Tuesday, January 11, 2005

CBS Fallout

So news of the CBS fallout is all over the news.

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/11/business/media/11network.html

And while I understand that it's a major journalistic scandal, I can't help but feel like everyone is overreacting. Maybe part of me is so jaded that I have come to expect this kind of thing from mainstream news. And maybe part of me wonders, "What if CBS had misinformation about John Kerry?" How much would people be upset over this story?

Armstrong Williams was caught accepting money to push Bush administration policies and it's not hitting the headlines like CBS News.

-Jean Chen

40 Comments:

At 4:36 PM, Blogger Farai said...

The key point for me in this story is the line from employees that they think CBS News might not be around in a few years. The news industry is in big trouble and back when I used to work at ABC, about five years ago, people were already saying one of the three network newscasts would be dead in a decade.

 
At 8:30 PM, Blogger Patrick Anderson said...

They’re not over-reacting. CBS is just giving itself a well deserved and long overdue public flogging. They’ve been caught red (blue?) handed, in plain view of America pushing the left-biased agenda they always (and still) deny they have. Most Americans know better. CBS’s biggest challenge is to rebuild its own self-esteem after being confronted with the unimpeachable truth about itself. So, still pretending to have journalistic integrity, they conduct a full investigation and roll a few heads. The only way they could over-react would be to form a merger with Al Jazeera in an effort to improve their objectivity.

Fathers of our revolution
Did not die for this pollution
Get your scoop at any price
You desecrate their sacrifice
We’re pukin’ on your gross creation
In the name of free expression
Don’t forget to check your ratings.

www.StandForSomethin.blogspot.com

 
At 9:21 PM, Blogger The Green Man said...

Patrick, if you still think the media has a Liberal bias, you're not looking at the same outlets I am. I can't turn on the television, to any channel, during a so-called news analysis program without watching two or three conservative attack dogs ganging up on a token liberal. I can't look at any newspaper without seeing articles about how business is more important than workers, and "supporting our troops" is more important than thinking about the reasons we went to war. I can't turn on AM radio without hearing some unabashedly conservative "journalist" whining about how he is the only voice against the "Liberal Media" who will tell you the unadorned "truth". I don't know who it is that's oppressing these Limbaughs and hiding their message from the public, when they get more play and more coverage on every channel than any view that I would even consider "moderate".

One of these days, the Conservatives in America are going to have to face up to the fact that they've been winning for 20 or 30 years, and they can't keep presenting themselves as "underdogs" who are being ignored by the "mainstream". And then what are they going to complain about?

 
At 7:17 AM, Blogger William C. White said...

What's amazing is, even though the documents themselves were fake (they were not written when they claimed to have been written, and they were not written by who it being suggested wrote them), what the documents were talking about was ABSOLUTELY TRUE.

Why is that being overlooked? Bush was ordered to report to service, he didn’t. Bush was ordered to get a physical, he didn’t (remember, he didn’t report for service). Records show that Bush didn’t receive pay during the 72-73 time periods. Why? Remember, he didn’t report for service. Yet, he claimed to be there.

So, the contents of the document are true, but CBS seemed unwilling to accept the fact that the administration has done an excellent job at hiding or destroying the smoking gun.
So, they attempted to create their own smoking gone. And for that they should be dealt with accordingly.

Remember, if police manufacture evidence against a defendant and it is found out after conviction, all that happens is the defendant gets a new trial without THAT evidence. He doesn’t go totally free, unless there is no other evidence against him. Similarly, this document shouldn’t be used against Bush, but ALL of the other evidence (which happens to confirm the contents of this document) can and should be used to impeach his credibility, honesty, integrity, etc.

Liberals need to stay on point, don’t let the anti-American conservatives sidetrack you with their US vs. THEM tactics. Keep throwing the facts in their face, and let the facts speak for themselves.

 
At 5:52 PM, Blogger Patrick Anderson said...

To The Green Man: Please don’t take my word for it, sir. Check out an article called "Bias Beyond a Reasonable Doubt" by Robert J. Barro (visit http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/004/997meijg.asp?pg=2). The article summarizes an ongoing study called "A Measure of Media Bias" by two university professors, Tim Groseclose of UCLA and Jeffrey Milyo of the University of Missouri. They analyzed and actually quantified media bias in 20 of America’s top news outlets. Here’s what they learned as reported in Barro’s article:

“On the conservative end, the only two outlets below 50 were the "Washington Times" (35) and "Fox News Special Report with Brit Hume" (40). Although right of center, these ratings are much closer to the centrist position of 50 than to congressional Republicans' average position of 16.

