2. Those Who See "Lefty Spin" in Iraq Stories "Fooling Themselves"
3. CNN and NBC Show Iraqi Men Whose Hands Hussein Cut Off
4. Cicadas Are People Too: Letters to the Editor Upset by Abuse
Journalists at national media outlets are more liberal and less conservative than nine years ago, and while in 1995 they were upset that the media were too critical of President Clinton, they are now disturbed that the media are going too easy on President Bush, a just-released survey conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found. Five times more national outlet journalists identify themselves as liberal, 34 percent, than conservative, a mere 7 percent. The poll also discovered that while the reporters, editors, producers and executives have a great deal of trouble naming a "liberal" news outlet, they had no problem seeing a "conservative" outlet, with an incredible 69 percent readily naming the Fox News Channel.
Pew compared this year's poll of 547 journalists around the nation, 247 of them at national-level outlets, to the results of a similar survey conducted by the group, then-known as the Times Mirror Center for the People and the Press, in 1995. This year they discovered 54% of national journalists described themselves as "moderates," down from 64 percent in 1995, as "the percentage identifying themselves as liberal has increased from 1995: 34% of national journalists describe themselves as liberals, compared with 22% nine years ago....More striking is the relatively small minority of journalists who think of themselves as politically conservative" at just 7 percent amongst national journalists, but that's a surge from an even more piddling 4 percent in 1995. "As the case a decade ago," Pew noted, "the journalists as a group are much less conservative than the general public (33% conservative)."
And those in the pipeline for national jobs are trending liberal too, with 23 percent of local journalists identifying themselves as liberal, "up from 14% in 1995," and only 12 percent calling themselves conservative.
Since those surveyed must realize how the left-wing tilt of their profession would be used by conservative media critics, it's a safe bet to assume that a significant number of actual liberals called themselves moderates.
A mere 8 percent of the national press believe the media are being "too critical" of President Bush, compared to nearly seven times as many, 55 percent, who think the media are "not critical enough." Back in 1995, as recounted in the MRC's June, 1995 edition of MediaWatch, Times Mirror determined that just two percent thought the press had given "too much" coverage to Clinton administration achievements, compared to 48 percent to saw "too little" on Clinton's achievements. The remaining 49 percent called coverage "about right."
Given the anti-Bush attitudes so many in the media, it's no surprise that "they express considerably less confidence in the political judgment of the American public than they did five years ago. Since 1999, the percentage saying they have a great deal of confidence in the public's election choices has fallen from 52% to 31% in the national sample of journalists."
The journalists did see ideology at one outlet: FNC. Pew explained: "The single news outlet that strikes most journalists as taking a particular ideological stance -- either liberal or conservative -- is Fox News Channel. Among national journalists, more than twice as many could identify a daily news organization that they think is 'especially conservative in its coverage' than one they believe is 'especially liberal' (82% vs. 38%). And Fox has by far the highest profile as a conservative news organization; it was cited unprompted by 69% of national journalists. The New York Times was most often mentioned as the national daily news organization that takes a decidedly liberal point of view, but only by 20% of the national sample."
Asked, "Can you think of any news organizations that are especially liberal?" only two percent each listed CNN or ABC or CBS or NPR. One percent named NBC. On the conservative side, after FNC, 9 percent listed the Washington Times and 8 percent the Wall Street Journal.
The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press survey, conducted as part of a joint project with the Project for Excellence in Journalism, was "based on interviews with 547 journalists and news media executives by telephone and online. The same questionnaire was used for both modes. The interviews were completed from March 10, 2004 through April 20, 2004."
The "media organizations sampled" for the 247 people interviewed in the "national media" component:
-- Television Networks: ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, CNN, C-SPAN, CNBC, MSNBC, FOX Cable News, Telemundo, Univision.
-- Chains with Washington, D.C. Bureaus: Gannett, Cox, Hearst.
-- Radio: Associated Press Radio, ABC Radio Networks, CBS Radio Networks, Westwood One, Black Radio Network, National Public Radio.
-- Newspapers: Arizona Republic, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Detroit Free Press, Houston Chronicle, Long Island Newsday, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, New York Daily News, New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, San Francisco Chronicle, USA TODAY, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post.
-- Magazines: Newsweek, Time, U.S. News & World Report.
-- Wire Services: Associated Press, Bloomberg News Service, Reuters.
-- News Services: Copley, Cox Newspapers, Gannett, Hearst, Knight-Ridder, Newhouse, Scripps-Howard.
For the full report titled, "Bottom-Line Pressures Now Hurting Coverage, Say Journalists; Press Going Too Easy on Bush," with links to more detailed sub-sections and a PDF of the questionnaire, go to: people-press.org
Some excerpts from the Pew report released on Sunday:
Fox's Outsized Impact
Most national and local journalists do not believe any national daily news organization is "especially liberal" in its news coverage. Roughly six-in-ten in both groups (62% national/59% local) say no national daily news organization strikes them as particularly liberal in its coverage. Among the minority that names a specific news organization as being especially liberal, the New York Times was mentioned most frequently (20% national/17% local).
