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NYT Columnist Finds Huge Bias for Kerry Among Reporters - August 2, 2004 - TimesWatch.org

Times Watch for August 2, 2004



NYT Columnist Finds Huge Bias for Kerry Among Reporters

Former staff writer turned columnist John Tierney's "Political Points" column this Sunday is headed with the intriguing tidbit, "Finding Biases On the Bus." Indeed, Tierney surveys his fellow journalists at the Democratic National Convention and finds they support Kerry by an overwhelming margin (unfortunately, Tierney doesn't break out the results for Times reporters in particular).

He notes: "As John Kerry celebrates his nomination with a coast-to-coast bus trip (this may be the first time the word 'celebrates' has appeared so close to 'coast-to-coast bus trip') conservatives are complaining about his good press. They say that journalists' liberal bias has colored the reviews of the Democratic convention and his speech. But do journalists really want John Kerry to defeat George W. Bush? It depends where they work and how you ask the question, at least according to the unscientific survey we conducted last weekend during a press party at the convention."

Tierney describes an informal survey he conducted at a press party at the Democratic convention. Cleverly, he avoids asking journalists bluntly, "Who did you vote for?" Instead he offers the more benign-sounding, "Who would make a better president?"

He describes what he learned: "We got anonymous answers from 153 journalists, about a third of them based in Washington. When asked who would be a better president, the journalists from outside the Beltway picked Mr. Kerry 3 to 1, and the ones from Washington favored him 12 to 1. Those results jibe with previous surveys over the past two decades showing that journalists tend to be Democrats, especially the ones based in Washington. Some surveys have found that more than 80 percent of the Beltway press corps votes Democratic."

Then he makes this unconvincing defense: "But political ideology isn't the only possible bias. Journalists also have a professional bias: they need good stories to make the front page and get on the air. So we asked our respondents which administration they'd prefer to cover the next four years strictly from a journalistic standpoint. We expected the Washington journalists to strongly prefer Mr. Kerry, partly because they complain so much about the difficulty of getting leaks from the Bush White House, but mainly because any change in administration means lots of news. Sure enough, the Washington respondents said they would rather cover Mr. Kerry, but by a fairly small amount, 27 to 21, and the other journalists picked Bush, 56 to 40. (A few others had no opinion.) The overall result was 77 for Bush, 67 for Mr. Kerry. Why stick with the Bush administration? 'You can't ask for a richer cast of characters to cover,' one Washington correspondent said. 'Kerry will be a bore after these guys.'"

Yet, just as it is far more fun to write a negative review of a book than a good one, perhaps reporters figure it would be more interesting to uncover scandal and controversy in an administration they disapprove of than one they basically agree with.

Later Tierney says: "Liberals complained in 2000 that Mr. Bush got off easy because he was better than Al Gore at charming reporters. So we tried to test for a likeability bias. With which presidential nominee, we asked, would you rather be stranded on a desert island? Mr. Kerry was the choice of both groups: 31 to 17 among the Washington journalists, and 51 to 39 among the others."

For Tierney's full column, click here.

" George W. Bush | Campaign 2004 | Democratic Convention | Sen. John Kerry | Liberal Bias | John Tierney



"Successful" Democratic Convention? Says Who?

Monday's front-page story by Adam Nagourney and David Halbfinger, "Campaign Dogged By Terror Fight," repeats paranoid suspicions among Democrats: "News of the terror threat on Sunday also stirred renewed suggestions from some Democrats that the White House was manipulating terror alerts for Mr. Bush's political gain. They said the alert had been issued just as Mr. Kerry emerged from a convention that was described by Republicans and Democrats as a success."

Or perhaps not: The Newsweek poll immediately after the convention found just a four-point bounce for the Kerry campaign (the smallest convention bounce ever in a Newsweek poll), while the CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll also found an unprecedented four-point "bump"-for Bush-Cheney.

Besides, if the Democratic conspiracy theory was accurate, wouldn't Bush have issued its terror warning before or during the Democratic convention?

For the full story on campaigning and the terror threat, click here.

" Campaign 2004 | Democratic Convention | David Halbfinger | Adam Nagourney | Terrorism



Republicans "Looked Like Bullies" Against Daschle

Sheryl Gay Stolberg pens a large story for the Times Sunday Magazine, "Hunting Mr. Democrat," on Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle's fight to retain his Senate seat in South Dakota. It's not quite as fawning as Stolberg's previous profiles of Daschle, but it comes close.

