MediaWatch: June 1995

Vol. Nine No. 6

In the Media: Want More on Clinton Success

Media's Liberal Take

A poll released in late May discovered that among one group of Americans, seven times more think Whitewater has been over-covered as under-covered; 24 times more believe Clinton's achievements have received too little coverage as think they've garnered too much; while over 80 percent reject the charge that the press has been too negative in covering the new Congress. A poll of Democratic consultants? No, a March Times Mirror Center for the People and the Press survey of 248 national media outlet staffers.

Princeton Survey Research interviewed the most influential journalists: "28 were with respondents employed at the executive level including presidents, publishers, CEOs, vice presidents, and other high-level executives; 83 were at the executive producer or managing editor level; and 137 were at the correspondent or reporter level."

Two percent identified themselves as "very liberal," and another 20 percent as "liberal." Only four percent called themselves "conservative" and just one percent "very conservative." Overall, 64 percent answered "moderate."

The rising numbers of women and blacks may be pushing the media left. Adding another 267 members of local media, the poll found: "Women were twice as likely to say they were liberal than were men (31 percent vs. 15 percent), and blacks were much more liberal than whites (31 percent vs. 18 percent)."

Given this skew it's no surprise that just two percent believe the press has given "too much" coverage to Clinton Administration achievements. The rest split with 49 percent calling coverage "about right" and 48 percent saying there's been "too little." A post-1992 election poll of reporters by Times Mirror found reporters thought Iran-Contra was undercovered: 71 percent called coverage fair or poor, 24 percent thought it good. This year, while 55 percent think Whitewater's been covered "about right," 35 percent think it's been covered "too much" and just five percent say "too little."

Reporters think the new GOP Congress is getting it easy. Asked if coverage has been "too cynical, too negative and has nitpicked too much," 81 percent responded no. Just 19 percent agreed. They were asked: "Others charge that the press has not adequately covered the potential consequences of passage of many elements of the Contract with America. Do you think this is a valid criticism or not?" Half said no; 49 percent overall and 53 percent of broadcast network staffers said yes.

Media figures frequently deny their personal views have any impact upon their reporting, but Times Mirror found about half acknowledge the opposite. Overall, 47 percent agreed with the statement that "the personal values of people in the news often make it difficult for them to understand and cover such things as religion and family values." And 53 percent agreed that "the distinction between reporting and commentary has seriously eroded."

Don't count on ombudsmen to help. The Boston Globe's Mark Jurkowitz reported May 15 that a survey of the Organization of News Ombudsmen (ONO) found that liberal bias is the most frequently lodged complaint. But, at ONO's convention he noted, "sassy liberal columnist Molly Ivins' Rush Limbaugh bashing remarks were much more warmly received by ONO members than Texas Republican Party Chairman Tom Pauken's suggestion that the industry actively recruit more conservative journalists."