Conservatives can surmount media's liberal bias

By Robert McFarland
web posted May 29, 2000

Conservatives frequently bemoan the fact they don't get a fair shake by the news media. Reporters, however, deny that's the case, all the while supporting conservatives' claims that the media are so steeped in political correctness that they don't even notice it. So who's right? Can it be objectively proven that the media are biased?

Actually it was recently proven by no less than the National Journal. Eron Shosteck in his April 27th "Pencil Necks" column conducted a Nexis database search to find out how balanced the usage of politically charged terms would be. The results are telling.

He found that "'partisan Republican' ... has turned up 85 times in the English-language news media over the past 90 days. By contrast, the term 'partisan Democrat' has turned up only 58 times in the same period." That's not exactly equivalent treatment.

His search produced similar results for the terms "hard right" and "far right" versus "hard left" and "far left". Over a 90-day period, Shosteck discovered 683 mentions of "hard right" and only 312 for "far left" while "far right" was used 267 times and "far left" just 130 times. That's a ratio of 2 to 1 - only slightly higher than the previous example - but it gets worse.

He also examined how often each side was referred to as extremists. He found that a "Nexis search of 'extreme right' over the past 90 days was 'interrupted' because it exceeded 1,000 documents, which seems to bog down Nexis' data retrieval system. So we narrowed down our investigation time-frame. A Nexis search of 'extreme right' over the past month scored 212 mentions; a Nexis search of 'extreme left' over the past month yielded 58 items. This search reveals that the print media label right-wingers 'extreme' nearly four times more often than they label left-wingers 'extreme.'"

With the data in hand, Shosteck concluded: "When conservatives kvetch about the media being more apt to use negative labels for their leaders, special interest groups and public policy positions than they are for liberal leaders, special interest groups and public policy positions, conservatives are not just spouting empty rhetoric. The raw numbers, free of any manipulation, back up conservatives' claims."

Now we see the numbers verify what conservatives have known all along: It is much harder for the right wing to get fair treatment by the media. But instead of complaining, what can we do about it?

There are some great organizations that train conservatives how to speak to the media, like the Conservative Communications Center (www.therightvoice.org), headed up by Brent Bozell, and the Leadership Institute (www.leadershipinstitute.org), led by Morton Blackwell. They both offer classes in public relations, and they both have schools coming up later this summer where activists can get some great training at a cost that's a fraction of the value of the information.

And there's also a local grassroots network of citizenship ministry leaders in the Northern Virginia area that will offer a seminar in early June on how to work with the media. The Citizen Network (CitizenNetwork@juno.com) is to host Dr. Jim Hanak, Director of American Family Ministries, who will explain how he came to be published over 300 times in newspapers nationwide and became a contributing columnist to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

So there are resources out there to help conservatives get their views in print. In other words, we have no excuse. The tools are there, but we still need to take advantage of them.

Robert McFarland is Director of Media Relations at the Free Congress Foundation.

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