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Wag the Blog: Media Bias?

It seems that every social event The Fix attends -- and that list includes plane flights, field hockey games and shopping with Mrs. Fix, among others -- there is someone who asks about bias in the media.

Usually the "inquiry" comes in the form of an assertion -- the media is far too liberal or, almost as often these days, the media is far too conservative. Evidence is cited (Sarah Palin! Joe Biden! Bill Ayers! Charles Keating!) that seems to make the airtight case that the press is, after all, biased.

While The Fix tends to disagree with most of these assessments -- in our experience, reporters are just trying to get the news right and first -- a report by our own Ombudswoman Deborah Powell that says the Post coverage was biased toward Barack Obama caught our eye.

After reciting a litany of numbers -- 946 stories about Obama since Nov. 12, 2007 to 768 for John McCain -- Howell concludes:

"Obama deserved tougher scrutiny than he got, especially of his undergraduate years, his start in Chicago and his relationship with Antoin 'Tony' Rezko, who was convicted this year of influence-peddling in Chicago. The Post did nothing on Obama's acknowledged drug use as a teenager."

She added later that the Post also failed to hold Vice President-elect Joe Biden to the same coverage standards they used for Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

"Some readers thought The Post went over Palin with a fine-tooth comb and neglected Biden," wrote Howell. "They are right; it was a serious omission."

For today's Wag the Blog question, we want to hear from the Fix community. Was the coverage in the Post (and on the biased toward Obama? Why or why not? And, if you believe there was bias, what can be done to remedy it between now and 2012?

While we recognize that excessive vitriol is the norm when discussing the media, let's try to keep it as civil as possible in the comments section below. The most thoughtful or well-reasoned arguments will be featured in a post of their own later this week.

By Chris Cillizza  |  November 13, 2008; 4:47 AM ET
Categories:  Wag The Blog  
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Next: The Lieberman Conundrum


The Washington Post wants to know (now) if they were biased in it's coverage toward Obama? Does it matter now or is the POST covering for the 900 subscribers they lost?

Lastly, Is that like asking yourself in the mirror, "I as a journalist, did nothing wrong..really, I didn't."

Posted by: Pieinsky | November 15, 2008 10:24 PM | Report abuse

Above all, reporters are human. After seven years of secrecy, disinformation, and intimidation from the Bush administration, it would be only human for members of the press to favor a real change. Wouldn't you?
As a matter of fact, this would also be true of any moderate and/or intellectual Republicans who might have been biting their tongues during the long stretch of ideological dumbing-down they were forced to endure.

Posted by: fraidykat2000 | November 15, 2008 5:32 PM | Report abuse

I prefer a good balance of pros and cons on all matters. It helps gain perspective and understanding of the other point of view. The media's glaring bias toward Obama made obvious the fact that there is no such thing as unbiased true journalism alive in America today in television. Even Fox News, who does air both sides of an issue, aired more positive-Obama, negative-McCain commentary.

A good journalist takes himself or herself out of the equation, stays neutral, keeps their own emotion out of it, and reports both sides of an issue. The exception is if they are an eye witness to an event and can prove what they are writing or televising is true beyond a shadow of a doubt.

I've found sources for information on the internet that report events up to two days before it is reported in national newspapers and television. It is obvious the major networks and newspapers get their information from those same sources and don't do much of their own independent research to prove or disprove an allegation.

Even when factual information is provided to major networks and news media, they ignore the facts and broadcast or write about rumors, going for sensationalism instead of the truth.

Money talks, and close scrutiny of media owners provides insight into their political, financial and social agendas, and how they use media to achieve their own agendas. Editors and journalists are dictated to by media owners who tell them how and what to edit and report. Fortunately for Americans, there are many sources available from which to obtain true news, both inside and outside America to get more balanced information.

The public tends to support those media outlets that provide more balanced coverage. Is it any wonder polls show Fox News ratings are higher than other television networks?

Posted by: idbogue | November 14, 2008 7:05 PM | Report abuse

The only ones that care about 'media bias' are those that find the most recent election baised against their point of view. When the elections are biased towards our own personal opinion, the media usually got it about right.

Alaskan's won't know how the media was baised in the senate race for a couple more days yet.

Posted by: DonJasper | November 14, 2008 6:27 PM | Report abuse

How ironic that Obama is tapping into to the Clinton-era experts for assistance after he so harshly critized Hillary during the Democratic primaries. Who better than Hillary to know the best ones to choose? The bottom line is that Hillary would better serve the USA as a Senator ... and not as Obama's official international parrot.

Posted by: john_doe_washington_dc | November 14, 2008 5:57 PM | Report abuse

I'm shocked that some of these posts actually claim that WaPo was biased towards the conservatives? What??? Anyway, there clearly very heavy bias for Obama. I don't really think 48% - 52% coverage means much, but every article about Obama seemed to sing him praise, while every article about the republican ticket seemed negative. And Palin was absolutely ripped apart over some ridiculous things. She "lied" about selling the plane on ebay. She really did put it on ebay, but the sale fell through and she ended up selling it by more conventional means. Now does that "lie" prove she is untrustworthy? Not exactly, cutting excessive luxury for the governor at the expense of the taxpayer is what was important, and she did that. Then she was abusing taxpayer funds toting her children and family around at taxpayer expense. How about the fact that she spends less than 25% of what her predecessor spent? I'll skip and go to the big one: $150,000 on clothes from Neiman's and Saks. This was the major article in the days heading into the election. With everything else, it was the clothes the RNC bought. The media article's all made it sound as if she and her family were running around Saks on a shopping spree during the campaigne making poor aides use their credit cards to buy the clothes. However, the clothese were all purchased prior to her arrival. So what did the "diva" do, call all these low level aids from Alaska and tell them to go buy her stuff? Unlikely.

MSM seemed so interested in digging up dirt on the McCain/Palin ticket that it posted a lot of stories that I really would have expected to see on the front of the Inquirer. At the same time sang nothing but praise for Mr. Obama and left Joe Biden alone for the most part. Obviously write about the people that draw the readers, but do your due diligence, get all the facts and be critical of ALL the candidates. Don't take everything one person says at face value and then criticize everything the other one says. The media should be critical of anything and everything that ANY politician says. Good or bad, they are still politicians and they try to say whatever the people want to hear. Doesn't mean they can actually accomplish any of it.

Posted by: crue241 | November 14, 2008 5:42 PM | Report abuse

And Chris.. Americans that read you and pay your salary should believe you because? Experience in this matter, clairvoyant or some other grey matter intelligence you have.

Great headline though....Need to get a real job now that the election is over.

Posted by: robinhood2 | November 14, 2008 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Newspapers want to make money and newspaper revenues increase when journalists confirm the current opinions and prejudices of the people. If people were reading papers to be challenged they would turn to media with a different political perspective. Very few do. Currently it is trendy to be a democrat and trash republicans. That is not because democrats have proved themselves but it is because republicans have disproved themselves. Journalists SHOULD challenge democrats as hard as they challenge republicans, OR treat republicans as lenient as they treat democrats. Again, very few do because people WANT to read articles that spit on republicans and treat democrats as a morally more elevated group. In a while, when people have started noticing that also Obama is a human being and made of the same flesh and blood as the rest of us, the trend will start to turn yet again. Journalists will follow. Media integrity is and has always been a myth.

Also the Washington Post is biased. It you are not a metaphysical believer in Obama (I happen to be an independent) it is easy to conclude that most of the Washington Post journalists are Obama supporters. Take Mr Meyerson for example. You know that he always, always, always will report an important Obama story from a positive and a McCain story from a negative perspective. To try not to make it too shameful he might add a minor disagreement. The GENERAL bias in the paper is evident when you conclude that there is not one single WP journalist that is equally positive towards McCain and the republicans. Nothing wrong with that if you openly declare your bias - most of us have one. What is wrong is to have journalists that PRETEND or BELIEVE they don't have one when their argumentation is totally predictable.

In my view sarcasm is also a good indicator of political bias. Few WP journalists are ever sarcastic about democrats - there is far too much veneration. Many WP journalists seem to find great pleasure in directing sarcasms towards republicans.

Washington Post would become a lot better (again) if it would, like Sunday Times, CONSCIOUSLY include columinsts that report from opposite perspectives.

Posted by: WhyAlwaysSoOne-sided | November 14, 2008 5:20 AM | Report abuse

I am a conservative who voted for Obama. While I have always been an admirer of John McCain, I was very disappointed in his pick for VP and in his inability to articulate policy. Obama sold me on his message of change.

I have to say, however, that the mainstream media's infatuation with Barack Obama was at times almost laughable in it's transparency as was the bashing of Hillary Clinton. Even though she was clearly a more formidable candidate than Barack Obama, much of the MSM was determined to destroy any chance she might have of rising to the top (as evidenced by the Olberman & Matthews team). What on earth is Keith Olberman going to talk about now that his man is in and he doesn't have Bush, the Republicans, and Hilary Clinton to bash anymore ??? And as for Obama, I voted for him and I wish him well. His extremely favorable coverage, however, raises the public's expectations of what he can achieve. This places quite the burden on a new president.

The NYT and Governor Rendell of Penn. both reported that the Fox News Coverage of the primaries was the most balanced relative to other cable networks. I agree.

The Washington Post clearly has a left wing bias but you temper this somewhat with contributions from Krauthamer and Gerson. Perhaps your paper would be less biased if you simply provided more balance in reporting by adding more conservative columnists. This may seem simplistic but that is all that is needed.