She sets the scene: "Most Americans pay little attention to Tom Daschle, but on Capitol Hill, the Democratic leader gives Republicans heartburn. Their official line is that Daschle is an obstructionist, and this is a constant thread in John Thune's stump speech".The real reason Republicans are so hot to defeat the senator from South Dakota has as much to do with symbolism as with substance. Toppling the Democratic leader would hand Bush and the Republicans a political trophy, the domestic equivalent of Saddam Hussein's pistol."

Later she turns to the nitty-gritty of South Dakota politics, while lauding Daschle: "Thune is trying to consolidate the Republican Party to reclaim Jim Abdnor's old seat. But [former Republican Rep. Bill Janklow's] people don't think much of Thune; they are suspicious of his genial ways and his West River connections to the religious right. 'Quite honestly,' said one Janklow associate, 'a number of people within the Republican Party think Thune's a lightweight.' 'Lightweight' is not an expression anyone would use to describe Tom Daschle. At 56, Daschle has been the Senate Democratic leader for 10 years, two years longer than Lyndon Johnson, whose portrait hangs in Daschle's elegant Capitol suite, at the minority leader's request. Unlike the bullying Johnson, Daschle is gentle and soft-spoken. When he is criticizing Republicans, as he often is, he will typically begin by saying, 'I am deeply troubled"' or 'I am saddened"'

Stolberg once again avoids the fact that the "gentle, soft-spoken" Daschle (a phrase she's used before) in 2002 compared Rush Limbaugh supporters to the Taliban.

Her story continues with warnings of nasty Republican tactics: "Thune just began his television campaign last month, insisting that he did not want to wear voters out. The delay has mystified people in South Dakota, raising speculation that Republicans are planning a campaign that will be nasty and short. Their fund-raising should buy enough ammunition".Recently, Daschle called on Thune to sign a pledge barring negative outside advertising by groups like the Club for Growth-a pledge Thune himself offered in 2002. Wadhams, in an response, accused Daschle of being 'deathly afraid someone will expose his record of saying one thing from his $3 million mansion in Washington, D.C., and saying another thing when he visits South Dakota.' Later, I asked Thune if he would have said the same thing himself. 'Would I have said it that way?' he said. 'Probably not. But that's why I hired Dick.' That is precisely what worries South Dakota Republicans, who say Thune will lose if the campaign gets too nasty."

Stolberg didn't like the idea of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist coming to South Dakota to campaign against Daschle, and she seems gratified the tactic didn't appear to work: "The idea was to counter Daschle's clout argument and remind voters of Thune's connections to Washington's ruling class. Instead, Frist was besieged with questions about why he had violated Senate protocol by campaigning against Daschle on his home turf. The Democratic leader wound up looking like a victim; the Republicans, like bullies. Back in Washington, Frist made no apologies."

For the rest of Stolberg's latest soft story on Daschle, click here.

" Campaign 2004 | Sen. Tom Daschle | Rush Limbaugh | South Dakota | Sheryl Gay Stolberg



Slowing Economy "Setback" for Bush

If the economic recovery hits a slow spot, count on the Times to trumpet the news. Saturday's lead story by economics reporter Eduardo Porter is headlined "Economy Slowed In 2nd Quarter, U.S. Report Says." By contrast, that day's Washington Post contents itself with making the slowdown a front-page Business section story.

Porter opens: "The pace of economic growth slowed abruptly in the second quarter of the year as consumers forced to pay higher energy bills curbed their spending on just about everything else, the government reported yesterday. The Commerce Department estimated that the nation's gross domestic product-the broadest measure of economic activity-expanded at an annual rate of 3 percent in the April-to-June quarter, sharply below the 4.5 percent growth achieved in the first quarter of the year and less than the expectations of Wall Street analysts."

Porter soon gets to the meat of the matter (and gives a hint to why the Times always gives economic slowdown stories such prominent play). "The slowdown was a setback to efforts by President Bush to point to solid growth as a validation of his administration's economic policies, and played into the hands of his Democratic challenger, Senator John Kerry, who has criticized the White House's economic approach."

For the full story on the economic slowdown, click here.

" Campaign 2004 | Economy | Eduardo Porter