Sunday, December 16, 2007

Chasing Ghosts

Besides pointing to a snowstorm in eastern Canada as proof global warming is a fraud (yes, they are that dense), a new initiative is sweeping across the Blogging Tories:
Who is up for a challenge — what I am calling the JN CHALLENGE?

THE CHALLENGE — Blogging for Bias (BFB):

Right now, too much of what is written and reported in the media is not only written and reported with a positive liberal bias but openly anti-conservative as well. Why? I have no idea? Conservatives are not bogey men as progressives and liberals would have us believe. If Kyoto targets were not met, it was the fault of the previous Liberal government and Dion himself, not conservatives or Baird, but that fact is totally ignored when reporting on the environment.

Anyway, starting now, when you read MSM pieces or listen to news reports, analyze what you read and hear for assumptions and bias (e.g., what they take for granted). Then, send them an e-mail about what you found. If it is a serious breach, e-mail the media outlet involved as well, such as the CBC Ombudsman, Vince Carlin at: ombudsman@cbc.ca

The poor dears, the whole world against them. Time to fight the unjustice!

I thought I would re-post something I did on this delusion a few months ago:

The Conservative Crutch


Probably the most tiring excuse, used by Conservative apologists, is the biased "left-wing" media angle. The notion is used to justify any shortcoming, distract from genuine criticism, and create this martyr complex. A Blogging Tories linked to one of my posts, and I made a comment at that blog. I use this response to illustrate the common theme:

Christian Conservative said...

Amm, I forget where I saw it today, but we're headed back up, and are polling just slightly above our election day percentage at 37%... but of course, that poll won't hit the front pages, the media being liberal mouthpieces and all


Of course that is ridiculous, with no relationship to reality. However, and I don't mean to generalize, all of the Conservatives seem to buy into this perceived bias. You see it in almost every thread, bloggers continually point to any story to support the flawed thesis, the idea has taken on almost mythical proportions. The idea manifests itself right through the Conservative hierarchy, wherein the Prime Minister has adopted this seige mentality, as it relates to the media.

I suppose, findings such as this, feed Conservatives "suspicions":

According to a recent study by two Ryerson University journalism professors:

* Almost half of all Canadian television news directors, the individuals who have the most influence in determining what political news is covered on your favourite nightly newscast and how it is reported, vote Liberal.

* A TV news director working at the tax-funded CBC is almost three times more likely to vote for the NDP in federal elections, compared to his or her counterpart in the private sector.

It found that 45.8% of all Canadian television news directors surveyed in 2002 said they were Liberal voters. By contrast, only 14.6% said they were Progressive Conservative voters, 10.4% Canadian Alliance, 10.4% NDP. This put the news directors at the high end of overall public support for the Liberals during that period (40-46% according to the polls) and at the low end for the PCs (15-18%), Alliance (14-18%) and NDP (13-16%).


If you train you gaze solely on this Ryerson University study, then you can extrapolate, that yes, a media bias clearly exists. However, if Conservatives trumpet findings such as the above, they must also accept other studies which completely refute the thesis.

I would argue that the political leanings of news directors, or editors for that matter, is relevant, if that perceived bias manifests itself in the coverage. Where the Conservative argument falls apart completely, is when the discussion turns to actual coverage, not the ambiguous leanings of those behind the news.

Coverage is most critical at election time, I think everyone can agree on that score. With that in mind, a quick reminder of the McGill University study for the last two elections (h/t Crawl Across the Ocean):

2004:

During the campaign there were 2,113 articles written about the election in the 5 English newspapers studied (The Calgary Herald, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, the Toronto Star and the Vancouver Sun).

Of those 2113, 1,711 (81%) mentioned the Liberal party. Out of those 1,711, there were 34 (2%) with positive mentions of the Liberal party and 342 (20%) with negative mentions of the Liberals, giving a 10 to 1 ratio of negative mentions to positive.

Meanwhile, for the Conservative Party, the figures were 1592 (75%) total articles, including 82 (5%) positive mentions and 159 (10%) negative mentions, for a roughly 2:1 ratio of negative to positive.

The NDP garnered (4%) positive mentions and 7% negative mentions, while the Bloc had the most favourable(!) coverage of any party from the English language papers at 4% positive, 5% negative (although they were only mentioned in 15% of stories).


2006:

During the campaign there were 3,753 articles written about the election in the 7 newspapers studied (The Calgary Herald, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, the Toronto Star and the Vancouver Sun, La Presse and Le Devoir).

