two newspapers could say that VanderHei and Allen were stupid, nonsensical,  their story poorly sourced, etc., etc., etc.

So, on the same day, from the right and from the left, the three major networks and arguably the two most influential newspapers took it on the chin.  The POLITICO story can be read at http://dyn.politico.com/printstory.cfm?uuid=2FD8EE3E-C775-472B-BF06-BB7BBCA92508, so here are just a few highlights—or lowlights.

There is a new book out about the President which offers a lot of additional detail about his high school and college years, a lot of which is unflattering. That got buried in the Post—the same Post that ran a hugely unflattering front page 5,500-word story about Mr. Romney that even some opponents conceded was over-the-top, overblown, and irrelevant. (A common comeback was, well maybe it was much ado about nothing but it was important to see how Romney responded. Geez!)

Mrs. Romney was also on the receiving end of a hit piece in last Sunday’s New York Times. Although Mrs. Obama is not mentioned, it would be hard to imagine anyone receiving better press than the First Lady.

There are other examples VanderHei and Allen site of coverage that is intended to signal “that the Romneys are out of touch.” By contrast there is the coverage of then-candidate Obama four years ago. They quote Ari Fleischer, the former press secretary to President George W. Bush.

“’These stories are not unusual, except they were never done about then-Senator Obama in 2008,’ Fleischer said. ‘The press never ran probing, sneering stories about candidate Obama, and yet The Washington Post and New York Times are on overtime covering who-cares stories about Mitt Romney.’”

Who knows what, if any difference, this will make in the coverage of the Times and the Post. But the POLITICO story is a useful reminder that more than ever the electorate must be alert to media bias.

“No wonder Republicans are livid with the early coverage of the 2012 general election campaign,” VanderHei and Allen write. “To them, reporters are scaring up stories to undermine the introduction of Mitt Romney to the general election audience – and once again downplaying ones that could hurt the president.”

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