The other 18 outlets are on the liberal side of 50. Particularly striking are the high liberal ratings for the "New York Times" and "CBS Evening News" (both 74), not too far below the average score of 84 for Democratic members of Congress. The news programs of the other two traditional television networks are closer to the center--62 for "NBC Nightly News" and 61 for "ABC World News Tonight".”

So Green Man, if you don't think the media has a liberal bias, then you must be watching only Fox News reading only the Washington Times. I urge you to change the channel and cancel your subscription.

 
At 8:58 PM, Blogger The Green Man said...

Maybe I'm just a raving, fringe Lunatic, but even the New York Times doesn't seem very "Liberal" to me these days. If that's as far Left as we get, it pretty much proves my point. In fact, the Times is about the only national outlet I can even stand to read these days, not so much because of the bias but because the television news and McPapers are all so inane. But that's kind of beside the point.

When I look at the NYT today, the first headline at the top of their webpage reads "F.B.I. May Scrap Vital Overhaul for Computers". This is a typical big media scare story, in which the writer wants to stir up some outrage because this overhaul that is "critical to the campaign against terrorism" might be delayed or scrapped because they didn't manage it very well. Is that a "Liberal" article? Because it sounds to me like the same kind of crap the Republicans are always out there spewing. I'd say the basic messages are "Government Bureaucracy is Too Big", "Government Programs Never Work" and "We Have to Do More to Fight Terrorism". Where's the Liberal Agenda in that? And as long as the Spin Doctors can keep the stories focused on issues like how badly we're doing in the War on Terror, they won't be tempted to write about things like how ridiculous it is to declare war on a concept. If the FBI is misguided these days, it's not in their short-sighted Information Technology planning. It's in their desire to violate all of our civil liberties, cross-index a huge array of data they've collected illegally, and then go harass innocent people who fit some arbitrary "profile" they've invented to make it look like they're doing something productive. I'm not really into wasting millions of dollars of my tax money on programs that can't get off the ground because they are poorly managed, but I'd rather be debating their basic value than being distracted by the mechanics of their implementation.

The second article reports a crackdown on steroid use by baseball players, which neatly supports the Republicans' favorite bugaboo before "Terror", which was the Evil of "Drugs". Remember the "War on Drugs"? That worked out about as well as the "War on Terror" will.

Then there's a tsunami story, which I have to concede is pretty non-partisan. It just supports the general media agenda of relentlessly focusing on everything that's terrible in the world so we can be more afraid.

Finally, there's a nice article on how the G.O.P. is mounting a campaign in states across the country to "control medical malpractice insurance premiums by limiting civil litigation". I don't know about you, but I'd say that sounds pretty favorable to the Republican agenda there. The headline says "curb malpractice costs". The implication of their phrasing is that these lawsuits are driving up the cost of health care. So, rather than addressing the gross inequities in the way care is provided, we can magically reduce the cost for everyone by pressing for tort reform. They didn't say "Republicans are trying take away the rights of patients who have been permanently maimed by incompetent doctors", like a Liberal would. No, they said "The battles pit two of the nation's most powerful and generous campaign contributors: trial lawyers and doctors." That's right. Medical malpractice isn't about patients' rights, it's about keeping lawyers fat. Again, I ask you, where is the Liberal Bias here? The article goes on to explain how this is the driving issue in a more general campaign for "tort reform", a broader Republican agenda that is intended to allow Big Businesses to be even less responsible for the suffering they cause when they decide their profit margins are more important than the Human Beings who buy their defective and dangerous products. It doesn't even hint that there might be a good reason for people to sue car manufacturers when their vehicles are made so cheaply that they kill people.

I'm not going to pretend this is a representative sampling of the media. I just went to the first page of the "most Liberal" outlet you mentioned, and analyzed what I saw in one arbitrary sample. You may see it differently, I suppose, but I honestly can't see how you could spin any of those articles as "Liberal".

 
At 9:29 PM, Blogger The Green Man said...

Oh, and while I'm at it, let me take a whack at a so-called "Liberal Commentator" at the New York Times, Maureen Dowd. Dowd seems to be on a personal crusade to put women back in the kitchen and get them out of the work force that pays her so well. While she is known in Conservative circles for her personal dislike of President Bush, I remember her more as the author who went off on Judith Steinberg for maintaining her medical career while her husband was campaigning for the Presidency. Her articles on the topic were a stunning exercise in elevating trivial things like sartorial style over substantial things like commitment to patients and a lifelong career serving others.