Of those 3753, 3035 mentioned the Liberal party. Out of those 3035, there were 40 with positive mentions of the Liberal party and 445 with negative mentions of the Liberals, giving a 11 to 1 ratio of negative mentions to positive (slightly higher than last election's 10-1 ratio).

Meanwhile, for the Conservative Party, the figures were 2730 total articles, including 144 positive mentions and 127 negative mentions, for a slightly positive overall slant (the positive mentions were similar to last election, but the negatives were cut in half).

The NDP garnered 2% positive mentions and 3% negative mentions, while the Bloc received 2% positive coverage, 4% negative.


Obviously, the political leanings of the media brain trust had no bearing on coverage, in fact if anyone should be complaining about rampant bias, it's the left wing. The 2004 numbers are powerful, the 2006 ones are just plain astounding. If you dig deeper, you find that individual papers further illustrate the anti-Liberal bias. The Toronto Star, vilified as the Liberal Star by Conservatives, actually comes out statistically balanced. On the other hand, a paper like The National Post demonstrates a tremendous, one-sided bias in favor of the Conservatives.

Everyone across the political spectrum complains about coverage, particularly when it doesn't seem sympathetic to your opinion. Sometimes that criticism is justified, and we all know the players where it applies. However, its is primarily the realm of Conservatives, that takes the bias argument to delusional heights. Any criticism of Harper is more evidence of a conspiracy to bring back the Liberals (see SDA). I find the entire pre-occupation a gigantic, intellectual bore, and the best part, the facts actually suggest otherwise, both on substance and ownership.

The crutch of convenience, that reaffirms an imported illusion, attaching the virtuous struggle against the amassed forces of opposition, bent on destruction. Fiction.

15 comments:

Tomm said...

Steve,

That was one long post!

I'll keep mine shorter, I disagree.

Journalists have a point of view, and they express it. CBC journalists have a point of view and they express it too.

Journalism is a profession of criticism. It is also one where polarizing positions and touching personal stories where blame can be shovelled like snow gets high billing.

So we see stories of compassion and hope about crack and heroin addicts, and how we can reduce harm. We listen to stories about the incorrigable drunk who is really sorry when he's sober, or even better, came from a home where alcoholism and chronic under-employment was part of the culture.

Where is the story about pulling yourself up by your bootstraps? Where is the story about the guy who works 50 hours a week to build something for his family after coming from a home where alcoholism and chronic under-employment was part of the culture?

THAT'S a real story to tell.

Tomm

Gayle said...

"Where is the story about pulling yourself up by your bootstraps? Where is the story about the guy who works 50 hours a week to build something for his family after coming from a home where alcoholism and chronic under-employment was part of the culture?"

That story exists, but it is not the norm. I think putting too much emphasis on this story does a disservice to the many more people who come from that kind of home who cannot overcome these barriers.

The point is not that disadvantaged people should pull themselves together - it is that those of us who do not suffer from those disadvantages need to be more compassionate. We need to recognize the need for state funding drug and alcohol treatment programs, and counseling.

I know many people who have overcome such disadvantages, but I do not know any who were able to do so on their own. Most were given assistance either from a charitable organization, or from a good Samaritan. For example, the only young people I have ever known to overcome an addiction to crystal meth did so because a youth worker took pity on them and allowed them to live in her home. They literally did not leave that home for months until they felt it was safe for them to leave.

It is dishonest to suggest that people recover all by themselves - and it implies that if one person can do so, the thousands who cannot should be able to do so without our help as well.

So Tomm, I think your example presents a false scenario.

As for the post, I believe there are many journalists who are able to maintain objectivity despite their own personal bias. I consider Andrew Coyne to be one of them. I certainly do not share his political perspective and therefore do not always agree with his criticism or praise, but he is always able to justify his comments by relying on the facts.

Frankly I do not really object to bias, it is the "hidden" editorializing that I find so offensive.

For example, certain Sun columnists will always use words like "whining" and "snivelled" when describing the complaints of the liberals or the NDP.

Another example from the last election is when Global interviewed Harper while going for a walk in the neighborhood in which he grew up. Paul Martin was interviewed in the studio.

RuralSandi said...

First of all, you vote if "private" so how on earth could Ryerson really know how someone voted.

The whole tactic of Conservatives is to blame, blame and play the victim. Harper started it - they fell for it.

