Liberal Media Bias?

There’s a new study out by Harvard that has conservatives up in arms about renewed Liberal Media Bias.  The data points to current coverage and suggests that Democrats are getting more positive press coverage than Republicans. 

With all the corruption scandals, Larry Craig, and ongoing war coverage, just what do reporters have to say about Republicans that’s actually any good?

I was tooling around looking for a copy of their study, “If It’s Sunday, It’s Still Conservative,” which details how conservative guests and points of view are promoted significantly more than progressive guests or issues.  But sometimes you find something good that you’re not looking for, like the executive summary of this report on “Black, White and Read All Over” which details how conservatives dominate the editorial pages of daily newspapers across the country.

The executive summary is below the flip:

This project did something that has never been done before: It amassed data on the syndicated columnists published by nearly every daily newspaper in the country. While a few publications, most notably Editor & Publisher, cover the syndicated newspaper industry, no one has attempted to comprehensively assemble this information prior to now. Because the syndicates refuse to reveal to the public exactly where their columnists are published, when Media Matters for America set out to make a systematic assessment of the syndicated columnist landscape, we had no choice but to contact each paper individually and ask which syndicated columnists are published on their op-ed pages.

The results show that in paper after paper, state after state, and region after region, conservative syndicated columnists get more space than their progressive counterparts. As Editor & Publisher paraphrased one syndicate executive noting, “U.S. dailies run more conservative than liberal columns, but some are willing to consider liberal voices.”1

Though papers may be “willing to consider” progressive syndicated columnists, this unprecedented study reveals the true extent of the dominance of conservatives:

  • Sixty percent of the nation’s daily newspapers print more conservative syndicated columnists every week than progressive syndicated columnists. Only 20 percent run more progressives than conservatives, while the remaining 20 percent are evenly balanced.
  • In a given week, nationally syndicated progressive columnists are published in newspapers with a combined total circulation of 125 million. Conservative columnists, on the other hand, are published in newspapers with a combined total circulation of more than 152 million.2
  • The top 10 columnists as ranked by the number of papers in which they are carried include five conservatives, two centrists, and only three progressives.
  • The top 10 columnists as ranked by the total circulation of the papers in which they are published also include five conservatives, two centrists, and only three progressives.
  • In 38 states, the conservative voice is greater than the progressive voice — in other words, conservative columns reach more readers in total than progressive columns. In only 12 states is the progressive voice greater than the conservative voice.
  • In three out of the four broad regions of the country — the West, the South, and the Midwest — conservative syndicated columnists reach more readers than progressive syndicated columnists. Only in the Northeast do progressives reach more readers, and only by a margin of 2 percent.
  • In eight of the nine divisions into which the U.S. Census Bureau divides the country, conservative syndicated columnists reach more readers than progressive syndicated columnists in any given week. Only in the Middle Atlantic division do progressive columnists reach more readers each week.

Though they have suffered slow but steady declines in readership over the last couple of decades, newspapers remain in many ways the most important of all news media. The Newspaper Association of America estimates that each copy of a weekday paper is read by an average of 2.1 adults, while each Sunday paper is read by an average of 2.5 adults,3 pushing total newspaper readership for daily papers to more than 116 million and Sunday papers to more than 134 million. This means that some columnists reach tens of millions of readers, and one, conservative George Will, actually reaches more than 50 million.

Furthermore, newspapers are the preferred news medium of those most interested in the news. According to a 2006 Pew Research Center study, 66 percent of those who say they follow political news closely regularly read newspapers, far more than the number who cite any other medium.4 And an almost identical proportion of those who say they “enjoy keeping up with the news” — more than half the population — turn to newspapers more than any other medium. These more aware citizens are in turn more likely to influence the opinions of their families, friends, and associates.

Syndicated newspaper columnists have a unique ability to influence public opinion and the national debate. And whether examining only the top columnists or the entire group, large papers or small, the data presented in this report make clear that conservative syndicated columnists enjoy a clear advantage over their progressive counterparts.

  2 comments for “Liberal Media Bias?

  1. November 4, 2007 at 11:08 am

    Dear friends,

    I’d like to see a little “liberal media bias” right here on this great local blog. Local issues have trumped statewide and national of late (fire and corrption), but a big story moved today and the “liberal” media will soon be rolling over: Diane Feinstein, who has been critiqued on this site before, has gone and allowed Bush’s “i-don’t-know-what-torture-is-but-put-me-in-control-of-administering-policy-on-it” nominee to get to the floor of the Senate. Call her Monday and denounce that decision. I’ll be doing that with the promise that this DTS votes for any candidate on the left that has good sense enough to run against her regardless of what Democrats say about protecting a majority. And I sure as hell hope the Democrats in the Senate will filibuster this nominee until his nomination is withdrawn. Torture folks. Torture. Water boarding is torture, and has been recognized as such even in the United States since the US counter-insurgency days of the Philippine war (1898-1903). If the Democrats won’t stop such a abominable nomination as this, then what good are they folks. It is show what you are worth time, again. And they’ve failed so many times. Put this nominee to bed. Do that on this liberal site, the job the so-called “liberal media” is not doing:

    Senator Dianne Feinstein
    United States Senate
    331 Hart Senate Office Building
    Washington, D.C. 20510
    Phone: (202) 224-3841
    Fax: (202) 228-3954
    TTY/TDD: (202) 224-2501


  2. Northcountystorm
    November 4, 2007 at 4:12 pm

    Dan–Thank you for bringing forth the study on editorial and opinion pages. This jives with my experience when I travel around the country and helps explain what a canard this “liberal media bias” story is.

    james- Bad form to try and worm your issue onto a post addressing another issue.

    But, be honest- you wouldn’t vote for Feinstein even if she voted against Mukasey.

    Would you recommend Feinstein support Mukasey if he answered the hypothetical question on waterboarding differently?

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