Today's article calls our attention to a number of recent articles and movies that suggest women who achieve success in business will have more trouble finding men to date and marry. And rather than suggesting that this clearly indicates that we have not yet learned to value people based on their talents, when she gets around to commenting she asks "was the feminist movement some sort of cruel hoax? The more women achieve, the less desirable they are?"

Wow. What a progressive agenda we have there. It's more important to get married than it is to have a successful career, apparently. The whole point of the feminist movement to gain equal standing, equal respect, and equal pay for equal work is completely undercut by its effect on marital eligibility. She implies that women will be happier if they're dumber. She presents, without even considering an alternative viewpoint, the opinions of a psychologist who believes men are under evolutionary pressure to be egotistical dickheads who can't stand it if their spouses are more successful than they are.

Again, I ask you, what is "Liberal" about this? How does she get one of the "Liberal" positions at this "Liberal" newspaper when she's basically making a case for Phyllis Schlafly? Does this even sound "Moderate" to you? Because it sounds downright Reactionary to me.

 
At 11:21 AM, Blogger Patrick Anderson said...

Green Man: I'm not interested in spinning anything. I'm just looking for the objective reality in this discussion. That's why I quoted from the article by Robert J. Barrow above about the Groseclose-Milyo study. It is arguably the most objective and scientific analysis of U.S. media bias ever assembled. Did you read the article? Here's the url:

http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/004/997meijg.asp?pg=1

You seem to be looking for an evil political conspiracy beneath every rock. Everyone who breathes air has an agenda. Who cares? Defend your freedom and seek the truth.

 
At 2:54 PM, Blogger William C. White said...

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At 2:56 PM, Blogger William C. White said...

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At 2:59 PM, Blogger William C. White said...

I read about the above study, and what I would like to know is: How is liberal defined? How is conservative defined? The FACT is, there is no established definition of what a liberal is or what a conservative is.

Therefore, how can ANY study measuring liberal or conservative tendencies be objective or "scientific" if the the terms liberal and conservative are open to interpretation? How would they know that they spotted one or the other?

Just because someone claims to be something doesn't make it true. Hitler claimed to be a Christian!!! Bill O'Reilly claims "the spin stops here", but then says things like "it's not a lie if you think it's true."

So, just because someone says you're in a no-spin zone, or that they are a Christian, or that they are liberal or conservative, doesn't make it true.

Does believing that every American should have a fair trial make you liberal or conservative? How about the idea that everyone who is willing to work should be allowed to work? Is that a liberal or conservative position?

Just because Dr. Blah Blah does a study doesn't make that study more legit. Can you do a study on morality, or values? Can you even clearly define what is moral, or what values are?

Based upon MY definition of liberal or conservative, I believe that most of the mainstream news stations are conservative. How else do you explain the fake outrage that almost all of the media outlets exhibited when Randy Moss SIMULATED mooning a crowd of fans? Or when the lady dropped a towel in front of Terrel Owens, but showed the audience ABSOLUTELY NOTHING?

The fact that all news stations seemed to see these events the same shows that there is no liberal slant in the news. What it does show is that todays liberals tend to be cowards, who cosign everything conservatives say in the hopes that they will pick up a few votes.

Being a liberal is the only way to be, if you think I'm lying answer this: Which would you rather have in power when this war is finally over, a liberal Iraqi government or a conservative Iraqi government? That's what I thougt.

 
At 9:04 PM, Blogger Patrick Anderson said...

Mr. White: if you cannot clearly define morality, then you have a lot of thinking to do. And how can you attack the definitions used in the study when you don't even know what they are? I mean no disrespect sir, but you are clearly in denial on the media bias issue. Read the study.

 
At 10:47 PM, Blogger William C. White said...

Mr. Anderson,

I don't need to know definitions. I'm intelligent enough to know that certain concepts like "pretty", "ugly", "right", "wrong", etc. are SUBJECTIVE. I noticed you didn't define morality. Why don't you enlighten us all with a definition!!! While you’re at it, define liberal and conservative. You'll immediately see that your definitions are ambiguous, subjective, and open to a thousand interpretations.

Is it morally wrong for a 40 year old man to marry a 16 year old girl? This is legal in many or our states, and is common practice in other countries. Is this right or wrong? Answer: Depends on who you ask, that is, answers are SUBJECTIVE.

