Loss in "Referendum" on Bush Ignored, "Surprisingly Tight" Race --8/4/2005
2. Poll: Two Thirds Say Media Have Bias & Regularly Make Up Stories
"If elected, Paul Hackett would become the first lawmaker to have served in the Iraq war," ABC anchor Terry Moran trumpeted on Sunday's World News Tonight. But on Wednesday night, after the Democratic Marine reservist lost to Republican Jean Schmidt for the Southwestern Ohio U.S. House seat, World News Tonight didn't utter a word about Hackett's loss. CBS Evening News anchor Russ Mitchell had hyped how the contest "is shaping up as a referendum on Mr. Bush's Iraq policy," yet when, apparently, that referendum went the wrong way, CBS fell silent, not mentioning the outcome on Wednesday's Evening News. NBC Nightly News provided a brief update on the race, but anchor Campbell Brown touted how "Paul Hackett, a Democrat, made a stronger than expected showing." Over on CNN, Inside Politics anchor Joe Johns described a "surprisingly tight election that caught national attention" before Bill Schneider insisted Schmidt had "barely" won, "which is why the Democrats are celebrating." In fact, Schneider forwarded the proposition that "the losers have more to celebrate than the winners."
Schmidt won 52 to 48 percent over Hackett to take the 2nd District seat vacated by Republican Rob Portman who resigned to become U.S. trade representative.
ABC's World News Tonight had no time Wednesday for the loss of the candidate they championed on Sunday night, but did make room for a Nature magazine article about a cloned dog in South Korea and the CBS Evening News, which highlighted the race on Saturday but had no time Wednesday for the outcome, ran items on the cloned dog, an 11-year-old girl in Fresno facing prison for throwing rocks back at boys and a fight in Malibu over access by the public to beaches in front of private homes.
Wednesday's Countdown on MSNBC (anchored by Alison Stewart) skipped the outcome, the MRC's Brad Wilmouth observed, but last Wednesday, July 27 the program with the same fill-in host had devoted a whole segment to the race. Brad had taken down Stewart's set up:
ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC stories on the race, as recounted in the summary of an August 3 CyberAlert item: Democrat Paul Hackett lost a special election on Tuesday to fill a U.S. House seat representing Southwestern Ohio, but not before the broadcast networks and CNN all championed the candidacy of the Bush-bashing Marine who served in Iraq. On ABC on Sunday, reporter Geoff Morrell recited how Hackett denounced Bush as a "chicken hawk" and "the biggest threat to America," but instead of describing that as mudslinging, Morrell called it "candor," relaying: "If elected, Hackett says he'll use that same candor to educate Congress about what's really going on in Iraq." On Saturday, CBS's Drew Levinson touted Hackett as "a tough talker" who "goes as far as saying President Bush is a greater threat to U.S. security than Osama bin Laden." Tuesday on CNN, Bruce Morton noted how Hackett's attacks on Bush have "angered some Republicans," but highlighted how one "Vietnam vet, who voted for Bush, is having second thoughts." NBC's Carl Quintanilla plugged Hackett as what "some call a next generation Democrat" and asserted that "analysts like Stu Rothenberg say there may be fallout even if Hackett finishes a close second."
For the quoted stories in full: www.mediaresearch.org
At the top of Wednesday's Inside Politics on CNN the announcer asked: "Is yesterday's special election a bellwether for next year's battle for control of Congress?"
With "Strong Showing" as the on-screen moniker, anchor Joe Johns soon asserted: "The outcome of yesterday's special election for Ohio's second district House seat is not in dispute. But the loser and his party are still claiming victory. Republican Jean Schmidt got 52 percent of the vote to defeat Democrat Paul Hackett in an area that tilts heavily Republican. CNN's senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, has more on the surprisingly tight election that caught national attention and why Democrats see signs of better things to come."
Schneider began, as tracked by the MRC's Megan McCormack: "The Republican won."
Johns proceeded to interview the losing winner, Jean Schmidt.
Newly released findings from a May poll, conducted by Gannett's First Amendment Center in Nashville, discovered that an overwhelming 64 percent disagree with the statement that "the news media tries to report the news without bias." Only half as many, 33 percent, agree, down six percentage points from last year. And 65 percent agree that "the falsifying or making up of stories in the American news media is a widespread problem." If you wonder how journalists can live in denial about bias and public distrust of the media, check out how the August/September American Journalism Review magazine headlined its story about the poll results. With a big "69%" in the background, the magazine's headline over a three-page article declared, "A Source of Encouragement: A new First Amendment Center/AJR survey finds that 69 percent of the public thinks journalists should be allowed to keep a news source confidential."
American Journalism Review is a full-color, 80-page every other month magazine published by the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland. The August/September issue arrived at the MRC on Wednesday.
