When More Press Is Not Better Press

Posted by on Jul 27, 2008 in Media, Politics | No Comments

The role of the Fourth Estate is to inform and educate the public and serve as a watchdog of corporate America, the government, and other institutions.

As I’ve been gathering information for a long article about traditional media and where the future of print based advertising is headed, I’ve come across some information that I expected was true, but it is still startling none the less.

James Rainey of the Los Angeles Times pointed me in the direction of this study on bias in network news coverage:

The Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University, where researchers have tracked network news content for two decades, found that ABC, NBC and CBS were tougher on Obama than on Republican John McCain during the first six weeks of the general-election campaign.

You read it right: tougher on the Democrat.

During the evening news, the majority of statements from reporters and anchors on all three networks are neutral, the center found. And when network news people ventured opinions in recent weeks, 28% of the statements were positive for Obama and 72% negative.

Network reporting also tilted against McCain, but far less dramatically, with 43% of the statements positive and 57% negative, according to the Washington-based media center.

As a student of media, heck just a citizen of this country these are really troubling findings. Now if there is something negative to report about a candidate he should be reported in a factual manner.

But I tend to think, and have for a long time, that the media with their need to fill 24/7 coverage have moved away from actually reporting the news and instead what to construct a narrative with a story arch. If you pick up any book on how to write a screen play it will stress the need for conflict, more conflict, ever increasing conflict until the climax.

How do you create this on-going narrative, with negative stories. And where no negative stories are available they are manufactured by the media. Is the religious right really that unhappy with McCain or are Latinos really not going to vote for Obama now Hillary is out of the race?

Is this news or are both of these items just manufactured stories to create conflict and further an on-going narrative? I tend to think, with the research data from Center for Media and Public Affairs that it is tough to come to any other conclusion.

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