Is it morally wrong to strap a person to a bed and inject poisons into their body until they are dead? Answer: Depends on who you ask, that is, answers are SUBJECTIVE.

Should children be waived to adult court? Should people have to pay for medicine, food, shelter, and other necessities that they need to live? Is it morally wrong to clone humans, animals, anything? Answer: Depends on who you ask, that is, answers are SUBJECTIVE.

Is it morally right to keep fighting a war when the reasons for that war are shown to be incorrect?

Is slavery of any kind immoral? Is it immoral to kill homosexuals simply for being homosexuals? Is it immoral to kill adulterers?

As you can see Mr. Anderson, morality isn’t as easy to define as you think it is. And even if you do define it, it is even harder to determine what acts fit into that category. I wish I had your God-like abilities and could clearly see what was moral and immoral, but I don’t, so I’ll keep on using MY interpretations.

To sum up what I’m saying, Mr. Anderson, no study can tell you what is or isn’t pretty. No study can tell you what is or isn’t immoral. No study can tell you what is or isn’t liberal or conservative. THESE ARE SUBJECTIVE IDEAS. Therefore, I don’t need to know THEIR definitions, you cannot measure these things.

In ending I’ll ask again, which would you rather have in power when this war is finally over, a liberal Iraqi government or a conservative Iraqi government?

 
At 12:03 AM, Blogger The Green Man said...

I've read the article you reference, Patrick. I've also read other articles that support other opinions. Some say the media is Liberal, others that the media is Conservative. All of them are based on studies that purport to be "unbiased" or "scientific", by authors who are advertised as "respected authorities" in their fields. This is the problem with arguing from authority. One can find some "authority" who will support any position. So, ultimately, you have to think for yourself and assess the studies, not just cite them. The bottom line is that all of these conclusions depend on how the problem is defined in the first place.

I'm the first person to say that it is absolutely incorrect to equate "Liberal" with "Democrat", and "Conservative" with "Republican". I make the mistake myself, sometimes, because I get bored using the same word over and over when I write. However, I think anyone with a sense of Principles rather than Party can see that the parties have reversed polarity on gun control, for example, and that they share a lot in common when it comes to catering to businesses in their home districts, wooing big donors, and passing out pork. Very little of this has to do with how "Liberal" or "Conservative" the parties are. The labels do not run parallel.

I will also be the first to admit that my view of the world does not match the majority of the country. That was made painfully clear in the last election cycle. In my skewed and biased opinion, the "average voter"is clearly on the Conservative side of the spectrum. Really, I can't tell Democrats like Joe Lieberman (who rated, what, a 74 in that study?) apart from Republicans on any substantive issues. He's a damn Hawk, in case you haven't noticed. John Kerry was considered the ideal Democratic candidate because he would appeal to moderate "swing" voters and Independents, and this study rates him at 88. That's where they place the very outside edge of Democrats. I'm pretty sure Richard Nixon would have been at the "Liberal" end of this scale. Dwight Eisenhower would have been at the "Liberal" end. Herbert Hoover might have been a "Liberal" on that scale. Ronald Reagan probably would have been somewhere in the middle. It's absurd.

If it turns out the Mass Media align in their opinions with these Members of Congress (which is what your study measures), that might "prove" the Media is more supportive of Democrats. But it absolutely does not make the media "Liberal".

 
At 12:31 AM, Blogger Patrick Anderson said...

Mr. White: If you think you cannot rely on definitions, how is it that you are able to understand this sentence? For the definition of liberal and conservative, check with Webster.

You ask all these questions you consider ambiguous, and every one of them has a yes or no answer. There's an objective morality in every moral issue. Some issues are more challenging than others.

You asked for a definition of morality: it's a human characteristic resulting from actions of individual integrity that inflict no limitations on the rights and freedom of others.

As for who I would like to see in power in Iraq, I'll go with the will of the people everytime. I couldn't care less whether they're left or right. Same with you. I'm not interested in changing your politics. That's your choice.

We're drifting off topic (Media Bias, remember?). If you would like to continue the morality discussion, email me at patrick@coastcottages.net.

 
At 9:17 AM, Blogger William C. White said...

Mr. Anderson,

I took your advice and looked up some of these words in the dictionary, here are their definitions:

Compact Oxford English Dictionary:
liberal - willing to respect and accept behaviour or opinions different from one’s own. 2 (of a society, law, etc.) favourable to individual rights and freedoms. 3 (in a political context) favouring individual liberty, free trade, and moderate reform. 4 (Liberal) (in the UK) relating to the Liberal Democrat party. 5 (especially of an interpretation of a law) not strictly literal. 6 given, used, or giving in generous amounts. 7 (of education) concerned with broadening general knowledge and experience.

Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary:
liberal - (of a political party or a country) believing in or allowing more personal freedom and a development towards a fairer sharing of wealth and power within society.

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition.
liberal - 1a. Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry. b. Favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded.

Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary:
liberal - of, favoring, or based upon the principles of liberalism b capitalized : of or constituting a political party advocating or associated with the principles of political liberalism; especially : of or constituting a political party in the United Kingdom associated with ideals of individual especially economic freedom, greater individual participation in government, and constitutional, political, and administrative reforms designed to secure these objectives.

Damn!!! Those liberals are some strange bastards. Wanting economic freedom for everyone, greater individual participation in government, wanting to be free from bigotry, being concerned with broadening general knowledge and experience in education. What kind of sick garbage is that? I can see how anyone would want to be a conservative.

Compact Oxford English Dictionary:
conservative - averse to change and holding traditional values. 2 (in a political context) favouring free enterprise, private ownership, and socially conservative ideas. 3 (Conservative) relating to a Conservative Party. 4 (of an estimate) purposely low for the sake of caution.

Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary:
conservative - belonging to or supporting the British political party which opposes sudden social change, high taxation and government involvement in industry.


The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition.
conservative - Favoring traditional views and values; tending to oppose change. 2. Traditional or restrained in style: a conservative dark suit. 3. Moderate; cautious: a conservative estimate. 4a. Of or relating to the political philosophy of conservatism. b. Belonging to a conservative party, group, or movement. 5. Conservative Of or belonging to the Conservative Party in the United Kingdom or the Progressive Conservative Party in Canada. 6. Conservative Of or adhering to Conservative Judaism. 7. Tending to conserve; preservative: the conservative use of natural resources.

Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary:
conservative - of or relating to a philosophy of conservatism b capitalized : of or constituting a political party professing the principles of conservatism : as (1) : of or constituting a party of the United Kingdom advocating support of established institutions (2) : PROGRESSIVE CONSERVATIVE
3 a : tending or disposed to maintain existing views, conditions, or institutions : TRADITIONAL b : marked by moderation or caution (a conservative estimate) c : marked by or relating to traditional norms of taste, elegance, style, or manners (a conservative suit).

So, conservatives want to keep things the way they currently are, or revert back to “traditional” norms, institutions, practices, etc.? Do I even need to tell you what America’s history is with respect to women, minorities, the poor, etc.? Why would anyone want to “conserve” that?

Any reasonable person can look at these definitions and see that one is CLEARLY superior to the other. I’ll let you decide which one is better.

Also, Mr. Anderson, if you had clearly read and understood my last posting, you can clearly see that I am saying that “certain concepts” are subjective. Not all words, but rather some words and concepts are open to interpretation.

You say that some of these questions have clear yes and no answers? Which ones? I put in the ones about homosexuality and adultery because MANY Americans are Christians, and THEIR bible says that it is okay to kill homosexuals and adulterers. The one about strapping a person to a bed and giving him poisons, that’s how the lethal injection is administered. America is divided about 50-50 on the death penalty. How can something with a 50-50 split have a clear yes or no answer?

Based on YOUR definition of morality, wouldn’t the bible be an immoral book for advocating the death of those who commit adultery, that is, death on those who are exercising their rights and freedoms?

You want the will of the people to be the determining factor in an Iraqi government? Unfortunately, your administration doesn’t believe as you do. The 60% Shiite majority want a theocratic society, and Rumsfeld says that even if the Shiite gain a majority, America will NOT let them democratically set up a theocracy. So, does being a conservative mean opposing democracy? If the people want to vote in individuals who want a theocratic society, how is it democratic not to let them do so?

Anyway, what IS liberal bias? Is it focusing on education, freedom, and human rights? That is not how Tim Groseclose and Jeff Milyo defined liberal bias. And for your information, Mr. Anderson, I do know their definition of liberal bias, here is a link to their study:
http://www.cbrss.harvard.edu/events/ppe/papers/Tim%20Groseclose%20Media%20Bias%20Paper.pdf

As you can see, their definition is based upon newsgroups and individuals who claim to be liberal or conservative. It is NOT based on a predefined definition of liberal or conservative. In other words, these concepts are defined as they go along.

