Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Cable News Networks and Bias (Part 2)

          What about CNN? There are plenty of examples of bias on that network as well. According to First Things, when CNN reported on a Tea Party event that actually had hundreds, if not thousands, of attendees, they said that there were only, “at least dozens of people” (Hoft, 2010). The Tea Party is closely associated with conservatives, so this supports the notion that CNN has a liberal bias.
            A Harvard study found that during the primaries for the 2008 election, “The CNN programming studied tended to cast a negative light on Republican candidates—by a margin of three-to-one.” (“Invisible Primary”, 2007) It also stated that Hillary Clinton and John Edwards got slightly better coverage, but still mostly negative, “almost all due to extremely favorable coverage for Obama.” CNN seems to be in the same pro-Obama camp as MSNBC.
            In 2009, a former CNN correspondent named Chris Plante that conservative commentator Lou Dobbs left because of CNN's liberal bias and that “his opinions are out of lockstep with the rest of the mainstream news media” (“Former CNN”, 2009.). Plante also claimed that the last “conservative voice on the channel is gone.” since Glenn Beck and Dobbs left.
            The website gave an example that they feel proves that CNN is left-leaning.(“Jill Zimon”, 2008). CNN presented a blogger named Jill Zimon, who is an admitted liberal, as a moderate. The site produced an email that showed that Zimon told CNN that she “leaned left”.
            An article from the Business and Media Institute examines CNN”s coverage of global warming (Gainor and Menefee, 2005). It claimed that a special from March 2005, “cited almost every one of the left-wing environmental movement's hot buttons about climate change: claiming it's already a fact; preaching an apocalyptic threat; blaming mankind for temperature fluctuations...”
            However, some liberals have pointed out examples of a conservative bias on CNN. Media Matters ran an article demonstrating how the media, including CNN, “advanced the false talking point that oil drilling is environmentally safe because "not one drop of oil was spilled" during Hurricane Katrina.” (“Flashback”, 2010). CNN's Ali Velshi stated that oil rigs were sealed to stop oil leakage during storms, and that this worked during Hurricane Katrina. Then there was a “massive oil spill discharging 5,000 barrels/day into Gulf of Mexico.” CNN, just like every other network, is controlled by corporate interests. Therefore, the stations are unlikely to present ideas that may cause large corporations to lose money.
            During the Iraq War, the media was supportive of the Bush administration and didn't ask too many difficult questions. As quoted in Socialist Worker Online, CNN reporter Christiane Amanpour referred to the press as being “self-muzzled” and said, “Television was intimidated by the Bush administration and its foot soldiers at Fox News” (Selfa, 2003). No one, even liberals, wanted to be seen as unpatriotic after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. For a couple of years, the Bush administration had a free pass in the media.
            Democracy Now quoted Michael Moore, who criticized CNN's coverage of the Iraq War (“Michael Moore”, 2007). He claimed that they wrote off his movie, Fahrenheit 9/11. The movie stated that the war would end up becoming a “quagmire” and that there were no weapons of mass destruction. Moore said that CNN made it seem like none of these things could be true; reality ended up vindicating Moore. He also claims that CNN misleads its viewers when it comes to healthcare.
            Fox News consistently gets better ratings than MSNBC or CNN. In an article for TV Week, Sergio Ibarra said, “Fox News averaged 2.3 million viewers during primetime in the first quarter [of 2008), according to Nielsen Media Research. CNN averaged 1.1 million viewers, while MSNBC had about 950,000” (Ibarra, 2009). This shows that Fox News is popular, possibly because it goes for the lowest common denominator. The article also states that Fox News did the best in the age 25-54 demographic, which is one of the most important demographics to advertisers. The O'Reilly Factor, as well as Hannity's and Beck's shows were the most popular programs. They are also the programs that contain lots of opinion statements.
            When it comes down to it, none of the stations are going to present ideas that are highly controversial or challenging to the status quo. There's just not enough profit in it. Many people think that the media is liberally biased because many journalists are left-wing. However, media editors and owners, who have much more power, are more likely to be conservative.
            The lower-level employees often try to bring their views in line with their superiors in order to help their career. Making money is more important to media companies than presenting any particular point of view. It just so happens that conservatives viewpoints often benefit large corporations.
            Republicans are usually in favor of deregulation of business and the free market. Liberals often want some checks on corporations. Which perspective is going to be presented in the corporate-owned media? Obviously the one that supports the bottom line. Additionally, stations receive pressure from advertisers to tow the line. For example, many  advertisers refused to run ads on Air America, the liberal radio station.