Posted by: BHughes2 | November 13, 2008 10:15 PM | Report abuse

"Was the coverage in the Post (and on the biased toward Obama?"

I don't know. It's one of the sources that I use for information, and I'd say that it's 'close enough'.

"And, if you believe there was bias, what can be done to remedy it between now and 2012?"

There is a difference is between 'news' and 'history'. Example: The Wall Street financial meltdown didn’t follow a schedule. So the Washington Post has to deal with it – and the effect it’s going to have on events and candidates - just like the rest of us – we make it up as we go along day by day. We participants in history don’t know the outcome. Ms. Howell bases her opinion knowing what the outcome is and working backwards.

Next week we know that Fox News will pander to its audience, follow the pre-written script, and be universally critical of the Democrats – regardless of the events. The Washington Post is not so reliable, and the professional journalist will have to decide day-to-day what to put into the limited space.

I’m not sure what use Ms. Howell is – other than to provide a stark contrast between public relations and professional journalism. She’s welcome her retrospective opinion about “deserved” “neglected” and explaining who Tony Rezko is. It sounds much more like a personal opinion that a professional one in my opinion.

Posted by: DonJasper | November 13, 2008 9:22 PM | Report abuse

It's not the number of news stories that get published about each candidate that matters re. MSM bias, it's what gets covered and what doesn't. Practically every MSM outlet, including the liberal Democratic Party--controlled Washington Post, had a almost total news blackout of Barack Obama's 20+ year membership and support of a vile racist white--hating and America--hating religious cult TUFC Church. They had a almost total news blackout of his (Obamas) 20+ years of associations with radical America--haters like Louis Farrakhan, Jerimiah Wright and black liberationists Combs. There was nothing about Obama's early mentor, friend, and teacher who was mentioned in his book "Dreams from My Father" as "Frank" who was in fact Frank Marshall Davis, who was a Moscow-controlled Marxist Communist Party USA member (who was like a "father to him" according to his book). There was very little news reporting of his friendship with America--haters and terrorists Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn, exept what McCain and Palin brought up--none of it was ever checked out by the MSM or reported on. There was practically nothing ever mentioned about Barack Obama's favorable mortgage deal by Tony Rezko nor the fact that Obama steered a Illinois goverment contract to him right after worth several million. There was nothing about their associations or business dealings. There was no mention anywhere in the MSM of Michelle Obama's tripling salery right after Barack was sworn in as a State Senator (coincidence? yeah, right and pigs fly!). There was absolutely zero mention in any MSM news like the Washington Post of Barack Obama's Bill S.2433, the UN's Global Poverty Act for their Millenium Project that would/will have a disasterous efffect on our country and would put us under the UN's thumb, economically and politically. While the MSM went back 30 years in order to dig up a DUI arrest of Sarah Palins husband before they got married, dug through McCains record of 30 + years for any mispoken word or mistep that they could use to get something on him to help Obama, and dig through all kinds of records to get something on Joe the Plumber or anybody who was against their guy Barack Obama, they (the MSM) couldn't find nor had any interest to find any past history of Barack Obama anywhere. And now all you flim-flam artist blog commentors are trying to sell your Bull S*** that the MSM isn't in the tank with the liberal Democrat Socialist Party and that they're ONLY reporting news that the people are interested in. You guys are smoking some real funny stuff or you must think we're all a bunch of dummies and that we all just fell off the turnup truck. The MSM, including the liberal Democratic Socialist Party--controlled Washington Post and NY Times, are nothing more than just another arm of the Democrat Socialist Party who they've been shilling for. This election has proven that without one shread of doubt.

Posted by: armpeg | November 13, 2008 9:19 PM | Report abuse

Whether the media is the press, cable news or radio it answers to no one other than those that own it. Corporations do what is best for their profit.
Reporters are guided by the golden rule as in those that have it do it.
There are no more certain conclusions than this: Media is a business and it is biased
in favor of money. Beyond that it's all subjective reasoning.

Posted by: seemstome | November 13, 2008 8:55 PM | Report abuse

Everyone is bias from a mother’s opinion of her children to how well our car runs and everything in between. Everyone’s opinion is biased as well as the way they see a fact. My truth is not your truth. What we have to do is see where our truths meet (all men judge another’s intelligence by how much they agree with us) and go from there. It sometimes amazes me that with my 8 years of schooling and 4 yrs of education I sometimes have a better grasp than those who have degrees in today’s education. Has no one ever heard the word yellow journalism? It applies to all of the media not just newspapers. When you read or listen to a news report you expect bias to one side or another. Because I’m aware of the bias in all types of media coverage, I take all with one or two grains of salt as needed and move on. What I will come down on, is yellow journalism and I see no evidence that this has been done. Wake up people. Learn to use the salt shaker and think for yourselves if you can’t figure out what is true and what is not from comparison it’s your own problem and lack of learning, not the news media. Although I have always said the media (all of them) are only interested in dirty laundry because that is what the public likes to read or hear. If you find a paper or TV station offensive or engaged in yellow journalism. Don’t read or watch. That will correct the problem as the lack of revenue or viewers will correct the problem.

Posted by: PatStrickland | November 13, 2008 7:49 PM | Report abuse

At first I thought ombudsmen were a good addition to newspaper staffs.

But lately, they strike me more as scolds of their peers, a gaggle of editors uttering collective mea culpas to whichever part of their readership shouts loudest.

Unfair, perhaps.

With so many cutbacks in our newsrooms, maybe, just maybe, this is a position that could go into the dustbin of journalistic history.

To the question of bias, I think there was a stronger effort than ever to fact-check, to compare positions, to give us as much information and informed opinion as possible.

Story counts are a blunt instrument at best.

If I had one wish for the future of this issue it would be this: that our mainstream press be more aggressive in calling out the truly vicious voices we heard too much of throughout the year.

They threatened to tip this election over into something uglier and more dangerous than anything we have witnessed since...1860.

Posted by: kurtolandefeld | November 13, 2008 7:33 PM | Report abuse

Ah, Ms. Howell, how very perceptive of you. Except for two points: Mr. Obama's drug use as a youth has been reported and published by him and in the public domain for many years. Why do we need the Washington Post to report on it as well? Not like anything was hidden from view. Second, Joe Biden has been in the public and and in the Washington Post for decades. Not much to say about him that hasn't been said. Ms. Palin, on the other hand, is very much a newcomer to the national political scene. So just getting her caught up to the same level of exposure to which Mr. Biden has been subjected would, naturally, take more ink.

But then, maybe historical context is irrelevant to an ombudswoman.

Posted by: 33rdStreet | November 13, 2008 6:53 PM | Report abuse

"I have never understood the ombudsman's idea that there "should" be the same number of stories about each candidate."

Thats because its a stupid idea. There is no way to know exactly how many stories will pop up. It depends on each candidate, thats absurd to think there should be.

Lance Haynie

Posted by: LanceHaynie | November 13, 2008 5:49 PM | Report abuse

I have never understood the ombudsman's idea that there "should" be the same number of stories about each candidate. I guess if a credible third-party candidate like Ross Perot had run this time he or she would have "earned" precisely one third of the stories just by entering the race. Anything else would be bias.

Sorry, the number of stories on each candidate doesn't reflect bias at all. It reflects news judgment.

Bias is when you write softball, glowing stories about a candidate or play down or excuse some obvious error by that same candidate, or when you write nasty, hard-hitting pieces about one candidate and not the other, or zero in obsessively on something that is clearly a minor stumble (lipstick on a pig, anyone?).

Or, most blatantly, when you gratuitously drag in race or gender or religion or any such element, especially when putting it in the mouths of nameless other people ("some voters" or "some pundits" just "feel she's too shrill" or "question whether he's too different or exotic" and so on). Or, alternatively, when you emphasize common verbal stumbles and slips of the tongue when an old candidate makes them and disregard exactly the same thing (if such is the case) from the younger candidate.

Notice that not one of these obvious, glaring kinds of bias is measurable by your ombudsman's system. The only thing we can say for her idea is that counting things is easy and you can't argue with a count of the number of articles. But does it have any meaning? I don't think so. Your ombudsman really blew it on this one.

As for whether there was bias this time around, or at least overall bias that collectively tipped one way or the other, I would reply, No. The newshounds went where their noses took them, toward news, and they chronicled a great story. They didn't keep chronicling their favorites who lost out in the primaries (Biden, Giuliani, Huckabee, etc.) but kept following the real action. The news consumers cheered them on and I hope filled their coffers. That's how the media is supposed to work. We wanted every newsy detail and you gave it to us.

Posted by: fairfaxvoter | November 13, 2008 5:37 PM | Report abuse

Every human exhibits a bias in almost everthing they say or do. The point is to label that bias up front instead of the pretense of being objective.

Posted by: leapin | November 13, 2008 5:04 PM | Report abuse

Aren't reporters humans? Don't media outlets, such as the WaPo, endorse candidates? Aren't news papers commercial enterprises that must cater to the preferences of their audience? Would a newspaper serving a predominately liberal readership stay in business long if it didnt' provide extensive, and favorable coverage, to a highly popular, and historic, liberal candidate?

Wouldn't saying there is no inherent bias in media coverage be the same as answering NO to all of the above?