By contrast, solid majorities of both national and local journalists say there is an organization that they think is especially conservative -- and for most the organization that comes to mind is Fox News Channel. Fully 69% of national journalists cited Fox News Channel as especially conservative in its coverage. Fewer local journalists (42%) mentioned Fox; still, a much higher percentage of local journalists named Fox than any other single news organization, conservative or liberal.
Roughly two-thirds of self-described conservatives (68%) could identify a specific news organization that is especially liberal, and the same number (68%) could name a news organization that is "especially conservative." But moderates and liberals could identify conservative news organizations far more often than liberal ones. Roughly three-quarters of liberals (74%) and a majority of moderates (56%) say they couldn't think of any news organization that is especially liberal.
END of Excerpt
For that section: people-press.org
IV. Values and the Press
Journalists at national and local news organizations are notably different from the general public in their ideology and attitudes toward political and social issues. Most national and local journalists, as well as a plurality of Americans (41%), describe themselves as political moderates. But news people -- especially national journalists -- are more liberal, and far less conservative, than the general public.
About a third of national journalists (34%) and somewhat fewer local journalists (23%) describe themselves as liberals; that compares with 19% of the public in a May survey conducted by the Pew Research Center. Moreover, there is a relatively small number of conservatives at national and local news organizations. Just 7% of national news people and 12% of local journalists describe themselves as conservatives, compared with a third of all Americans.
END of Excerpt
For that section: people-press.org
The questions about personal political views come at the end of the survey, starting with question #27. For a PDF of the full questionnaire: people-press.org
Most major newspapers today (Monday) should have an article on the Pew numbers, but I'll plug just the one in the Boston Globe by Mark Jurkowitz, "Press feels it's gone easy on Bush," which quoted me. An excerpt:
"What you're seeing is a profession that is majority moderate, but more liberal than conservative. What's different here is that the trend line is more liberal," says Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism. "We clearly need to think about getting more conservatives in the newsroom."
"It confirms our fears that the mainstream media are not getting less liberal," said Brent Baker, vice president of the Media Research Center, a conservative watchdog group. One explanation, Baker added, is that journalism "inherently attracts people unhappy with society's...status quo [who] still see the news media as a vehicle to change society."
While the poll may fuel longstanding conservative claims that there is a liberal bias in the media, it also found strong sentiment among journalists that their profession has been too soft on Bush....
END of Excerpt
For Jurkowitz's story in full: www.boston.com
In his weekly Sunday column, Washington Post Ombudsman Michael Getler rejected the notion that negative stories about the Iraq war played on the front page the previous week, "Dissension Grows in Senior Ranks on War Strategy; U.S. May Be Winning Battles in Iraq but Losing the War, Some Officers Say," "Violence Leaves Iraqis in Despair" and "U.S. Faces Growing Fears of Failure," reflect any ideological hostility to the war. He argued that "readers who view the work of reporters covering this for major U.S. news organizations as 'lefty spin' are fooling themselves."
But, Getler saw bias in the media's glowing coverage of same-sex marriage, agreeing with Howard Kurtz's assessment that the coverage had "an unmistakably upbeat tone. The overall vibe of most of the headlines and leads is that this is a step forward. Which, in the view of many liberal-leaning people and journalists, it is. But what is overshadowed, and what fuels the perception that the press is out of touch, is that many people consider this a negative step."
An excerpt from Getler's May 23 column:
I've written a lot in recent weeks about images, mostly photographic ones. This week's column is also about images, but ones that form in the mind of some readers about how newspapers feel about things.
Iraq is one example. Whatever one's view about the war, this has been an especially brutal couple of months. And although there is always the possibility that history will record a positive outcome, there is also more than a whiff of despair, even failure, in the air these days.
The lead headline in The Post on Sunday, May 9, said, "Dissension Grows in Senior Ranks on War Strategy; U.S. May Be Winning Battles in Iraq but Losing the War, Some Officers Say." On Wednesday, two front-page headlines said, "Violence Leaves Iraqis in Despair" and "U.S. Faces Growing Fears of Failure."
After those Wednesday headlines, a couple of readers protested. "With all due respect," one said, "this isn't reporting, it's cheerleading for failure and smacks of blatant support for the lefty spin that Iraq is a quagmire. It looks like piling on. There are problems, of course, but most of the 'on the brink' comes from the major media here and in Europe and doesn't reflect 'ground truth' in Iraq, which is that a lot of progress has been and is being made in spite of the high-profile attacks and the Abu Ghraib prisoner scandal."
Personal feelings about this war have run very high among readers, even before it started, and the view that things are better than the press makes them out to be has been expressed by the Bush administration and supporters of the war for more than a year. There are, undoubtedly, some positive developments that may not have been reported.