            All the networks are part of large conglomerates. NBC is owned by General Electric and Disney (the world's largest media conglomerate) owns ABC. Most local radio and TV stations are owned by companies that own hundreds of other stations. There used to be tighter regulations concerning these matters, but the Telecommunications Act of 1996 changed this. These companies are unlikely to want to upset those in power. Maybe to get out of this biased system, some more publicly funded news networks or outlets are needed.
            These problems are just part of a much larger issue. The news networks have become increasingly more sensationalistic. They will often do stories on celebrities. This is just a distraction from what is really important. When Anna Nicole Smith died, there was coverage round-the-clock over the circumstances of her death. This, all over someone who was famous for no legitimate reason and really had no important position in life. These so-called “news” programs often discuss the personal lives of athletes or movie stars. When Tiger Woods cheated on his wife, it was one of the biggest stories. These kinds of stories are a distraction from what is really important. Many Americans have no idea what's going on in foreign countries, but they know about the relationships of celebrities. People won't be upset at those in power if they are thinking about trivial matters.
            Furthermore, these cable news networks often run stories on missing women. It's unfortunate that these women are killed or kidnapped, but this isn't really a pressing issue on society. Not to the mention the fact that the missing women that are covered are almost always Caucasian. According to a CNN article, “When pretty, young women – especially white ones – are killed or disappear, media storms often follow... Media and social critics call the wall-to-wall coverage that seems to swirl around these events, “Missing White Woman Syndrome” (Foreman, 2006). The news stations seem to be more concerned with entertainment than actually getting across information.
            The way TV news is set up makes it highly difficult to get out ideas that are  out of the mainstream. Usually segments are only a few minutes and interviews are short as well. That's  not really enough time to present a cogent, detailed argument. Ideas that challenge the mainstream way of thinking may seem ridiculous at first, but if their proponents are given the chance to present evidence, they will be more convincing. However, this doesn't happen on cable news channels. Especially on Fox News, where hosts such as Bill O'Reilly often shout down guests and tell them to “shut up”.
            The documentary Outfoxed showed how O'Reilly had a guest on, named Jeremy Glick, whose father had died in the September 11th terrorist attacks. He claimed that Bush had inherited a legacy from his father, who led the CIA when it trained al-Qaeda. O'Reilly shouted him down several times, told him to shut up, and claimed that the man's recently deceased father would not have approved of what the man was saying. He doesn't even seem to consider the possibility that there is some credence to what Glick is saying.
            The documentary also demonstrated how Fox News consistently uses fear tactics. They would play up terrorism fears, with stories on anthrax scares that only affected a small amount of people. The film claims that Fox also used similar tactics concerning gay rights and immigration. This fear then leads to people wanting a strong government and national defense.
            Outfoxed pointed out several other ethical violations. Their anchors often use the phrase, “Some people say...” as a way of distancing themselves from the unsourced allegations they are about to make. Usually these “some people” are attacking liberals. They referred to suicide bombers as “homicide bombers” in order to make them seem less noble, even though all bombers are committing homicide and what makes these people unique is that they are taking their own lives in addition. Fox News also spent a lot of time attacking Richard Clarke, a former Bush administration official who later criticized the way that the administration handled the Iraq War.
            However, the documentary could be accused of being one-sided as well. No one interviewed in the movie denied Fox's bias. The makers of the film obviously have an axe to grind. Outfoxed also contains many clips that are very short and could be taken out of context.
            Fox News has been the subject of a massive amount of criticism. There have been many studies done, many by liberal groups, that document the station's conservative bias. Fox News has become the favored target of many on the left. Many of their anchors or hosts are avowed conservatives. John Moody handed down several memos that encouraged employees to support the Bush administration. Fox News is more likely to hire conservatives and many Fox personalities regularly raise funds for the GOP. Most TV viewers see Fox News as conservative, but Rupert Murdoch and other employees deny that they are partisan. Studies have found some differing conclusions about how the station effects voter behavior, but there is some evidence it causes them to vote for Republicans.
             A study has shown that Fox News viewers are more likely to hold misconceptions about the Iraq War. Some people have claimed that MSNBC and CNN are just as biased as Fox News. Conservatives claim that CNN is liberal, while some lefties say it has a right-wing, pro-corporate slant. Most of the mainstream media gave Bush a pass after 9/11. These outlets are all owned by powerful corporations that have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. The way that these shows are formatted helps keep the status quo intact as well.

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