local media bias

Brent Finnegan -- May 15th, 2007

Tonight TV3 reporter Shane Symolon will be participating on a forum on the media and media bias in Staunton, sponsored by the (divided) Republican Committee. Chris Graham of The New Dominion will also be participating.

It amuses me to overhear people argue about whether the media is “liberal” or “conservative.” If you’ve ever been to the VerStandig studios in Harrisonburg, you’ve probably seen the bumper sticker on the wall that says, “The media is only as liberal as the conservative businesses that own them.”

25 Responses to “local media bias”

  1. Eli says:

    The “liberalsim” of the media is an absolute myth. One just needs to turn on the radio or go to http://www.mediamatters.org (a website dedicated to correcting the conservative misinformation in the media) to see this.
    Repeating ad nauseum that the media is liberal is part of the brainwashing. As the old saying goes (i’m paraphrasing) “if you repeat the lie long enough people will believe it.” (A classic Rovian strategy) It becomes part of the American collective conscious.

  2. JGFitzgerald says:

    Once upon a time at the DNR, a reporter who was an avowed Democrat and a dreadful writer would come back from a city council meeting and file a barely decipherable story. Two editors would then try to save it. One of the editors — specifically, me — at the time tended libertarian, which is a pupal (and pupil) stage for a Democrat who hasn’t yet seen Republicans run a government. The headline would then be written by one of two wire editors, both avowed conservatives, one of a religious sort, one because he loved oil companies. Sometimes a city council member would complain that the DNR had intentionally twisted the story, and we had little defense except to say that it wasn’t intentional, so we didn’t say anything. (Often the council member was Hugh Lantz, who once, while giving the invocation, asked the Lord to protect the council against special interest groups. Go figure.)

    One might wonder where the managing editor was during all this. He was often out of the building late at night when the real work was being done, and that was sometimes a relief. It was noted many times that he liked to run stories about sex, but didn’t care for pesky international news. So one night when a wire editor found a story about a penis (memory fails on the specifics) another editor suggested changing the description of the story to make it look like an international story and thus hide it from the managing editor so he wouldn’t make us run it the next day.

    “Change it to Saskatchewan,” someone suggested.

    “Forget it,” said another editor. “He’d think it was about Bigfoot.”

    Media bias? Back then, the DNR wasn’t organized enough. That’s a strange type of good old days.

  3. I believe that much of the time when people preceive a liberal/conservative bias, it’s because they don’t agree with what’s being published or broadcasted. Many of us seek not to be challenged or informed, but rather validated, by media coverage.

    Here’s where I think the media has a bias: toward conflict and the quick & easy stories that conflict make. From the Rosie vs. Trump feud to the Clinton-Lewinsky affair, the media spends too much time on meaningless (though sometimes entertaining) sideshows and not enough time (or expense, which is really what it’s all about for most publishers and broadcasters) on stories of substance, detail and nuance.

    Some may say that this is what the mass market wants. Perhaps they’re right. Most people do not pay attention to details on local, state, national and international issues. Sometimes it’s because people don’t care; other times it’s because people are busy and don’t feel they have the time to digest comprehensive, layered journalism. I do not believe that people are dumb — I just think they’re disengaged.

    Focusing on bias itself is a form of a quick & easy sideshow. I understand that people, especially those at a political gathering, love to talk about media bias. But a more useful conversation is about what the media does and doesn’t do well, how its changing, and what its considerable challenges are, given the attention spans of its splintered audience. I bet the panelists have a lot to say on those issues, as they are living them everyday.

  4. finnegan says:

    “But a more useful conversation is about what the media does and doesn’t do well, how its changing, and what its considerable challenges are”

    Agreed. FRONTLINE did a pretty good job of addressing that in “News War,” which you can watch online.

    What amazes me is how the DNR continues to run AP stories you can find anywhere online, and seems to be ignoring the existence of blogs (Rocktown yanked a story on local blogs and message boards several months ago) while Staunton’s News Leader actually has a blog aggregator.

    Are they thinking that the Internet is just going to go away?

  5. zen says:

    While not local, I thought this was somewhat topical:
    “It took CBS two weeks to fire Don Imus for calling a college women’s basketball team “nappy headed hos,” but it only took them two days to fire respected retired Major General John Batiste for speaking out against the president on the war.”

  6. Eli says:

    Are duplicate usernames possible on this blog? I post as Eli, but I didn’t make the post at the top there.

  7. David Troyer says:

    I don’t think duplicate usernames are possible… but that person could have posted without actually being registered on the site, as I have done with this comment.

  8. finnegan says:

    Hmm. It appears there are two legit Elis here.