But based upon the dictionaries definitions of liberal and conservative, shouldn’t ALL media outlets be liberal? Are new ideas, different interpretations, etc. bad things? Unfortunately, some people think so. I’ve already given examples of how media outlets have jumped in line with those who feign outrage over the most insignificant acts, yet are identified as liberal. This study is a joke.

Saying that the Presidents reasons for going to war (WMD’s, terrorist links, etc.) does not make you liberal, it makes you correct on the facts. And if being correct about the facts makes you liberal, then I pray that tomorrow EVERYONE wakes up liberal.

 
At 3:20 PM, Blogger Patrick Anderson said...

Mr. White: You've made assumptions about my position on a variety of issues. That is partly my fault for labeling myself conservative in my profile. I am conservative on many issues, but it may surprise you to know that we do not disagree on everything.

I consider the Bible to be a collection of stories written with great literary license and assembled by organized religion for its own self-promotion (see www.JoeCreator.blogspot.com). And by my definition of morality, taking another human life is never acceptable except in self defense or in defense of the helpless. If America is divided 50-50 on the death penalty, then 50% of us are right and 50% of us are wrong.

I do not agree with every position of the Bush administration, and I think if the majority of Iraqis want to strap on the shackles of a theocracy, then they should have it their way. I believe in equality of opportunity regardless of gender or race, but not in affirmative action, socialism or the redistribution of wealth. The media is largely biased to the left, but all the science in the world will not change your mind nor The Green Man's. Any further debate on that issue is likely to sedate the readers of this forum.

I surely did misread and misconstrue your point on "certain" concepts being subjective. I do agree with your statement, just not with all of the concepts you chose as examples. My apologies for missing the word "certain." In closing, I wish you well in all your endeavors. You, too, Green Man. Peace.

 
At 9:15 PM, Blogger The Green Man said...

If you'll forgive me one more post on this thread, which is going to be a bit tangential but may illuminate an area where I feel you're not quite understanding my position, I would like to say there is nothing "Scientific" about the study you cite. Please, before you get your back up, hear me out. Most studies published in the so-called "Social Sciences" are not "Scientific". I say this as a person who trained as an Historian, and loves the work that is taking place in the Social Sciences, and appreciates the use of statistical analysis in bringing perspective to our discussions. But it's a huge stretch to call it "Science."

As I've said before, Science is very specifically about Prediction. Based on past events and observations we have collected, we create a model of what is likely to occur in the future. If our predictions are accurate, we feel the model is pretty good. If future events don't come out as predicted, we work to make a better model. That, at a high level, is what the Scientific Method is about.

This study of alignment between media reporting and the voting records and floor speeches of members of Congress does not predict anything. It does not create a model from which future coverage, or future floor votes in the Congress, can be accurately foreseen.

That doesn't mean the study isn't interesting, I only mean to say it is not Science. If there is no predictive value from the study, if there are no experiments that can be conducted to test the hypothesis, If there are no controls to prove that the two don't vary together when the "Liberal"/"Conservative" issue is not involved (if that's even possible), then there is no "Science" here.

To bring that observation to my standing disagreement here, you (and probably the authors of the article, and probably the authors of the study before that) are putting the trappings of "Science" on this set of observations to give the hypothesis more credibility than it deserves. You sigh that I can't be convinced by a scientific argument, as if I'm just being unreasonable. But I'm afraid that's not the particular way I'm being unreasonable today. The study is not "Scientific", and so it does not present ironclad proof. It just presents one very specific set of evidence, that might shed some light in one direction on the issue at hand.

Peace to you as well, Patrick.

 
At 2:53 PM, Blogger Patrick Anderson said...

Green Man: Sigh. You and Mr. White are like a tag team. I really shouldn't keep this thread going after your statement "that's not the particular way I'm being unreasonable today." Nonetheless, and despite your clear admission of unreasonableness, I will tell you what the authors of the study "A Measure of Media Bias" think about your assertion that their work is not scientific. I corresponded with both Professor Groseclose and Dr. Milyo today and here is what they had to say:

From Tim Groseclose,Department of Political Science, UCLA, and Associate Professor of Political Economy, Graduate School of Business, Stanford University says: "I think most professional scientists use the definition proposed by Karl Popper (a famous philosopher of science) to define scientific. By his notion a theory is scientific if and only if it is falsifiable . . . Our theory, that most of the mainstream media are liberal, is clearly falsifiable. That is, if the data had turned out differently our measure could have concluded that e.g. the NY Times and CBS News and all the rest lean right. If the data had turned out that way, then our theory would have been falsified. Thus, our theory, by Popper's defition is falsifiable. Just to bolster the point, every professional scientist that I know would agree that if a paper conducts a statistical test, then the theory it examines is falsifiable. Thus, a statistical test is a sufficient condition for scientific. (Our paper conducts several statistical tests.)"