Isn't arguing over whether or not there is media bias a lot like arguing over whether or not there is global warming? Hasn't there been ample "scientific" proof of both? Aren't the more relevant questions: why, and what should we do about it?

Posted by: Quzzical | November 13, 2008 4:20 PM | Report abuse

I believe that it is almost impossible to avoid bias in media coverage. The only way to avoid a show of bias (like The Fix does, I honestly have no clue who you voted for and I appreciate that) is to focus on the political science of the matter. When a newspaper focuses on presenting news and in choosing what to cover and what not to cover, a little bias will always come out.

I tend to read the Post because it is one of the most reputable and least biased sources (Not to mention that I grew up in the DC area with daily home delivery of the Post). Just compare the Post's endorsement of Obama which was well thought out and logically presented with several other highly reputable papers' endorsements of the same candidate. The Post continued that here.

We must not forget that media is a business. A business with an important higher purpose to which they owe the public a duty (that duty to appropriately inform is owed largely because of the access and freedom the press is granted), but a business nonetheless.

I feel that media bias is largely a business decision in two parts: 1. Interest to the public and; 2. Expectations. The stories chosen (Obama and vetting Palin) were played largely out in the media because those were the stories of interest to the public. Fox News, an unequivocally conservative station, still focused more stories on Obama and on defending Palin than on McCain and vetting Biden. This is because Obama and Palin were the more interesting figures.

Expectations matter as well. The Washington Post is an historically left bent newspaper albeit less so than many of its counterparts. Many readers of the Post appreciate and expect that, as the readers of D.C.'s other newspaper often expect a right wing bent on their content. A newspaper must play somewhat to the expectations of their clientelle.

I have read the political commentary of several newspapers most days this election season and I read the endorsements of even more and I must say that the Washington Post has probably been the most balanced presentation I've seen from a major newspaper (the Onion doesn't count as a major paper does it?).

Posted by: andygoldman | November 13, 2008 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Most accusations of bias come from commited partisans who see their view as THE truth, so anything differing from that is obviously biased. "But there is actual bias in the media and it does tend to be more liberal. The most blatant example I can think of is the difference between the way that the media covered John McCain's alleged affair with a lobbyist, and John Edwards actual one with a videographer. The Edwards affair was not pursued due to lack of evidence, whil McCain was aggresively pursued for months.
Overall I have found the Washington Post ot be less biased than say the New York Times, but I find it very helpful to have the daily chats with reporters, when I read a story I have some sense of the personality and politics of the one writing it, that helps me better evaluate what I am reading.

Posted by: myhojda | November 13, 2008 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Pretty obvious bias towards Obama. There is a total hagiography of the man in the press. He is compared to President Lincoln; he is the scion of RFK, JFK, MLK and Lincoln. The White House will be Camelot once again.

He has suffered every inequity, climbed every mountain; like actor Tom Hanks, Obama is everyman. He smells like a rose. He "tosses off" statements about being a "mutt" so casually, one would almost not notice, so the press tells us.

The patronization from the press is gagging.

Obama is a man, and I'd like to read the facts without their being whipped up into a pretty parfait.

Posted by: rangerjim1 | November 13, 2008 3:46 PM | Report abuse

Yes, Specially FOX NEWS were biased towards President - Elect Barack Obama, because he is black, and also CNN were biased but not as bad as this so-called FOX.!!!!

Posted by: akber_kassam | November 13, 2008 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Has fox news finally gone too far, shocking video has racial undertones.

Huckabee launching 2012 website? Read Article at

Posted by: pastor123 | November 13, 2008 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Only a total complete moron with not a braincell in his head could possibly believe that the MSM wasn't in the tank with the Barack Obama team and the Democratic Socialist Party. When journalists are asked what their political position is, they'll always claim to be middle of the road because everyone they assocciate with; everyone they work with, and everyone they know is just as liberal and just as in the tank with the Democrat Socialists as they are. When everyone agrees with your viewpoints on everything, you believe that you're middle of the road when in fact you're not. There isn't a journalist, editor, TV news producer or talking-head in the news business that wouldn't have made headline news for the last year leading up to the elections of the 20 year vile and racist past of Barack Obama had this been McCains or Palins. Had McCain or Palin had had a 20+ year relationship with a BLACK--HATING and America--hating religious cult, like that black--version of the KKK Trinity United for Christ Church that Michelle and Barack Obama were members and supporters of, the MSM would have crucified them. The fact that the MSM burried the Obamas racist WHITE--HATING and America--hating past--which they would never have done had this been McCains or Palins--is positive proof that the MSM is nothing more than just another arm of the Democrat Socialist Party. Thank god that there's at least one true news service, Fox News, that still is what all newspapers and all news services should be, the watchdog for the American people. Small wonder that the Democrat Socialists and their MSM propaganda arm hate Fox News. They're the only news service the American people can trust and rely on to tell us ALL THE NEWS, and not just the MSM's censored version.

Posted by: armpeg | November 13, 2008 2:49 PM | Report abuse

It to me I can understand the interest in a first black president but in the primaries you also had a possible first female president, the coverage went to Obama and not about issues but how cool he was with the youth. It was clear you were smitten with him. What did go to Clinton usually was negative (earned or not. It snowballed from there. Towards the end I was so upset that questions I had weren't being asked....should have been asked from the beginning! I canceled my Time and Newsweek for this very reason, I got sick of "feel good" articles on Obama or the "evil reps" and I was a dem for 30 yrs. (this election turned me Independent!)I no longer trust the media for facts. I find the very channel accused of bias for the bush years, the only one I could find a balance of both sides...Fox. MSNBC was my channel until the primaries prove too much Obama worshipping! CNN proved to be no help with fairness but plenty for the Obama campaign. I don't know that I will ever trust the media to give me facts and not their agenda. I can only pray they hold Obama up in his actions so that we can truly see him and not what they want us to see!

Posted by: daisy_mom4 | November 13, 2008 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Could you imagine if the media seriously dug up some of McCain's reported vile language and physical altercations on video from the last 20 years and played them over and over again in loops?

Posted by: AJ2008 | November 13, 2008 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Was the media bias? Depends on how you define bias.

When you look at the presidential campaign, the rhetoric, the strategies, the crowds and the public interest worldwide, clearly Obama had the superior campaign.

Of all the bias media outlets out there, none was more bias (against Obama) than FOX NEWS.

I don't think the overall media was bias, but just following where the stories and public interest is.

When Obama is getting crowds of 10,000 to 200,000 at his rallies and speeches, it is worth noting. When McCain was getting a few hundred at his town halls, it was worth noting for comparison purposes.

When FOX NEWS and other media outlets were pushing the Rev. Wright and Bill Ayers stories, you could clearly see this was bias against Obama. Not too many media outlets investigated the history of Rev. Wright (i.e. was a military soldier or a medic who worked on a former president). What we got from FOX NEWS, CNN, MSNBC, NBC, CBS, and ABC were 15 to 30 second clips of Rev. Wright's most inflammatory statements without context.

Posted by: AJ2008 | November 13, 2008 2:13 PM | Report abuse

The orthodox political media has a profound urban bias. Corruption, civic dysfuntion, kooky exremists, one-party authoritarianism - these are old stories to residents of DC, Chicago, New York, etc. But corruption and extremism in Alaska - now, there's a story! So Obama got a relatively free pass on the parlous state of his home political environment and his party's responsibility for it.

Post reporters were obviously dying to write the liberal 'history in the making' narrative, though there is plenty of evidence that mainstream American voters (pro and con) react to Obama's racial ancestry with a yawn. The condition of the City of Chicago and the state of Illinois were among the stories the Post didn't run, such as tracking down Obama's cocaine dealer from his college days, to verify Obama's own account of his activity or to investigate whether there is any spirit of that other memoir sponsored by Oprah Winfrey, 'A Thousand Little Pieces' . . . just one minor example of how Obama was taken at his word by rapt, credulous Post reporters and editors. (Tony Rezko is another.) I don't know what can be done, though.

The Post did a lot of stories on the swing to the Democrats in northern Virginia. The immigration to that area of former blue-staters was the reason. But of course, the blue-staters were leaving their old home states and moving to red-state Virginia because of the pro-business policies of those bad old Republicans. Nobody at the Post seemed to get the irony. Same story in North Carolina. California is stagnating, and lurching from economic crisis to economic crisis, repeating the mistakes of the Empire State a half-century earliers, but nobody connects this relative decline, either as causation or correlation, with the takeover of state politics by liberal anti-business politics. Meanwhile, reactionary Texas now has more Fortune 500 companies headquartered there than does New York. That doesn't fit the narrative of 'left' meaning 'progressive' and implying innovative and growing, so it doesn't impinge on the consciousnes of political reporting. Nobody asked Obama what it is about south Chicago that he wants to extend to the whole country.

Posted by: MarkR1 | November 13, 2008 2:00 PM | Report abuse

A fair and reasonable question, Chris, worthy of a fair and reasonable discussion.

The numbers to which the ombudswoman refers are insteresting. In terms of articles, Obama received about 23% more coverage than McCain. I'm not sure how that number would shake out if she focused on words or inches, but let's just assume it's accurate.

The question that remains is, "Was Obama's candidacy 23% more significant - or newsworthy - than McCain's?" One could argue both ways. Looking at the electoral map, the turnout of young voters and African Americans, his descision to forego public financing, and his underdog win in a long primary battle against a very popular senator and former first lady, the historical nature of his campaign is undeniable. And that's before we even consider the fact that he is African American.