  9. David Troyer says:

    Along with at least one David, David Miller, and David Troyer. Thankfully I don’t post with my middle name (Miller).

  10. Karl Magenhofer says:

    Sorry I missed the event. I’d have really enjoyed hearing what Chris Graham had to say about media bias considering how heavily he has reported on politics.

    The swat at the DNR for printing AP stories doesn’t make any sense to me. The paper has to serve its entire readership, not just those that are online or internet savvy. Maybe I’m missing your point, but I can think of 100 reasons that the paper would still run AP stories online and in print.

    I can confirm the bumber sticker. I found that in a store in Staunton several years ago. It made me laugh then and still does now. I also have one that says “He’s dead Jim. You get his tricorder, I’ll get his wallet.”

  11. finnegan says:

    Karl, I guess I spend too much time online to go to the DNR for state or national news.

    Dennis Neal (editor at the News Leader) sums up what I’m trying to say in a comment he left here.

  12. tom b says:

    I would certainly think that Chris Graham would offer the republican candidate for BOS in Beverly Manor district the same softball opportunity for free publicity that he did the democrat..

  13. Chris says:

    Tom B – the Republican candidate for the BOS in Beverley Manor was featured in an interview on the website (http://thenewdominion.com/?p=433) a day after his announcement.
    Greg will also be featured on an upcoming New Dominion podcast – as will other candidates in the local elections.
    I don’t want to say that it’s typical that someone would listen to one podcast or see one story about a Democrat and assume that the fact that they don’t readily see a story about a Republican directly alongside it means that there is bias there – but it is common in this day and age. All too common.

  14. Chris says:

    Thanks for the link to Dennis Neal’s comments on the use of wire copy, Brent – I hadn’t seen that before, and it’s full of insight.
    One issue that was brought up several times in the forum Tuesday night was that a local paper like the Leader should consider that a sizable number of its readers don’t get their news from the Internet or cable TV. Now, me personally, I wonder how sizable this number is – but it is something worth studying and trying to analyze.
    Dennis laid out a formula for how the Leader divvies up its column inches – and again me personally, I think they’re ahead of the curve there on Central Avenue. Local papers and local TV news (and local public-TV stations and public-radio stations) owe it to their customers to give them local news and local people and local trends and the rest.
    But … we still have to acknowledge that there is a world outside the mountains that surround us. Just how much to acknowledge it – in terms of the commitment of resources that are more and more scarce in a business that has always been cut-throat, but seems to be on steroids in that sense in this day and age – is the $64,000 question.

  15. finnegan says:

    It’s odd, I tend to read either very local issues, or I get my news “outside the Valley” from Reuters or BBC World.

    In this era, it’s really hard for me to trust any TV news–local or national, with the exception of something like Frontline or 60 Minutes.

  16. JGFitzgerald says:

    Local or national news? So much of the newspaper/nightly news formula is built around keeping an older audience while trying to gain a younger one. (Tune in to see what Katie’s wearing, stay for the pharmaceutical ads.) Newspapers presumably know that a majority of people in general may be getting their non-local news elsewhere, but a majority of the the aging newspaper readership gets most of its news from the paper. That’s one fact of the newspaper business model. Another is that most papers are still the best source for local news (except in the case of trying to find out about IPv6, obviously; perhaps we should say they have the most local news). I’d be interested in stats showing how many new readers the DNR picks up for every one that dies. I’m betting they’re barely at replacement level.

  17. David Miller says:

    I think that the discussion we are having is perfect when it comes to the question Frontline posed. Why are many Americans getting their news from sources such as The Daily Show? I personally don’t but I find it fascinating that many are. I have differing theories on why Americans are choosing to do so. What are yours?

  18. Jesus says:

    The only news that matters is that I have risen!

  19. David Miller says:

    you said it mahn, nobody f..ks with the jesus

  20. cook says:

    eight year olds, dude

  21. zen says:

    This is our concern dude.

  22. Jesus says:

    Not really 8…more like 2,011 years plus some 8 months and 6 days…but who’s counting?

  23. finnegan says:

    I would love to go to this.

    But seriously, man. Why are you posting as Jesus? I can see IP addresses, I know who you are. Besides, yours is a v4 IP, and I’m pretty sure they have full IPv6 wireless coverage in heaven.

  24. cook says:

    yeah well – you know – that’s just – like – your opinion, man.

  25. Frank witt says:

    As postings go…doesn’t Jesus live inside all of us that beleive?

    He talks to me, I pray to him, we have a good time watching people react.

    Thanks for pointing out that HIS wireless needs updating though. Maybe when they get H-Burg done, they can hook up my BROTHER.

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