I would like to see and honest survey/research done about our main media outlets, journalists, etc. They would find out that at least 90% are conservative leaning - CanWest, Sun, National Post are conservative and own most of the smaller papers in rural areas.

Liberal - The Star, half n' half the Globe and Mail.

How on earth can anyone claim liberal bias in Canada? Really, they need to give their heads a shake.

The did a comprehensive study in the US and the majority of US media are conservative - I've forgotten the figures.

RuralSandi said...

Whoops, my apologies for typing errors - the letters and numbers are wearing of my "new" dell keyboard already and I should have proofread.

Steve V said...

tomm

You can disagree, but can provide any numbers to back up your opinion? The answer is no, because the actual numbers suggest otherwise.


gayle

Coyne is a great example.

Steve V said...

rural

Our right-wing has simply imported the American martyr complex. There is no basis, no factual context, just this manufactured outrage. The funny part, Harper apparently believes this, which might explain is approach to the media. All this paranoia might stem from the simple fact that these people realize that they aren't in the mainstream, so there is a inate seige mentality in approach.

Scotian said...

Steve V:

Agreed. Indeed, one of my primary considerations as to whether to engage or continue to engage a conservative online is whether they demonstrate a belief in this myth about the Liberal media conspiracy/bias against them. Since there is no evidence to support this in this country nor the one where this mantra first took off from (America via US conservatives/GOPers) and indeed more evidence to support the idea that there is a conservative bias in both American and Canadian media markets as you underscore I think that is understandable and reasonable.

I won't deal with anyone that believes in this media political bias crap against conservatives, because there is no point in trying to have a rational fact based argument/discussion with someone that can or will not differentiate between facts and myths, especially myths that comfort them as to why more Canadians don't appreciate/approve of them. There is this victim mentality running throughout the modern conservative movement that I find exceptionally sickening, especially since I have known too many people that have been truly victimized by their circumstances in life unlike the whining conservatives and the irony is the conservatives whine more about their imagined/perceived victim status than those who actually fit. So I tend to take a bit of a hard line whenever I encounter this.

Which was why I stopped dealing with Tomm for example. He comes off as more reasonable than most conservatives online but he too believes in unproven myth over hard fact where this matter is concerned, and anyone that assumes the media is against them is not worth trying to talk to because they always have the defence of "oh you got that from the liberal media and it isn't true" approach. I have had that one thrown out too many times in the past to have any patience with it anymore, especially when what evidence there is on political bias in coverage indicates that if anything the conservatives have the advantage in election coverage of the past two elections. I didn't blame the loss of the Liberals last time out on the conservative media bias, I blamed it on their long record, corruption issues, and what was the most god awful campaign I have ever seen the Libs run federally in my life like any reality based person should.

Sorry, this is a very sore point with me, because it enables the modern conservative to disregard any factual information that disputes their core beliefs because it is all a liberal media conspiracy and therefore untrustworthy regardless of factual reality. I don't deal well with those that cannot distinguish between myth/belief/faith and fact/reality. I am very much a believer in that political expression regarding being entitled to one's own opinion but not to one's own facts.

RuralSandi said...

This is all part of the "Frank Luntz" strategy, one of the parts of his strategy to treat people like they're stupid.

So, obviously those that fall for it are stupid.

Remember - Harper was quick to define the media right at the beginning of his tenure - it's a tactic.

Steve V said...

scotian

"enables the modern conservative to disregard any factual information that disputes their core beliefs because it is all a liberal media conspiracy and therefore untrustworthy regardless of factual reality."

It's a complete copout. Interestingly, it was the coverage in Bali that lead to this call to arms. Did these people expect the media to ignore what UN officials and foreign delegations were telling them? Baird not showing up for meetings with the Canadian delegation isn't newsworthy? I actually think the Cons got off light, all things considered. In my mind, the most embarrassing display on the international stage, that I can remember. Easily.

rural

"Remember - Harper was quick to define the media right at the beginning of his tenure - it's a tactic."

And, Harper thought he could go over the national media, speak directly to local outlets, because there was the assumption that they were less sophisticated, and would more readily repeat the buzz words.

burlivespipe said...

When the CONs were in opposition, they played with and took full advantage of the fact that more often than not, the Government is heavily scrutinized by the media.
Now, guess who's in government? But they can't seem to take as well as they give.
Whiny CON jerks.

Steve V said...