One could also argue that the split should be 50/50, regardless of aforementioned considerations, as the media has a responsibility to fairness and objectivity.

I do reject the notion that the Post's failure to cover Obama's youth constitutes favorable or unfair coverage. There was a simliar lack of scrutiny of McCain's past. The Post, as well as other media outlets, dropped the ball there, and we missed out on very pertinent discussions as a result.

Posted by: JohninMpls | November 13, 2008 1:57 PM | Report abuse

The media bias is against the truth. A media outlet that does real reporting is a story. At one time the NY Times had a policy that any story that covered lynching needed a pro-lynching quote. Honestly, afraid of taking an anti-lynching bias? But that is an aside, what really shames the traditional media is their lack of curiosity. How can you run a candidate's statement on budget priorities without pointing out the state of the budget? You cannot in good conscience report on how the candidate is proposing a tax cut here and spending there and a balanced budget without pointing out that 1) our revenues are nose diving and 2) our budget consists of Defense, Social Security/Medicare and interest on the debt. The headline should not be, Candidate A proposes a middle class tax cut, it should be Candidate A is divorced from economic reality. And when McCain/Palin was running around accusing Obama and company of Marxism, you could have pointed out what real socialism is, what a progressive tax system is and how Republicans only recently decided it was a bad thing and how taxes are, by their very definition, a redistribution of wealth. The sad truth is that the press is nothing but a stenography pool. When the press starts pointing out the holes in the arguments (and this goes for all reporting), then the arguments start changing. What is a politician to do when the press simply regurgitates press releases? If either candidate talks about the serious decisions to be made his opponent will attack him. As long as no racial watchwords are used, the press will simply repeat what was said and by their very doing so lend it merit. If, on the other hand, the press ridiculed the attack as a sophomoric response to a serious policy debate, the attitude of the politicians would turn around. Soon there would be a serious public discussion. But God forbid anyone would help that to come about. Far easier to whine about it on the editorial pages and ignore your contribution to the mess.

Posted by: caribis | November 13, 2008 1:48 PM | Report abuse

When you think of the media as a business -- and it's foolish to think of it as anything other than that -- it's hard to whine about coverage. If Sarah Palin stories are getting 100% more page views than Joe Biden stories, that begs more coverage. I am not suggesting news directors slavishly follow such data in newspapers -- but I know for a fact they do follow those numbers in television. I have spent time in almost every TV station in the country with a newsroom, and they don't have Obama signs on the wall. They have the day's stock price for the parent corporation.

Journalists hate to talk about it, because it suggests they are purely commercial in their motivations, and I think that's an oversimplification. But if it's not explicit (and again, in TV it is explicit), then it's absolutely an 800 pound gorilla sitting in the corner of the room.

Capitalism. Free speech. Advertising model media. This is what you get. When you think about European media and government subsidy, I actually think we have an excellent system. Where else do you have a choice between O'Reilly, Olbermann, Brown, C-Span, and 900 other options at any given time?

Whining because every media venue out there doesn't exactly mirror the reality you want to see is childish and naive.

Posted by: starthom | November 13, 2008 1:37 PM | Report abuse

While I am a strong Obama supporter it would be hard to look at a show like Countdown and suggest that it is anything but a shill for the Democrats in general and the President-Elect in particular. In order to give yourself a broader view of things it might be nice if you showed up on Fox once in a while instead of focusing so much on Olberman's show.

Posted by: lepstein12 | November 13, 2008 1:37 PM | Report abuse

The media is like everything else and is biased towards money.

Palin sells and millions of people wanted to know everything about her, so of course they are going to cover her more than an old boring white guy named Biden.

Obama could be the first black president, so of course they are going to give him ridiculous amounts of coverage.

More people will vote for the next American Idol than voted for our next president.

Media is based on money and nothing else, it’s a business.

If you want an unbiased view on the news you have C-Span, NPR and PBS.

Posted by: Southeasterner | November 13, 2008 1:29 PM | Report abuse

It seems incredible that you might even doubt it.

Rather than only talking about the content of the stories, I think reporters and editors should examine the tone of their commentaries.

There was clearly a gleeful rush by journalists to ridicule McCain and Palin---McCain for allegedly being too "old," "wealthy" and "out of touch," and Palin for alleged "inexperience," "backwardness," and "political incorrectness."

It's also clear that by doing this post-mortem of your coverage, you are trying to cover for bias that you recognize as obvious.

If you had been fair, you would have refrained 100% from ridicule of either side. But that wasn't the case.

But readers aren't so stupid, you know Chris? They are going to mark the names of every reporter and editor in this election who colored their copy with personal political views and unfair characterizations and boycott them in the future.

Bet you'd be surprised at the number of readers you drove to the Washington Times and Fox News.

Posted by: ttj1 | November 13, 2008 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Sarah Palin claims that the media treated her unfairly, and shoud have been harsher toward Biden. If so, it certainly isn't because she didn't invite this attention. She has benefited, and, she is, as of this moment, still benefitting from media attention. I don't know if she is simply ignorant or a pure genius. Either way, she is a clear and present danger to this country.

Posted by: nwsjnky1 | November 13, 2008 1:16 PM | Report abuse

"Ah, the hallmark of the stupid, lazy thinker, the unprovable claim."

The writer completely missed my point. The imbalance was in the coverage not in the weight of favostories to unfavorable. There was much zeal shown to show all of the warts of one side. sadly, we know little of the other side because they were not of interest to the editors that set the tone.

BTW, I will match my SJD and my state supreme court clerkship against any degree you might have anyday. My wife will be thrilled there is at least one person who thinks I am a lazy thinker.

Posted by: stvcar | November 13, 2008 1:05 PM | Report abuse

"Media bias? Is the goal of reporting on the ombudsman's findings to provide the Post with a serious evaluation of its coverage or continue to stir the simmering pot that is uneasy relations between the McCain and Obama supporters?

If the goal is the former...keep it in-house. There's no need for the public to know what an internal evaluation found. It will only pick a scab off a gaping wound that is only starting to heal."

Clearly you don't know what an ombudsman's role is. She is not internal.

Posted by: DDAWD | November 13, 2008 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Yes, and so what?

Is talk-radio and Fox News biased toward social conservatives?

Yes, and so what?

Objectivity is a myth.

The media -- right or left -- giving any election to a preferred candidate is a myth.

Voters recognize bias, and recognize common-sensically that bias always exists, and they filter through it to make their decisions.

To whine that the media elected a candidate is like whining that the referees stole the game when your team botched opportunity after opportunity.

Candidates, like sports teams, win or lose in spite of, not because of, the "referees" in the game.

Posted by: sw7104 | November 13, 2008 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Is the media biased: Yes, the reporters, editors, and all are human and their biases will come through. (Just like the biases of the news consumer will color what they see as "media bias.")

Also, Ms. Powell shows her own biases with her assertion that because Obama got 946 stories and McCain got 768, the Post is "biased" against McCain. That is like saying: "The Fix has only mentioned field hockey in his column, therefore, he is biased against soccer." Back to Ms. Powell though, what were in those articles?

Posted by: chad_nm | November 13, 2008 12:45 PM | Report abuse

"The best evidence rule should be used here and I can point to the dearth of stories about Obama’s background, including his self-admitted drug use. The usual pap answers are well, we covered that in the primary or the answers are in the book, read the book. If McCain had said the same things, a whole division of reporters would have been looking into that."

Ah, the hallmark of the stupid, lazy thinker, the unprovable claim.

Never mind that our sitting president has used cocaine without much of a peep from the media. Who cares? I don't care about drug use from thirty years ago.

Posted by: DDAWD | November 13, 2008 12:45 PM | Report abuse

I do not think the issue of "media bias" can be determined by the number of articles about candidates of one party or the other, or by whether the articles about one party are more "positive" than for the other party. The real issue should be whether or not each candidate is covered honestly, and whether the positive and negative issues related to each receive appropriate coverage. It should not be necessary to write "fluff" articles just to equalize numbers, nor should it be necessary to hide ugly truths or downplay positive attributes in order to reach some "positive/negative" quota.

Posted by: rmcdetal | November 13, 2008 12:44 PM | Report abuse

Bias is in the eye and ear of which party you support. If your candidate loses you will blame it on the media coverage and not on some flaw with the candidate's campaign strategy, past record or ideas.

Posted by: Nevadaandy | November 13, 2008 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Of course there was a decided bias in this election. If you didn’t see it, it was because your candidate was the happy recipient of the bias.

The best evidence rule should be used here and I can point to the dearth of stories about Obama’s background, including his self-admitted drug use. The usual pap answers are well, we covered that in the primary or the answers are in the book, read the book. If McCain had said the same things, a whole division of reporters would have been looking into that.

A second bit of evidence would be the patent discrepancies in the Biden/Palin coverage. I think the Post missed a great opportunity here for levity because Biden’s whoppers were even better than Palin’s, where his special TV caught FDR’s fireside chats.

And this bit of bias I can’t fathom as the writer is ordinarily the most unbiased writer at WaPo. Even David Broder says Obama has not had a gaffe yet, while he has already had to apologize to Nancy Reagan. The reason he didn’t know that is because it did not make its way into the papers he probably reads regularly.

