What liberal bias?

I'm not entirely sold by this, but there's an interesting new study from some Communications professors at Indiana that argues that, at least in terms of visual presentation, there's a bias against liberals in network newscasts.  

A visual analysis of television presidential campaign coverage from
1992 to 2004 suggests that the three television broadcast networks —
ABC, CBS and NBC — favored Republicans in each election, according to
two Indiana University professors in a new book…

"We don't think this is journalists conspiring to favor Republicans. We
think they're just so beat up and tired of being accused of a liberal
bias that they unknowingly give Republicans the benefit in coverage,"
said Grabe, who also is a research associate in political science at
the University of Pretoria in South Africa. "It's self-censorship that
journalists might be imposing on themselves."…

They examined 62 hours of broadcast network news coverage — a total of
178 newscasts — between Labor Day and Election Day over four U.S.
presidential elections between 1992 and 2004. Cable news outlets,
including CNN and Fox News, were not included in their research. The
professors are now looking at 2008 election coverage…

The news release goes on to describe a number of subtle ways in which visual coverage can be biased (useful stuff to know).  The end result is that almost all of these seem to work to the detriment of Democrats.

 "Visuals are underappreciated in news coverage," Bucy added. "You can
have a negative report. You can have the journalist being opinionated
against the candidate. But if you're showing favorable visuals, that
out-weighs the net effect on the viewer almost every single time."

Of course, this is only the visual aspect, but visuals are hugely important in shaping citizens' emotional response to candidates.  I'm not going to draw too many conclusions from one study, but this is definitely a line of research that deserves some more thoughtful scholarship.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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