But it seems to me that events on the ground have confirmed the thrust and credibility of the reporting on this conflict and that the press generally has been more reliable than official statements as a guide to what is happening. My view is that both this country and Iraq are at a critical juncture in a huge, costly and controversial undertaking and that readers who view the work of reporters covering this for major U.S. news organizations as "lefty spin" are fooling themselves....
And then there were the two big stories and pictures on Tuesday's front page, and another big splash on the front of Style, when more than 600 gay couples were married in Massachusetts as that state became the first to allow same-sex marriages. This was, of course, big news, and I thought the Post stories were well handled. But some readers, as has happened before, viewed this degree of prominence as evidence of a Post agenda on the topic.
Post media reporter Howard Kurtz, surveying the headlines in many newspapers in his online column last Tuesday, captured the issue well, I thought. He said they had "an unmistakably upbeat tone. The overall vibe of most of the headlines and leads is that this is a step forward. Which, in the view of many liberal-leaning people and journalists, it is. But what is overshadowed, and what fuels the perception that the press is out of touch, is that many people consider this a negative step."
END of Excerpt
For Getler's column in full: www.washingtonpost.com
In the midst of another night of network focus on the prisoner abuse matter, NBC and CNN found some time on Friday night to show how Saddam Hussein's abuses were far more hideous. Both the NBC Nightly News and CNN's NewsNight ran stories on some Iraqi men, whose right hands were cut off by Hussein, who were brought to Houston in order to get fitted for prosthetic hands.
CNN's Ed Lavandera stuck to the facts of the story, but NBC's Andrea Mitchell insisted on adding a political edge as she noted that "now, the administration, under fire for its own human rights abuses, is trying to use Saddam's victims to mount a public relations counter-offensive" by releasing old video of Hussein's prisoners being abused. She noted how "according to Human Rights Watch and other groups, 290,000 Iraqis were killed or mutilated over the past two decades. At Abu Ghraib, prisoners were forced to remain naked for as long as four years." But, she cautioned, "human rights experts say the U.S. should not take comfort in Saddam's hideous example."
Tom Brokaw teased Friday's NBC Nightly News with the same old prisoner abuse storyline: "New graphic images of abuse and humiliation by U.S. soldiers in Iraq and now more than 30 criminal investigations involving deaths are underway." He didn't offer an up front plug for the Mitchell story, but he did for another story, "And Jackie O: A decade after her death, the enduring legacy of an American original."
Brokaw set up the May 21 piece, as taken down by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth: "NBC News 'In Depth' tonight, rehabilitating America's image. In the wake of weeks of shocking stories of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, the Bush administration is trying to send a strong reminder to the world about the brutal treatment of prisoners under Saddam Hussein. It's the latest move in a battle to restore confidence in America. Here's NBC's Andrea Mitchell, 'In Depth.'"
Mitchell began over video of men walking in Iraq, missing hands on one arm: "These Iraqi men are also victims of torture at Abu Ghraib, Saddam Hussein's torture."
Later, on CNN's NewsNight, after Aaron Brown opened by sarcastically pointing out how President Bush's Monday night speech "will come a year and three weeks from the President's victory speech aboard the USS Lincoln. 'Mission Accomplished' the sign behind him read that night. Mission barely begun seemed closer to reality," Brown got to the Iraqis without one hand:
Lavandera began: "When seven Iraqi men first landed in Houston, it was hard to tell they were hiding scars left by Saddam Hussein."
Back on screen, Brown commented: "Well, with all the other pictures out there, people ought to remember, we think, those as well."
But so far, only if they watch NBC or CNN.
File under, "Cicadas are people too." Without further comment, two letters in the Washington Post's regular Saturday page of letters, a section called "Free for All," under the heading of "Bugged by Cicada Abuse."
Even with the daily news about Iraqi prisoners and Middle East bombings, I still find myself disgusted by the stream of stories in your paper about children pulling the legs off cicadas [Metro, May 7], and throwing them under cars and using them as hockey pucks [Style, May 19]. None of these stories mention the reactions of parents or teachers, but I hope they are using this marvelous phenomenon of living creatures to teach these children that even small bugs are not inanimate objects to be wantonly killed for "playtime."
-- Dena R. Bauman
I am hardly an insect hugger and confess burgeoning panic at the prospect of cicadas roosting in my rather big hair. But even I found Linton Weeks's reference to children in Bethesda tossing cicadas under moving cars and beating them with sticks absolutely horrifying and reminiscent of those ant-stompers I never liked in grade school. Let's not promote cicada abuse. These creatures have waited 17 years to mate. Give them a break.
-- Elizabeth Shea
Those are both online at: www.washingtonpost.com
Cicadas, for those outside the cicada zone, who haven't watched any TV news in the past few weeks, are insects which emerge from underground every 17 years to fly into trees and to mate. They last appeared in 1987 and we won't see them again, assuming the millions of them survive the attacks by the kids, until 2021.
# Tim Russert is scheduled to appear tonight (Monday) on Comedy Central's Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
-- Brent Baker