The American public is not too concerned about bias. What they are concerned about is what they have always been concerned about: unfairness by those in power. While we have done the unpardonable sin of turning our governance over to the woefully unsuited political class, we have seen the rise to power and kingmaking particularly in this election, of the press. Their lens filters everything we know about the news. Memo to reporters: if we want editorials, please allow us to find them in the editorial pages. If you are going to go after Palin for some gaffe in speaking, please go after Biden with the same zeal.

Fair is fair. Please practice this in the future.

Posted by: stvcar | November 13, 2008 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Media companies are biased toward stories that sell copies or draw eyeballs. Reporters are biased toward stories that are interesting.

In many cases, those biases intersect.
1. Palin vs Biden ink - Biden's been around forever, Palin is new and considered eye candy by many. If anything, she was given a pass by many in the media because of this appeal. The voters decided on her merit before the media did.
2. Obama vs McCain stories - new vs old, AND interesting vs tired. There was simply more to say about Obama's campaign. He was proactive, McCain was reactive. Obama offered new content, McCain recycled old arguments repeatedly. People say in basketball that the aggressive team receives the benefit of the doubt from the refs on foul calls because they're moving forward and in rhythm, while the team on its heels is a step slow. The coverage of the Presidential campaigns followed a similar dynamic.

Howell's comments about horse race vs policy stories are more of a concern. But how many people really read "thumbsuckers" compared to competition stories? And in the primaries, the issue positions weren't really very different, at least among the Democrats.

Posted by: utec | November 13, 2008 12:22 PM | Report abuse

"Was the coverage in the Post (and on the biased toward Obama?"

Answer: No.

"Why or why not?"

Answer: 1. Obama's message of change, and the hope he inspired throughout the world was worthy of all the coverage he received. In contrast, the McPalin campaign was divisive, negative, incendiary, and really delivered no message of what they could do as a team. 2. McCain announced Palin, a complete unknown to most Americans. Then, he approved a sarcastic speech for her to deliver at the RNC. [THAT was it for me. I was 100% done w/McPalin--that night.] The McCain campaign set the negative tone for the coverage that would follow, all by themselves, and "unknowingly", which told me that they are unable to anticpate "cause & effect", and we don't need "knee jerk reactions" coming from our president or VP. 3. McCain kept the virtually unknown sarcastic VP from the press. Ah...we have a right to hear from the person who may be a heartbeat away; the press has duty to report on the newly selected one-liner trash talking VP. 4. The McCain campaign did not realize the people would not just accept their rhetoric for truth. They did not understand how easy it was to do fact checks, and they told lie, after lie. In most cases, when called on the lie, they admitted they were lies, and went back out on the stump to lie about the same lie. The socialism claim is only one example; "palling around with terrorist", "Obama is not like us", are a few more. 5. McCain's campaign did NOT have an overall strategy, and it was evident. One disasterous divisive tactic after the other.

All of the above are alarming, are cause for great concern, and will not be written off as campaign rhetoric by me. Not as long a McCain and Palin keep their positions in our government. They are both a threat to America, and the world, by way of their sheer ignorance.

Obama's campaign was handled with precision. He displayed a genuine concern for all Americans, and brought the most unlikely of us, together. THAT is impressive.

Posted by: dematheart | November 13, 2008 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Why does georgeh say "(including the innocuous 'one heartbeat away...' argument)"?

I'm not sure georgeh knows what innocuous means, because that argument was far from innocuous. Exit polls indicate it was a significant reason for not voting for McCain, who after all is 72 years old and has health problems.

And for ernest121, I saw in-depth articles analyzing Obama's statements on abortion, including his misstatements of fact, in the mainstream press. Maybe you just didn't look hard enough, or maybe you took as factual the right wing's CLAIM that mainstream media weren't covering it.

I think Howell's analysis of coverage based simply on numbers of articles is superficial; it depends on what those articles contain and whether they are covering new information or just going over the same material over and over again.

The most frustrating thing to me about the mainstream media in this election was the "false equivalence" coverage. In other words, McCain said this and this and this, (serious misstatements of fact), but on the other hand Obama said that (minor exaggeration), so they BOTH do it.

It happened to Al Gore and John Kerry as well, so I don't know how the mainstream media is going to regain its reputation for being factual. Just counting articles isn't going to do it.

Some of the best coverage I found was on fairly obscure websites that actually did detailed research on, for instance, what bills Obama actually had gotten passed. These websites combed through the records and cited evidence. That's the kind of thing we USED to get from the mainstream media that there was not enough of in this election. You SAY Obama accomplished nothing in the legislature? Here's a documented list. Too bad the mainstream press was more occupied with he said/she said and not with doing the research to be able to say what was factual and what was not.

Posted by: dnfree | November 13, 2008 12:13 PM | Report abuse

you're joking right? you journos have no respect left, lower than used car salesmen and the Dem congress. you have instinctively resorted to naval gazing and self-adulation, as usual.

the angry left media has always been in favor of Dem candidates, it is just so obvious now with honest sources emerging as alternatives.

you are a joke. this is just one more example of your cluelessness. everyone seems to know but you.

Posted by: king_of_zouk | November 13, 2008 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Correction to my earlier post.

Let me answer with 2 questions:

1. If investigative journalism shows something to be a non-story, should the media do stories about how they investigated X and there isn't anything? In other words, just because there are more or more negative stories about candidate X, it doesn't necessarily mean the media has not looked for stories about candidate Y. There seems to be the suggestion that the media should try to find equal stories or equal negative stories about both sides. I don't think the failure to do so necessarily means bias, though that is one possible reason for a discrepancy.

2. Should a candidate who has been in the national public eye for decades receive the same scrutiny as one who is relatively or completely new to Americans? Anything about Palin's past was more likely to be new to the general public. Stories about Biden, in contrast, would more likely be ones that have previously been featured in the national news (Biden has to be one of the most well-known senators nationally, despite his failed presidential campaign). So should national newspapers re-hash old stories in order to achieve balance in coverage? Perhaps. One idea would be to run these old stories with a note that they originally appeared in the Post or whatever on X date. But if you're speaking of new stories, there is bound to be a greater number of stories about the new kid on the block.

Posted by: mikeduchek | November 13, 2008 12:03 PM | Report abuse

Media bias? Is the goal of reporting on the ombudsman's findings to provide the Post with a serious evaluation of its coverage or continue to stir the simmering pot that is uneasy relations between the McCain and Obama supporters?

If the goal is the former...keep it in-house. There's no need for the public to know what an internal evaluation found. It will only pick a scab off a gaping wound that is only starting to heal.

If it's the latter...mission accomplished. The liberal media, or at least this single news outlet, is thumbing its nose at the conservatives while saying, "yes indeed, we did just what you accused of doing."

Media bias to me is slanting all the stories to make one side look good and the other look bad. I didn't see that.

The number of stories is really a symptom of the two candidates' campaigns. The better organized campaign did a much better job feeding stories to the media in a volume, like the campaign's TV and radio buys, that overwhelmed the opponent.

When handed a good story...was the Post obligated to say, "we don't have a story for the other side (regardless of candidate) so we can't use this." Absolutely not.

Biden vs. Palen...I think we've had plenty of time to vet Mr. Biden. How many years has he been in Washington? Mrs. Palen on the other hand was dropped on the American public out of nowhere. I think a little extra attention was needed to get everyone up to speed with the who, what, where, when, how of the Alaskan Governess.

It's been two long years and it's time to turn the heat off. The campaign is over. The aggitation only encourages more partisan bickering. It's time for the Obama and McCain supporters to be gracious in the respective victory and loss of their candidate.

While politics may be the ultimate's time for everyone to follow the example set following the game in the athletic arena. The winners congratulate the losers for their effort. The losers congratulate the winners for having a better game plan and execution.

Posted by: tim21 | November 13, 2008 12:02 PM | Report abuse


Put aside the presidential race for a moment...

Why hasn't the mainstream media exposed the network of civilian vigilantes operating under the cover of federally-funded community policing and business-related anti-terrorism programs, allegedly being employed to harass and persecute "targeted" individuals outside the bounds of the judicial system?

Ideologically-motivated "extrajudicial targeting" is a direct outgrowth of Bush administration programs and policies sold to Congress as necessary to "keep America safe."

Instead, these programs have eroded civil liberties and have imposed de facto federal control upon state and local law enforcement, which rely on grants from federal agencies for substantial portions of their operating budgets.

This nationwide vigilante network directly impacts the political process, because the extrajudicial apparatus operates largely outside the purview of elected local officials -- subverting democracy.

If mainstream media has failed to expose the anti-democratic policies and programs of the current White House, how can we expect critical scrutiny of presidential candidates?

Another factor could be the hope among journalists who know of the abuses (but can't seem to nail down the story) that Obama will rescue the nation from its descent into neo-fascism.

Bottom-line: the bias is toward the status quo... it's easier to simply "take the hand out" than to really dig and uncover the frightening truth about the state of democracy in America.



Posted by: scrivener50 | November 13, 2008 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Let me answer with 2 questions:

1. If investigative journalism shows something to be a non-story, should the media do stories about how they investigated X and there isn't anything? In other words, just because there are more or more negative stories about candidate X, it doesn't necessarily mean the media has not looked for stories about candidate Y. There seems to be the suggestion that the media should try to find equal stories or equal negative stories about both sides. I don't think the failure to do so necessarily means bias, though that is one possible reason for a discrepancy.

