Media reporter Katharine Seelye's Friday "Political Memo," "A Familiar Campaign Battle Cry: The Press Likes the Other Guy Better," was stoked by recent ads from former media favorite John McCain turning the tables on the press andaccusing them of going starry-eyed over Barack Obama. Seelye's story is strangely immune to the Times' search engine, but it's adapted from this online column by Seelye posted on Wednesday.
From the Friday print version:
That old devil ''the media'' is back in the news, and it is still only summer.
This particular villain is usually brought out in the fall, when one of the presidential candidates is feeling desperate and needs to blame someone else for what looks like a losing campaign.
But Senator John McCain ushered ''the media'' back to the stage early this year. Mr. McCain, a Republican, seems to be newly amazed, and annoyed, at each turn by how deeply in the tank he says the news media are for his Democratic opponent, Senator Barack Obama.
Strangely, the phrase "liberal bias" doesn't make a single appearance in the story, even in adenial of such bias.
In a rarity, the Times actually cited media studies of bias. Coincidentally, those studies just happen to make the liberal case that Obama is getting tough press - at least over the one-month period since he clinched his party's nomination. (This comes after the Times has studiously ignored similar reports documenting sharp pro-Obama favoritism among the press corps, including itself.)
Seelye devoted several paragraphs to the studies supposedly debunking the idea of a pro-Obama press (and one to a rebuttal study from Times Watch's parent organization, the Media Research Center):
But Mr. McCain has been on one of the longest honeymoons with the news media in modern politics. Even as he flew into the arms of the Bush administration and the once-spurned religious right after he failed to capture the Republican nomination in 2000, many of his friends in the news media continued to refer to him admiringly as a ''maverick'' who delivered ''straight talk.''
And recent studies suggest that while Mr. Obama has received more news coverage than Mr. McCain, the coverage for Mr. McCain has been more positive, at least up until Mr. Obama's trip overseas last week.
The Tyndall Report, which has been tracking network nightly newscasts since 1987, found that from June 4 to July 23, Mr. Obama logged 166 minutes on the newscasts on ABC, CBS and NBC, while Mr. McCain logged 67 minutes.
Another report, from the conservative Media Research Center, found that the three networks devoted 92 minutes to Mr. Obama's eight-day trip, while they devoted eight and a half minutes to Mr. McCain's seven-day trip in March to some of the same places. (Mr. McCain's trip was during the Democratic primary.)
Another study, from George Mason University, indicates that more coverage does not necessarily mean more favorable coverage. It found that the evening news broadcasts were harder on Mr. Obama in the same period than they were on Mr. McCain.
In general, the study said, most comments on the network evening news were neutral. But when the broadcasters expressed opinions about Mr. Obama, 72 percent of the comments were negative and 28 percent were positive. By contrast, the study said, when they expressed opinions about Mr. McCain, 57 percent were negative while 43 percent were positive.
Hat-tip to Seelye for citing the Media Research Center, or as the Times invariably puts it, "the conservative Media Research Center." A Nexis search indicates the MRC has been cited by the Times on 52 occasions since its inception in October 1987, including a few opinion columns. Every single one of those pieces identified MRC as "conservative," "right" or "right-wing," or in one case "ultraconservative."