From Dr. Jeffrey D. Milyo, Associate Professor, Department of Economics and Truman School of Public Affairs, University of Missouri says, among other things: "your cranky friend is simply wrong."

 
At 2:20 AM, Blogger The Green Man said...

That's not the only thing Karl Popper says. He says that a test of falsifiability distinguishes the Scientific Method from other forms of investigation, so it is necessary to a scientific theory. But he does not even suggest it is sufficient to demonstrate the validity of a theory.

Consider this: I could propose a "theory" under which the sun would extinguish next Wednesday, and all life on earth would die. This "theory" is clearly falsifiable - all we have to do is wait until Thursday morning, and if the sun rises the theory will be demonstrated false. Under Popper's definition as used by Dr. Groseclose, this is "Scientific", in that it can be subjected to the Scientific Method. However, I think you would agree with me that this is not only falsifiable, but also simply false. (Check back with me later next week, and we'll see.) So it's not very useful, even if it satisfies that criterion. There must be something more to a good scientific theory than that. My contention is that "something more" is the ability to accurately predict future events based on the past.

Popper also presents some decision criteria for sorting out competing hypotheses. These involve evaluating the hypotheses against all of the available evidence, not just one or two studies conducted by the same people. The models that describe recorded events more accurately are considered superior to those that are less accurate, with the caution that any model that is contradicted by the evidence cannot be considered to be better than any model that is not contradicted. That's the application of "falsifiability", right there. But, as you see, it's not the only criterion.

Taken in this light, the study you are citing provides some evidence that must be considered in discussing this topic, but it does not present anything that resembles a Scientific conclusion. There is no predictive model. They are really just at the "Hypothesis" stage when they suggest there is a "Liberal Bias" in the media. They have tested that hypothesis a couple of ways, and found evidence that seems to support it.

A very important point is that they have not shown that this hypothesis is the only explanation for the relationships they see in the data. I proposed a number of questions that imply there may be other causes of the correlation, besides Liberal Bias. Let me enumerate a few of them, just to be clear:

Hypothesis 2: The Media is biased towards the Center of the political spectrum (rather than exhibiting a Liberal bias).

Relationship to the Evidence: Political opinion in groups tends to swing back and forth like a pendulum. The American public has been on a swing towards the "Conservative" side for more than 30 years. Therefore, the makeup of Congress currently extends from "Very Conservative" to "Moderate" on a scale that covers the whole period of the swing. The opinions of the Centrist Media currently fall closer to the opinions of the Moderate Congressmen, who happen to fall at the left end of the current Congress.

Evaluation: If we were in a period with a very Liberal Congress, this hypothesis predicts the Media would appear Conservative when measured the way this study employed, even if Media coverage had not shifted much compared to the full range of political expression. This study cannot eliminate this possibility by itself, because it requires a sampling against a markedly Liberal Congress, which we do not have available right now, to falsify it.



Hypothesis 3: The Media is biased towards the opinions of the majority of their viewers, regardless of political persuasion.

Relationship to the Evidence: Under this hypothesis, political bias of the Media reporters is not the driving cause of the observed bias; the bias of the viewers drives the deviation from the Center. If the Media appear to be more Liberal than the Congress, it is only because the total population is more Liberal than the voting population.

Evaluation: This study cannot disprove this hypothesis, because there is no analysis of the opinions of non-voters or how the Media sources compare to general opinion polls.



Hypothesis 4: The Media are actually unbiased.

Relationship to the Evidence: Journalistic training and a strong ethical commitment from reporters and editors has led the Media to a pretty fair presentation of both sides of every issue. As with all things, the Media are not perfect at this. In the way of any random distribution, a small sample of Media reporting will be clumped a bit to one side or the other, but sampled over a sufficiently long period of time these deviations balance out and the long-term track record of the Media is neutral.

Evaluation: While I don't believe this for a second, there is nothing in this study that is able to demonstrate this hypothesis is false. The study was conducted over a few months, and much more data would have to be collected to draw a conclusion.



That leaves us in a position, at this point, where there are a number of hypotheses that fit the data (I'm sure you could propose some more). Given the evidence presented, we cannot distinguish the truth of any of them. That being the case, the authors have not yet reached a Scientific conclusion.