2. Should a candidate who has been in the national public eye for decades receive the same scrutiny as one who is relatively or completely new to Americans? Anything about Palin's past was more likely to be new to the general public. Stories about Biden, in contrast, would be more likely ones that have never been featured in the national news. So should national newspapers re-hash old stories in order to achieve balance in coverage? Perhaps. One idea would be to run these old stories with a note that they originally appeared in the Post or whatever on X date. But if you're speaking of new stories, there is bound to be a greater number of stories about the new kid on the block.

Posted by: mikeduchek | November 13, 2008 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Why are you still writing about media bias? Apparently, it's true. I just wonder what your paper is going to do without Bush. You liberals will have to channel your hate somewhere and it certainly won't be towards the Messiah.

Posted by: tcdifla | November 13, 2008 11:53 AM | Report abuse

"I understand there will be no audit of the massive amounts of money raised by the Obama campaign, but will any journalist look at the allegations of hundreds of thousands of dollars raised through pre-paid credit cards with no audit trail? .... Will any news organization look at that death knell for public financing struck by Obama's about-face on public financing that was supposed to minimize illegal donations? I doubt it."

I don't know about "news organization", but I don't doubt for a second that these issues won't be looked at and written about. This is a huge story that will take time to research. The reward of writing this story is too huge to ignore.

Posted by: Kili | November 13, 2008 11:50 AM | Report abuse

I do not agree that there was a bias. The news created was the news that was relevant. Nobody created the situations that resulted in the negative stories of Palin. She was the one who botched interviews, misled reporters, had a cartload of baggage. McCain was the same. His actions and words created the stories. Obama was more positive in his actions, and the news is not always interested in good things. They want salacious stories, stories that titillate. Obama and team did not provide as much fodder for the news, so their reporting appeared to reflect only negative on McCain and Palin. Continue to report what happens, good or bad. And as long as one side creates more "bad" then that is what we will read and hear.

Posted by: pmljohn | November 13, 2008 11:48 AM | Report abuse

The media is only Boas in a vaccuum. It is more tilted towards than against particular views.

Fox News is the GOP news orginization, MSNBC is the Democratic News channel. CNN is working very hard to get truly to the middle. Most news orginizations are where CNN is.

What people have failed to sense is that media orginizations are profit motivated buisness. Rezko, Ayers and Wright were all beat upon Obama back in the primaries. So when the right wing screams "WHY ABOUT HIS ASSOCIATIONS!!! The people of the country roll thier eyes and say "been there... let's change the channel"

What parts of this years campaign recieved the most coverage? (and this is an observation)
Fox News: AYERS, AYERS & AYERS.. with a little ACORN on the side.
MSNBC: Wow, look at how awesome Obama speaks and how evil McCain and Palin are.
CNN: Wow, look at how everyone seems to hate each other, well, on the McCain campaign at least. The Obama campaign never seems to talk off script... but the McCain campaign is like watching a soap opera.

And here in lies the gist. Watching the McCain campaign implode the last few weeks when they were behind in the polls, was the media choosing between the best scripted campaign on Oabma's side... and therfore very very boring... OR!!

McCain and Palin, who's handlers hate the other guy worse!

The fact that Fox News was losing market share tells the average guy... wow, why isn't everyone watching Fox? OH, yeah... we saw the same stories in April on all the channels. I didn't know news channels did reruns?

Oh, and one very very overlooked thing. Everyone who claims media bias.... always claims it was ALWAYS in favor of the other guy. Maybe it's the pundits who are bias, and not the media.

Posted by: cbcomedian | November 13, 2008 11:47 AM | Report abuse

It's hard to say whether the media is biased or not because we are all human beings and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Like Dr. Phil would say:"How is it working for you?". Here is my take, if you like it and it does not stimulate anger in you listen to it. If it angers you, you probably need to walk away. Chis Matthews (MSNBC) has his listeners and Bill O'Reilly (FOX News)has his. MSNBC has both love and hate, you just have to tune in at the right time - Same for CNN, FOX, etc. The world has both love and hate and we can't solve that ourselves. After all, we didn't create it. We don't understand it. We sure won't solve it. The winners are in the center - Love doesn't get them overexcited and hate doesn't get them flying over the handle. Better for them.

Posted by: margaret10 | November 13, 2008 11:46 AM | Report abuse

I've been reading Lincoln: President-Elect by Harold Holzer. I highly recommend it. Especially now that we are in an interregnum that, while nowhere near a critical as the 1860-61 one, has some of the same issues. Anyway, it gives an illuminating view of how biased press can be by showing what it used to be like...

It is very hard to determine "bias" without defining bias in an objective manner. This is what Deborah Powell attempted to do: this is great But, there is *a lot* of research on measuring bias in the press. It is fascinating reading. One place to start is "What Media Bias?" by Koehn and Eisinger from the Annual Meeting of the Western Political Science Association Portland, Oregon, March 11-13, 2004. This is on the web, and have a good set of references.

I don't think CC was in the tank for Obama. Go re-read his analysis of the first debate. Like much of the press, he was impressed with McCain's agressiveness, and completely missed the impact of the Obama strategy of giving McCain his due. I STILL hear people talking about how much Obama respeted McCain in the debates - taking notes, looking at him, finding points to agree with him - even from strong McCain supporters. If CC were biased towards Obama, he would've spun in that direction - but, CC is a political animal and so was more impressed with McCain getting forceful. That was the more interesting story ("McCain Hitting Back Hard!")

I think that the best outcome of this self-searching is the creation of columns like those of Michael Dobbs. I have no idea how such columns will evolve: the authors are going to need to protect their creds assiduously.

Posted by: Kili | November 13, 2008 11:44 AM | Report abuse

When I was a journalism student we studied ethics and discussed the need to disclose our biases because no one is entirely unbiased. And we talked about how to do it because "real life" is much harder than a sterile discussion about why unbiased coverage is needed.

Was it objective to not cover the journalists, news executives, and columnists who were so excited about the prospect of the first African American candidate with a strong chance of winning that they were reportedly bringing personal cameras and even their own children to see history being made? If you are so excited about that history happening, are you not more likely to help make that happen?

I understand there will be no audit of the massive amounts of money raised by the Obama campaign, but will any journalist look at the allegations of hundreds of thousands of dollars raised through pre-paid credit cards with no audit trail? Since the Obama campaign never released the names of the small donors will anyone question whether any portion of those from phony names (Test, Test1, etc)? Since the McCain campaign was foolish enough to keep the campaign promise of accepting public money they will also have the pleasure of paying millions for the audit of the public funds his campaign took. Will any news organization look at that death knell for public financing struck by Obama's about-face on public financing that was supposed to minimize illegal donations? I doubt it.

And what about the many passes given to Joe Biden on his mistakes and misstatements? And I have to wonder how many of the journalists who were so touched by his assertion that he knew the pain of raising children as a single parent? How many knew he had a second wife who helped him raise the boys who unfortunately had lost their birth mother, but grew up with a loving pair of parents? Is that objective?

I actually think that some of the critical coverage that Sarah Palin continues to get, over a week after her ticket failed, comes from journalists who were assigned to the McCain campaign had had to "act" objective until the election was over. But then look out Palin, all the gossip that they gathered over the period that they were relegated to the losing campaign can now spew forth and be printed or played as if it's news. Objectivity in using anonymous sources? It doesn't matter because no one is holding you responsible for trashing a losing campaigner anyway.

I hope someday, some historian will call this the campaign in which many people took pay as journalists or columnists, but actually worked as unpaid flaks in the process of electing the first African American president.

Posted by: annetta3 | November 13, 2008 11:42 AM | Report abuse

The media seems biased towards writing pablum about personality or lifestyle, rather than policy analysis or comparing candidates' records to their rhetoric. Too often, the media repeats talking points without doing the bothersome work of fact-checking what is said.

This problem is exacerbated by the dwindling ranks of journalists - fewer reporters are covering the news for fewer media outlets. If you spread the growing breadth of possible news stories over the dwindling number of reporters and media outlets, the result is shallow coverage of limited subjects - with little actual investigative, in-depth reporting.

Posted by: bsimon1 | November 13, 2008 11:37 AM | Report abuse

Another poster makes a great point: number of articles seems a fallible way to gauge bias. To me, bias would constitute taking a negative story and putting positive spin on it. I would argue that the Obama campaign was better run and therefore coverage of it resulted in more positive stories. Obama was up in the polls for much of October--he must have been doing something right. McCain on the other hand was going back and forth between messages. When the Bill Ayers/terrorist sympathizer stuff began, I don't see how the media could have covered that positively. Nonetheless, for the most part, I felt that most of the articles I read simply relayed the information that both of the campaigns were peddling. That is to say, even if the candidate (and this goes for both of them) said something untrue or arguable, the article often declined to set the record straight (that work was left to the fact-checker websites).

As to the Biden/Palin discrepancy. Joe Biden has been in the Senate for years! When Sarah Palin was introduced, no one new anything about her! The McCain campaign's failure to vet and properly introduce her (and beyond that their failure to pick someone with experience) left a huge void that the press, as part of their responsibility to curious readers and viewers, had to fill.

Posted by: alisonserene | November 13, 2008 11:36 AM | Report abuse

Cmon- who was more interesting than Sarah Palin? Looking into her real background makes tabloid stories look tame. And when are Levi and Bristol getting married anyway?

