The Baltimore Sun
November 3, 2012
[…] ON MSNBC, the ratio of negative to positive stories on GOP candidate Mitt Romney was 71 to 3.
That’s not a news channel. That’s a propaganda machine, and owner Comcast should probably change Phil Griffin’s title from president to high minister of information, or something equally befitting the work of a party propaganist hack in a totalitarian regime. You wonder how mainstream news organizations allow their reporters and corrdespondents to appear in such a cauldron of bias.
I thought show host Sean Hannity of Fox News defined party propagandist. But while his channel was bad, it wasn’t as bad-boy biased as MSNBC.
The ratio of negative to positive stories in Fox’s coverage of President Obama was 46 to 6.
READ THE PEW STUDY ITSELF IN FULL HERE, OR PART OF IT BELOW:
Both Candidates Received More Negative than Positive Coverage in Mainstream News, but Social Media Was Even Harsher
From the conventions until the first debate, a period of improving polls for Obama, Romney suffered his period of the most negative coverage; just 4% of stories about him were positive while 52% were negative. Coverage of Obama during this period was fairly evenly split (20% positive vs. 24% negative). That narrative reversed sharply with the first debate. For the next two weeks, Romney saw the mixed treatment (23% positive vs. 23% negative) while Obama was caught in the critical loop, with 12% positive and 37% negative. After the second debate, coverage returned to its more general pattern, with an edge for Obama.
This treatment in the mainstream media also differs markedly from what the study finds in the newer realms of social media: Twitter, Facebook and blogs. There, the narrative about both men has been relentlessly negative and relatively unmoved by campaign events that have shifted the mainstream narrative-more a barometer of social media user mood than a reflection of candidate action. On Twitter, for instance, the conversation about the campaign has consistently been harsher for Romney than for Obama. On Facebook, the tone improved for Obama in October with the debates, despite the sense that the president had stumbled in the first one. And in the blogosphere, neither candidate has seen a sustained edge in the narrative in the eight weeks studied.
The study also reveals the degree to which the two cable channels that have built themselves around ideological programming, MSNBC and Fox, stand out from other mainstream media outlets. And MSNBC stands out the most. On that channel, 71% of the segments studied about Romney were negative in nature, compared with just 3% that were positive-a ratio of roughly 23-to-1. On Fox, 46% of the segments about Obama were negative, compared with 6% that were positive-a ratio of about 8-to-1 negative. These made them unusual among channels or outlets that identified themselves as news organizations.
The study also found a difference between the three network evening newscasts and the morning shows. Obama also fared better in the evening, Romney in the morning.
An analysis of the coverage of the vice presidential candidates, meanwhile, found that Paul Ryan received roughly a third of the amount of coverage that Sarah Palin did in 2008. But of the two vice presidential candidates this year, Ryan and Joe Biden, Ryan received much more unfavorable coverage-28% unfavorable vs. 16% for Biden.
These are among the findings of the content analysis of 2,457 stories from 49 outlets from August 27, the week of the Republican convention, through October 21, five days after the second presidential debate. For mainstream media, the study included the three broadcast networks, the three major cable news networks, the 12 most popular news websites, 11 newspaper front pages and news programming from PBS and NPR along with radio headlines from ABC and CBS news services. From these outlets, PEJ researchers watched, listened or read every story in the sample and counted each assertion for whether it was positive in nature about a candidate, negative in nature or neutral. For a story to be deemed to have a distinct tone, positive or negative assertions had to outnumber the other by a factor of three to two. Any story in which that was not case was coded as mixed.
For social media, the researchers combined a mix of traditional human coding with technology from the firm Crimson Hexagon. Researchers trained the computer “monitors” to replicate their human coding according to PEJ rules. For Twitter, the sample includes the full “fire hose” of public tweets. For Facebook, the study includes a large sampling of public posts about the campaign. The study included a sample of several million blogs as well.
The study of the tone in news coverage is not an examination of media bias. Rather, it measures the overall impression the public is receiving in media about each candidate, whether the assertion is a quote from a source, a fact presented in the narrative that is determined to be favorable or unfavorable, including poll results, or is part of a journalistic analysis.
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