How bias is your media? And if at all, can you determine to what degree and in what direction of the spectrum? That is the question that economists, political analysts and the American public have been trying to answer for years. The two articles that I analyzed are in response to studies, and a subsequent book, written by Tim Groseclose called Left Turn: How liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind. Both articles review the findings of Groseclose’s book, but do so in very different ways. The first text I annotated is from a review symposium written by Brendan Nyhan, Assistant Professor of Government at Dartmouth College, simply titled “Does the US Media Have a Liberal Bias?” Following my readings of Nyhan, I analyzed an article and podcast transcript titled “How Bias Is Your Media?” from the writers of top selling book Freakonomics, economist Steve Levitt and writer Stephen Dubner. There are many similarities and differences between these two pieces. Both articles are from a collection of contributors that came together to discuss a common issue we face day-to-day in politics: The difficulty of measuring media bias, and whether or not it is actually an issue we should be focusing on. What is most interesting about each article is the differences of political stance between the contributors of Nyhan’s symposium and the speakers of Freakonomics’ podcast. Generally speaking, Nyhan and his peers are liberal professors while all the orators in Dubner’s article are (strongly) conservative political journalists and analysts. Additionally, Nyhan focuses more on the asymmetries and discrepancies of Groseclose’s outcomes, whereas Dubner and peers review his results and debate in depth how big of a problem we face in political media partiality. So, did Tim Groseclose really answer all the questions to media bias? Or is this a case of never truly finding a solution?
Before proceeding, a bit of background on Tim Groseclose’s book is needed. Groseclose, with partner Jeff Milyo (hereafter GM), published a study that created two quotients to help us understand which news outlets have a liberal slant, which have a conservative slant, and how those favoritisms compare to their respective Politicians slant. They began with what was easy to compute: the political leanings of Politicians based on roll call votes in Congress. They created a linear scale from 0 to 100 to quantify how far a person or group deviates from center. 0 being far right (conservative) and 100 being far left (liberal). Knowing they are strong conservatives, to keep their research as unbiased as possible they even let the Americans for Democratic Action (ADA), a liberal interest group, pick the votes for them. They assigned each Politician a number, based on what they call the Political Quotient (PQ). The next step of their study was to cite more than 150 think tanks and interest groups and assign them a PQ. Having 20 of the nation’s top media outlets under close scrutiny, they could start to measure media bias. They did so by simply counting how many times the names of these think tanks and groups were cited throughout the news. So, the more a newspaper or corporation mentioned a particular group, based on the groups PQ, it would hike up the score of what they called the Slant Quotient (SQ). Their findings were that 18 of the 20 media outlets were left leaning, stating a “strong liberal bias”. With that said, Groseclose says “media, in some ways are more centrist than lots of people have been saying” in his dialogue during the Freakonomics discussion. There are many more findings that their research concluded, but the question at hand is whether these “quotients” can really have any weight or validity of media bias.
Nyhan’s work is very different from that of Dubner and group. The formality and political correctness provide a tone of knowledge that makes you trust the author. Through the demeanor and semantics of his text, it is easy to tell that he is being as...
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