Posted by: silverspring25 | November 13, 2008 11:34 AM | Report abuse

I think the perceived 'bias' stems from the election itself, not from some embedded ideological conspiracy to promote Obama. Most journalists for the largest news sources are intellectually driven educated professionals. And the GOP has been quite anti-intellectual, particularly in this election, labeling such demographics as 'elitist'. Until the GOP goes back to its roots of William F. Buckley Jr. and Russell Kirk-style intellectual Conservatism (with a capital 'c'), journalists personally will continue to lean towards candidates like Obama, embodying intellectual deduction OVER right-wing reactionism. When the GOP produces a shinning Conservative candidate and an intellectually inspiring Conservative agenda I am sure more journalists will be moved enough and their own biases will bleed back into the pieces they write (as it did for Obama). I think its on the GOP to change in order to transform this perceived ideology within the media, and especially to rebound from their major disconnection from the population.

Posted by: speculative | November 13, 2008 11:33 AM | Report abuse

Yes there is media bias. The media let Bush and Limbaugh and the NeoCon swine drive this country into a ditch and never, not even now, placed the blame squarely where it belongs; with them! The media hasn't written any stories, at of substance, pointing out the consequences of outsourcing or hiring H1-B guest workers, the utter criminality of corporations and banks and their apologists on the right. We are facing an economic *catastrophy* that just might mark the end of this country and the media remains silent as to the real cause. The media doesn't dare blame the culture of greed that exists wit our corporations, with Wall Street, with Indian nationals running amuck drumming up even more outsourced jobs. It is the job of the media to discuss and expose all of this and it hasn't done it's job.

Posted by: mibrooks27 | November 13, 2008 11:28 AM | Report abuse

This all depends on how we're defining "bias" and "fairness." If "fairness" is providing equally positive or negative coverage of each of the candidates, then no, the the Washington Post wasn't fair. But I would argue that's a dumb way to define fairness, just as writing more negative stories about one candidate is not "bias."

The job of a newspaper is to print the truth, not to treat both candidates as equals. If one candidate lies frequently, and one doesn't lie as much, the news should reflect that. If one candidate goes predominantly negative, and one stays positive, the news should reflect that as well.

Thus, I don't think the Washington Post's coverage was unfair or biased in the least. The paper was simply reporting the relevant facts.

Posted by: ManUnitdFan | November 13, 2008 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Bias? MSM were thunderously silent on the proven numerous voter disenfranchisement efforts by Repubs across many states in the past 4 elections - this one too - while running endless stories tarring ACORN, misrepresenting their problems with renegade contractors. How about stories untouched by MSM of busted e-vote machines across several states flipping thousands of Obama votes to McCain, while the same machines never seemed to throw any the other way?

We heard about Ayers, but nothing about McCain's association with convicted felon G. Gordon Liddy who once spoke of aiming for the heads of ATF and FBI agents. We heard nothing about McCain and his buddy Phil Gramm pushing deregulation in the 90s that created the economic disaster we're in. We heard nothing about the academic qualifications of what it takes to make Harvard Law Review compared to the other candidate being 5th from the bottom of his class. Or what "community organizing" actually entails relative to leadership qualifications compared to crashing planes as the privileged offspring of admirals.

We endured a heartbeat-from-the-presidency candidate whining about sexism and media bias when she was so obviously undereducated she couldn't answer such softball questions as "what newspapers do you read?" and "Specific examples in (McCain's) 26 years of pushing for more regulation." (We won't go into her lack of knowledge about Supreme Court decisions.) There is no way to do a "positive story" in the face of such an obvious lack of qualifications for any high office.

And of course, MSM in its quest for WH access has not covered much the past 8 years about the very real war profiteering scandal going on. As someone who used to do investigative reporting, I am in agreement with those who believe the only media bias is going for the dough, wherever and however that can be done, and not reporting on anything that will rock the system's boat.

Posted by: laughingcat | November 13, 2008 11:25 AM | Report abuse

The Post was way better than the NY Times in this regard. Nevertheless, I do believe that the Post evidenced a consistent bias favorable to Obama, and it goes beyond the numerical count in Powell's Ombudsman article. The numerical count measures editors' judgments. There was a more visceral bias that was evident in the adjectives and adverbs used by the writers; glowing and euphoric for Obama (reinforcing a positive image); pejorative and patronizing in articles for McCain (reinforcing a negative image). Think of it as a linguistic tenor within articles themselves that reinforces a writer's leaning. To make matters worse, an article about Obama often went out of its way to insert negative contrast to McCain and the McCain campaign. Finally, articles purporting to be about McCain were often sprinkled with negative inuendo or oblique references to undesirable attributes. As if the writer resented having been assigned an unpopular subject. All of this is trickier to measure than the number of articles overall, but sadly tends to reinforce the general conclusion. The only saving grace in this discussion is that the Post writers were a bit more discreet in allowing their biases to show through than the NYTimes and other mainstream media types whose biases were transparent and undisguised.

Posted by: jgkbluesky | November 13, 2008 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Hindsight is 20/20 (borrowed). Let's backtrack to Friday, August 29, 2008. Senator McCain unveiled his running mate and the next tow to three weeks were all about the Republicans. Thre was very little news on then Senator Obamah, and none on Senator Joe Biden. These were good days for the Republicans, and they loved it. Incidentally, this was the period when Senator McCain 'surged' in the national polls. The talk about media bias for Obamah resumed, only after Gov. Palin began to give America an up close and personal view of who she is. The media merely covered her stories. Yes, she again dominated the news for another month, but since it was not to their liking, wallah! media bias. How was Joe B to make news when Joe The Plumber was more popular?

Posted by: wiltonc | November 13, 2008 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Media bias?

O.K. Let’s start with the obvious: lack of bias is a logical impossibility— an oxymoron. Media bias exists.

Is it a conservative bias or a liberal bias? This is also obvious: bias exists not just in the source but also in the eye of the beholder. Determining which way you see the bias is subjective.

Now that we have the obvious out of the way, for me real the question is who, which outlet, which reporters, which editors are doing the hard work of journalism, the digging into hidden records in an effort to provide the history and context of the story. Additionally, who seems to be working their sources? In short, who is doing the job and getting the job done? Note: who is doing the job and getting the job done is both two different questions and can be frustrating for media professionals. Sometimes doing the nitty-gritty work of the job does not mean you will also be successful at getting the job done. Sometimes luck (a source?) falls in the lap of the reporter / editor who did not do the required work.

To be clear: on some days many reporters and editors get passing grades and some days many reporters and editors do not.

And to be, perhaps yet clearer: the kind of analysis done by Ombudswoman Deborah Powell, compiling facts and figures about favorable / unfavorable stories, while admirable, tells me absolutely nothing.

This is a case where that office tells me nothing about bias. It tells me, rather, what the reporters and editors have decided was newsworthy.

Bias is uncovered the same way the job of reporting and editing uncovers stories: history, context and working the sources.

He said / she said (or I said / they said) reporting does not inform. Indeed, the interesting thing here may be that there is not enough bias in journalism. We label as bias things like favorable / unfavorable stories. Perhaps what we need and perhaps the point of admitting to bias is to boldly go where so few are willing to go: admit that in many cases someone or something held in front of the public for discussion is right and someone or something held in front of the public for public discussion is wrong.

Some will argue that those determinations are the job of the editorial page. On the other hand, if you are a cub reporter who is assigned to cover the fact that a house is burning down and you witness the firefighters letting the house burn while they play cards on in the front yard the story is clearly not the house burning down. The story is the firefighters playing cards.

Rev. Joe Connolly

Posted by: unchurch | November 13, 2008 11:04 AM | Report abuse

"Numbers of articles isn't a fair metric of bias."

Yeah, I'm trying to remember this study done at the end of the Democratic primaries. They concluded that Obama got more coverage, but that the coverage was more negative. I'm not sure if this was for the entire primary season or just post-Wright stuff.

Posted by: DDAWD | November 13, 2008 11:02 AM | Report abuse

I wanted to respond to an ksehy1's post about Iraq coverage. Actually, media coverage in Iraq went down after the "Mission Accomplished" sign was put up in '03.
(Sorry to use another publication as a site).
And also, is it possible that Obama and Palin received more media coverage than McCain and Biden because (stop me if you think I'm nuts) because they've been on the national scene for a couple of decades?

Posted by: AndrewDenney | November 13, 2008 11:00 AM | Report abuse

Powell's article caught my eye, too. For the most part, I found it to be an excercise in number crunching that didn't provide any feel for the substance of the Post's coverage.

Moreover, her assertion that there should have been more coverage of what a young Obama may or may not have done is striking. I'm an avid Post reader, but fail to remember many hard hitting stories on John McCain's younger days - his admitted carousing, womanizing, and quick divorce/remarriage. Nor do I recall much in-depth coverage of now President Bush's blurry admission of past drug use.

Barring articles sketching how early experiences shaped a politician into the man or woman he/she is today, this fascination with politicians' youthful misdeeds seems more fit for the supermarket tabloids. The Post's editors, no doubt, had more dignity. Not to mention respect, for both their subjects and their readers.

Posted by: dave_cny | November 13, 2008 10:54 AM | Report abuse

Bias is not new to the media, goes back to the days of yellow journalism. So the media has their chosen one as the next POTUS. Watch what happens to your first amendment rights Mr Cillizza when you criticize the man you are so enamored with.