"When the CONs were in opposition, they played with and took full advantage of the fact that more often than not, the Government is heavily scrutinized by the media."

Burl, the Con supporters seem to have a short memory. As I recall, Harper received a complete free ride during the last election.

Tomm said...

Steve,

You said:

"...You can disagree, but can provide any numbers to back up your opinion? The answer is no, because the actual numbers suggest otherwise..."

Numbers? What sort of "numbers" assesses journalistic bias?

Today on the radio, CBC interviewed a "mom" downstream of Chalk River who, while acknowledging that there is no safety hazard, was "concerned" about the process of over-ruling the regulators. Nice catch CBC.

That's called journalistic bias. Its also something you can't get with "numbers".

It is crystal clear that Andrew Coyne is an exception to the journalistic rule. He is an unattached conservative who will criticize anybody that doesn't make sense. I too like his writings and search them out. How many journalists are there that have that much objectivity? Not many. Chantal Hebert is a good one as well. But its pretty thin gruel. Travers? Weston? Copps? Goldstein? I think you get my point.

There is far too much kool aid out there, and far too many people drinking it.

Tomm

Scotian said...

Tomm:

I hate to tell you this, but it is not inherently a "liberal bias" to interview someone that does not see a significant risk in restarting these reactors yet still finds the way it was done by overriding the nuclear safety regulator a very serious and dangerous precedent, especially when that person lives near nuclear reactors and probably has a better awareness of the issues involved than most. For you to try and use that as an example of insidious bias by the media reveals in reality only your own. Your bias is in assuming/presuming bias by the CBC in the discovery and interview of this woman and then putting that interview on the air based solely on your own subjective (and I might add politically defined) criteria. You claim it underscores your point about something that cannot be easily measured in numbers (liberal media bias/conspiracy) yet your example is wholly unsupported by anything other than your own confirmation bias. You are looking for what you feel is political bias using your own subjective perception with no true objective standard, which inherently taints everything you examine because you are trying to fit it into a frame regardless of whether that frame was ever intended by the originating source. That you cannot grasp this and instead continue to believe in myths like this is exactly why you cannot be reasoned with despite a reasonable manner otherwise.

I know you addressed this to Steve V, but I got here first, and I suspect his response would be much the same as mine. You are allowing your own filters/biases to cast what you see into this light, and that means the one with the bias is not the media but you. That you can or will not see that and instead prefer to cling to this myth does you no credit.

Tomm said...

Scotian,

Your point is a fair one, if objective media integrity is part of the process, but let's return to this particular problem.

AECL manages a safety process that includes two redundant water pumps for core cooling if the reactor every gets itself out of control. For a period of time (long period?), one pump has been not working and the reactor has been functioning.

First comment, has the regulator been broadcasting this "situation" public as a safety hazard?

The regulator continues to work with AECL and AECL apparently just never gets around to fixing the problem. The regulator at some point feels they have no choice but to use the one piece of leverage they have, that is shut the thing down.

Has this nuclear facility ever had a melt down? Have they ever required the FIRST pump? Have they ever required the SECOND pump?

The regulator may have felt frustrated and wanted to do something that reasserted their contol of this facility, but this was obviously not the thing to do.

50% of the world's medical isotopes. 50%!!

What did they think was going to happen? That the world would wait for the isotopes because a redundancy in northern Canada must put back into place because some company was just not dancing to this regulators tune?

That's arrogant. That's indefensible. For the CBC to then look for sympathetic cirumstances with downstream mom's is politicizing the situation. What pray tell was the CBC looking for? All political parties passed the legislation. There was an announcement that the matter was going to be looked into. Explain the "mom" to me.

Scotian, its journalistic bias.

CBC wants to run our country with their ethics and values.

Given the situation with Pablo, do you think that the LPC is the political wing of the CBC or do you think the CBC is the propaganda wing of the LPC?

Tomm

Miles Lunn said...

People forget global warming is about average temperatures, not temperatures on any one given day. We will still get colder than normal winters even with global warming, all global warming means is there will be fewer colder than normal winters and more milder than normal. Likewise our mildest winters will be milder than ever while our coldest won't be record setting. The average temperature of any location for any month is simply an average over several years, but it does not mean the actual temperature will be that during that month in that location.

Besides, here in Toronto, milder winters would be nice, but I am not interested in seeing hotter summers than we already have and with global warming you cannot have milder winters and cooler summers at the same time.