Conservative Brent Bozell’s disinformation unit, the Media Research Center, has released a study that purports to show “How the ABC, CBS and NBC Morning Shows Are Promoting Democrats On the Road to the White House.” The report claims that the network’s morning show scheduling was weighted in favor of Democrats and that this disparity represented a systemic bias:
“The networks offered nearly twice as much coverage of the Democrats. More than half of all campaign segments (284, or 55%) focused on the Democratic contest, compared with just 152 (29%) devoted to the Republicans.”
However, there are a number of glaring holes in the study’s methodology.
First: The MRC made no attempt to query network staffers to ascertain the reasons for an imbalance in presentation based on party affiliation, if any imbalance even occurred. Had they done so, they would have learned that Republicans have been far less cooperative in agreeing to be interviewed. Jim Murphy, executive producer of ABC’s “Good Morning America, told the Washington Post that…
“The candidates are responsible for how much time they generally get. They can get it by agreeing to interviews and agreeing to forums.”
Second: The MRC appears to have counted newsworthy events such as the re-emergence of Elizabeth Edwards’ cancer, or the historic nature of the first viable black and female candidates, as partisan, political pandering.
Third: Measuring the amount of time devoted to coverage says nothing about bias. You also need to evaluate the content of the coverage. The Project for Excellence in Journalism released a study that measures the coverage of the presidential candidates. While there was more time spent on Democrats, don’t be too hasty drawing conclusions:
“…nearly two-thirds of the election coverage (61%) was specifically about candidates vying for the Democratic nomination. This was nearly three times those that focused on Republican candidates (24%). Another 13% dealt with both parties. [...] conservative talkers, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Michael Savage were the most Democratic focused of all-75% of their time on Democrats and only 13% focused mainly on Republicans.”
So while there was more “coverage” of Democrats, that extra focus really only translates into more time bashing them. It was conservative programs that were the most heavily weighted to Democratic candidates. The Media Research Council provided little substantive analysis of the content of the coverage, which makes their study almost useless for drawing conclusions of bias. But that certainly won’t stop them from muddying the waters with their deceitful brand of media criticism.