The article by Rachel Smolkin reported that "the bulk of the survey results, which dealt with a variety of First Amendment issues, were released June 28" in the "2005 State of the First Amendment Survey." She added: "The results of four questions dealing with news media issues are being released by AJR" in the article she wrote. Of the four questions, two results were pro-media ("journalists should be allowed to keep a news source confidential" and "it is important for our democracy that the news media act as a watchdog on government"), and two results went against the media (bias and making up stories.)
An excerpt from the article by Smolkin, a Senior Writer for the American Journalism Review:
Media types desperate for a sliver of encouraging news about public support can grasp it in the latest State of the First Amendment survey's findings about unnamed sources.
The 2005 edition of the poll, commissioned by the First Amendment Center in collaboration with AJR, found that 69 percent of Americans agree with the statement: "Journalists should be allowed to keep a news source confidential."
This broad support for a reporter's right to shield sources comes as protection of anonymous sources is under assault in the federal courts and as abuse of unnamed sources has fomented myriad news scandals. From the imaginary unnamed sources of Jayson Blair and Jack Kelley to the lone confidential source who served up Newsweek's infamous Quran-in-the-toilet item, the press' penchant for quoting unnamed speakers has prompted much debate within the industry.
Major news organizations -- including USA Today, the New York Times and the Washington Post -- have tightened their anonymous sources policies. Periodic calls to pierce Washington's pervasive culture of anonymity gained steam in late April, when six Washington bureau chiefs and the president of the White House Correspondents Association met with White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan to push to limit off-the-record or background-only White House media briefings.
But even as editors try to reduce the rampant use of such sources, many journalists watched in dismay as the U.S. Supreme Court turned down an appeal from the New York Times' Judith Miller and Time magazine's Matthew Cooper, who were ordered to testify before a grand jury investigating the leak of CIA officer Valerie Plame's identity. While Time ultimately handed over Cooper's notes and Cooper agreed to testify after he said his source freed him from their confidentiality agreement, Miller refused to testify and a federal judge jailed her on July 6....
The national telephone poll was conducted between May 13 and May 23 -- in the midst of the Newsweek hullabaloo, which Yalof says had no significant impact on the results. The margin of error for 1,003 interviews is about 3 percent. (The bulk of the survey results, which dealt with a variety of First Amendment issues, were released June 28 -- 2005 State of the First Amendment Survey. The results of four questions dealing with news media issues are being released by AJR.)
The survey offers one other encouraging finding for the media. Americans endorsed the press' watchdog role, with 74 percent agreeing with the statement: "It is important for our democracy that the news media act as a watchdog on government."
But an unnerving 65 percent of those polled agreed with the statement: "The falsifying or making up of stories in the American news media is a widespread problem."
And a mere 33 percent agreed that: "Overall, the news media tries to report the news without bias." That's down 6 percentage points from last year. Among the 64 percent of Americans who disagreed with that statement, 42 percent strongly disagreed.
"The public is hearing that everything is biased; it's either one side or the other; there's no such thing as straight journalism," [Duke University journalism professor Susan] Tifft says.
Anti-press mantras have become the political norm. The "leadership in Washington, including the White House, but I don't just mean the White House, is very anti-press, and one of the techniques seems to be repeating over and over that the press is the problem," Tifft says, adding that the media themselves "have fallen short in some rather glaring cases."
Even public support for allowing journalists to protect unnamed sources has steadily declined, dropping 16 percentage points since the question was first posed in 1997....
END of Excerpt
For the rest of the article, which is all devoted to the use of anonymous sources, go to: www.ajr.org
The results of the "Questions from the 2005 State of the First Amendment survey specifically dealing with the news media." The hard copy version of the magazine includes 2004 numbers for those same questions, and for the bias question I've added those numbers in parentheses:
# "Journalists should be allowed to keep a news source confidential."
Strongly agree: 41%
# "Overall, the news media tries to report the news without bias."
Strongly agree: 13% (2004: 15%)
Mildly disagree: 22% (2004: 19%)
# "It is important for our democracy that the news media act as a watchdog on government."
Strongly agree: 50%
# "Please also tell me whether you agree or disagree with the following statement: 'The falsifying or making up of stories in the American news media is a widespread problem.'"
Strongly agree: 40%
(If the numbers above are scrambled into paragraphs without line breaks for each result, as has happened before, I apologize for our deficient e-mail distribution software. If that happens, it will soon be corrected in the posted version and I suggest you go there for a clear layout of the numbers.)
For the July 11 press release about other survey findings, "First Amendment 2005 survey touches headline issues," go to this First Amendment Center page: www.firstamendmentcenter.org
-- Brent Baker