 
At 2:24 AM, Blogger The Green Man said...

If I may go back to the actual study methodology, rather than debating the theory of what is and is not "Science", I would like to point out a few other features that make the results highly questionable to me.

-- The analysis eliminates consideration of much of the content the Media present. "These findings refer strictly to the news stories of the outlets. That is, we omitted editorials, book reviews, and letters to the editor from our sample." That means a hypothetical radio station that presented one hour of "Liberal" news spread over the day, and 23 hours of "Conservative" political commentary, would be measured as a "Liberal" outlet. The study, however, does not ask if the news is biased. Here's their formal Conclusion: "Although we expected to find that most media lean left, we were astounded by the degree." That doesn't qualify it by type of content or limit the finding to news programs. It draws conclusions in terms of the Media as a whole.

-- The study uses an untested methodology. The authors claim they have developed an "objective measure of the slant of news," This is not a new problem and many studies have been conducted before. Although the study has a section titled "Previous Studies of Media Bias", it does not discuss the methodology of any existing statistical analysis. More importantly, it does not contrast the earlier methodologies with the unique methods developed for the current study. It does not attempt to demonstrate how their approach is "more objective" than any other. The measure is not "objective" just because they say it is.

-- The analysis defines "Liberal" in terms of a score based on votes on selected issues (the ADA score). That means the base scale will be skewed or distorted based on which issues actually came to the floor for a vote in the current Congress. If the Congressional agenda is controlled by one end of the political spectrum, the ADA score has to be based on decisions about a bunch of issues that are already pressed to one end of the scale. This makes it more difficult to accurately distinguish between voters at the other end of the scale, as it would tend to lump them together. The ADA score can only represent the full range of political expression if the Congress actually considers issues that cover the full range.

-- The criterion for the study make results from one time period difficult or impossible to compare with results taken in a different time period. Try to imagine what this methodology would report in 1936. At that point, more and more Democrats were being elected to Congress, and Roosevelt was about to win the second largest landslide in American history. If you compared Media coverage against the voting records of that Congress, would it be "Conservative" or "Liberal"? What would that mean compared with today's scores? I'm sure even many Conservatives these days would be embarrassed by things written then about people of color and women. So even if they rated "Liberal" in the study, would you consider them "Liberal" by modern standards? If you're using Congressional voting records as the basis of comparison, the scale is a sliding one that makes long-term comparison impossible. If you are unable to compare the results with other results collected using the same techniques, how can you determine what they actually mean?

 
At 1:44 AM, Blogger PuzzledPatriot said...

I hope this thread isn't as dead as Patrick seemed to think. I think this is an important discussion, mostly because of matters of precision.

First, is this science or not? I, like Green Man, prefer my science with some measure of predictive power. That doesn't negate the scientific import of the study by Groseclose and Milyo. It just means you need to be careful in how your interpret their results. They performed a single measurement. They don't build a model to explain or predict future results. In effect, their model was "The media leans left." They then measured media bias against the standard of congressional voting records. Their result is that, over the time span of the study, the news outlets they studied cited significantly more liberal groups than was average for the center of Congress.

There are many subtle forms of media bias that this methodology cannot detect. For instance, the only news outlet (in my limited experience) to report when the Bush administration would contradict something it had said months ago was the Daily Show (a fake news show). I perceive this as a Pro-Bush bias on the part of every other news outlet. This form of bias, by choosing what to cover and what to emphasize, is completely invisible to Groseclose and Milyo.

A second example is attack dog media. Suppose I maliciously construct a news show such that the only "think tanks" I cite are those of my enemy, and I only cite them to attack them. Reading the estimation section of the study, it is not clear to me how such an attack dog news show would rank. One description of the study describes the use of think tanks that are referred to positively. This leads me to believe that negative citations would be ignored. And while statistics are not my strongest suit, looking at the analysis, I find it difficult to factor negative references into their formula.

So, in closing, let us be precise. The study reveals important data on how the media tend to cite more "liberal" think tanks than is the average for the current Congress. Does this indicate bias? No. More data must be taken. I hate to tag team again, but Green Man's alternative hypotheses must be ruled out and my own "thought experiments" for invisible bias would need to be screened out before any definitive claims of bias could be made. Thus, I find it somewhat irresponsible of the authors to claim they have disproven Howell Raines, Paul Krugman, and Al Franken in their conclusion section.

 
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