Posted by: combatguitarearthlinknet | November 13, 2008 10:45 AM | Report abuse

Of course there was media bias in favor of Barrack Obama. Media bias covers things NOT mentioned on the front pages as well as what was. Most importantly was the total lack of coverage of the GOOD news out of Iraq for the entire campaign. Obama's national reputation began as an outspoken opponent to the invasion of Iraq and then post Saddam Hussein occupation of Iraq. As the news in Iraq got better, its coverage shrank. No major news outlets pressed Obama on the success in Iraq, nor was there glowing coverage crediting the Bush administration (or McCain for that matter) for the change in tactics that has resulted in a more stable Iraq. If Iraq was central to Obama's ascension to the national level, the lack of coverage from the major news outlets is shocking. McCain tried to press the issue by talking about the surge and its success, but the silence from news outlets was deafening.
The other glaring omission from the news outlets was on campaign finance. Obama had made a very public pledge to use public financing, but backed out of that pledge with very little heat from the media. Since campaign finance reform is one of McCain's major policy points, it would have been natural for more coverage about campaign finance policy and the repercussions of Obama opting out of that system. The net result of Obama's opting out and the lack of outrage by the media is that campaign finance reform is essentially dead. There is no way that another major political candidate will take public financing. Due to Obama's ability to spend unlimited amounts and put "safe" states in play, future candidates that cannot raise money and opt out of the campaign finance system will not make it through the primaries. This will continue to strangle the ability for third parties to gain traction and increase the influence of big donors. Another point that will encourage opting out is that auditing of how campaign funds is not automatic from the FEC if the candidate opts out. It IS automatic if a candidate uses public funds (as it should be). So not only is Obama not going to have to account for where he raised funds or how he spent them, McCain had to put funds aside to specifically pay for the automatic audit that comes from opting in.
In the next election, do not cry foul when both parties raise unlimited funds and are not responsible for transparency. This will be the direct result of the media sitting on their hands to protect a candidate they advocated for.

Posted by: ksyeh1 | November 13, 2008 10:44 AM | Report abuse

Bias is not new to the media, goes back to the days of yellow journalism. So the media has their chosen one as the next POTUS. Watch what happens to your first amendment rights Mr Cillizza when you criticize the man you are so enamered with.

Posted by: combatguitarearthlinknet | November 13, 2008 10:43 AM | Report abuse

Wait, let me get this straight--the Post has a liberal bias because it ran more stories about Obama, but it also has a liberal bias because it ran more stories about Palin? How does that work?

Posted by: Sarahfran | November 13, 2008 10:26 AM | Report abuse

The right wing thinks that MSM is liberal, and the left wing thinks that MSM is conservative, so for the most part MSM must be not too far away from center.

Me, I was a Joe Biden supporter, and believe me, 50% or more of the coverage Joe got was negative. The substance of what he said was rarely covered - only the things he mis-spoke, or the things he said that people thought were strange were endlessly repeated, and these were often cherry-picked out of context. Considering that these "mistakes" were only a fraction of 1% of all the speaking he did, I thought it was very unfair coverage. They also wrote stories about how unpopular Joe was - so unpopular that he barely had any press on the plane with him.

It seemed as though much of the media tried their best to marginalize Joe a lot of the time, by attempting to define him as a fool or a buffoon. I volunteered for him in Iowa and I know that he is neither of those, and as much as I heard him speak, I never heard a "gaffe" either.

Posted by: cacatua | November 13, 2008 10:20 AM | Report abuse

I don't see any great need for more coverage of Obama's adolescent drug use. It was disclosed, and it's apparent he's not a drug user now and hasn't been for a long time. What more is there to know. Also, although the Post may not have written a lot about Tony Rezko, my impression is that the Chicago Tribune covered that story in great detail. Does everybody need to write the same stories?

Posted by: ndgirl | November 13, 2008 10:18 AM | Report abuse

"For today's Wag the Blog question, we want to hear from the Fix community. Was the coverage in the Post (and on the biased toward Obama? Why or why not?"

-- The Fix

Uhhh. Yes. Your ombudsman's critique, detailed as it was, was pretty mild. I second her (mild) critique but add that there are a few things she completely failed to address:

Your ombudsman's biggest omission was the number of times and ways in which the Post engaged in what, by most measures, was sexist or age-discriminatory in its "reporting". Like most media, it went over the line many times, in which its "bias" was gender or age bigotry.

There is, at this time, little point in dissecting your ombudsman's critique of the Post coverage. Barack Obama has been elected because it became obvious in the closing weeks of the general election that John McCain was caught unprepared on economics and was floundering, and then reduced his campaign to hypocritically attacking Obama on character negatives that McCain's campaign had passed on when Obama got a pass on them during primary season, thus helping Obama beat Hillary Clinton. John McCain obviously had nothing constructive to say after the Wall Street meltdown struck, and his campaign became a hypocritical, negative one.

Since John McCain's economic incoherence was so clearly highlighted by historic events since September, it is my opinion that Obama emerged as the better candidate in the sense that as an historic, younger candidate he seems much better equipped, psychologically, to deal with historic, global dislocations -- economic as well as social and environmental.

So in my view it is unproductive to try to rehash the media's obviously corrupt and prejudiced professional behavior this year.

But, the self-important media commentators should be aware that were it not for historic and unprecedented economic events, it would have pushed an unvetted candidate on an inattentive public.

As it is, the details of either candidate's ideas and backgrounds paled in importance compared to the difficulties the next president will face. Obama may be presiding over a depression, not a new Democratic Camelot era.

--"And, if you believe there was bias, what can be done to remedy it between now and 2012?"

It's already being done. Media companies are losing their credibility as information outlets when even the spins of biased "factcheckers" can easily be debunked using There will be a lot of pink slips, mergers, acquisitions and contraction of mainstream media newsrooms.

Posted by: AsperGirl | November 13, 2008 10:16 AM | Report abuse

I think the Biden/Palin coverage was biased, though not because of bias among Post reporters. Biden never got the same scrutiny as Palin, but Biden was also a known quantity to the media; not so Palin. That natural curiosity led to additional scrutiny. As well, the campaign's sheltering Palin from interviews and the media meant that the media went looking at her past rather than her present, and when the media (not the Post here) did get to talk to Palin, the media felt obliged to make it a high-profile event with disproportionate coverage and scrutiny.

While some may complain about the lack of focus on Obama's past, I think it was fair since McCain's past received little true focus either.

It is certainly possible that there was bias beyond this, but it wasn't obvious to me. A statistical study of stories (positive v. negative) taking into account Obama having a longer primary would be needed to make a proper analysis of media bias. I clearly don't have time to do that.

Posted by: mustafahirji | November 13, 2008 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Numbers of articles isn't a fair metric of bias. Palin was an unknown quantity, while most of Biden's 30-year career was already well documented. Obama's popularity (viz the election results) shows greater interest in stories about him.

Besides, "the media" is populated by real flesh and blood humans who are not automatons. If they recognize a candidate as more interesting or more qualified or more bizarre, then I EXPECT the media to pass that information on.

Posted by: egc52556 | November 13, 2008 10:07 AM | Report abuse

Biden was a Senator for 20+ years. Palin was a total unknown. Of course you look into her more. She blew onto the scene like a deus ex machina. The country rightfully asked (through the press) who is this person?

We know everything there is to know about Biden, including that he says dumb stuff. There's no story there...

McCain want's positive coverage while running a negative campaign, from behind?? What?

If Obama is running in front, as a young black man with a muslim like name, the Press isn't supposed to report that, unless they can make up a positive story about McCain? What?

Howell, who I respect, was / is way off base in counting stories.

Posted by: JkR- | November 13, 2008 10:04 AM | Report abuse

I don't remember one story on the AIP. I don't remember extensive coverage of McCain's many gaffe's, the Keating Five or his flip flops on Bush's policies. No one echoed that he was a terrorist, a secret Muslim or a Marxist. No one demanded he release his medical records or complained when he "released" them for several hours in a room with no note taking. No one complained when Palin didn't release her records at all. Yes, there is a media bias, for conservatives, and it is entrenched at the Post, from Little Debbie, to Howie, to Fred Hiatt. I guess that explains how it still gets framed as a bias for Obama.

Posted by: havok26 | November 13, 2008 10:04 AM | Report abuse

I will try to keep the CAPS LOCK to a minimum. If there was a bias, it was towards a good story. There was a bias in 2000 when John McCain welcomed the press into his couldn't-be-tamed Straight Talk Express. There was a bias in 2008 when Barack Obama was poised to become the first African-American president. Why don't we just admit that they were both good stories.

Posted by: steeleswitters | November 13, 2008 10:01 AM | Report abuse

Oh, definitely the news media are biased. That's what led almost 67 million liberal America-haters to vote for Obama. We all receive our orders from Ted Kennedy, the New York Times, and MSNBC. Meanwhile, the 58 million who voted for McBush are clear-thinking patriots.

But seriously, when you get your butt kicked, I guess you have to blame something other than the top of your ticket - Mr. Unstable and Ms. Unable - and the outgoing war criminals. By the way, have you noticed that the outgoing administration is trying to nationalize the economy? Isn't that the very "socialism" of which they accused Obama?

Worst. President. Ever.

Posted by: spotfoul | November 13, 2008 10:00 AM | Report abuse

Look. Criticizing the media is cheap and easy. It is rather like beating up on Congress or the Pentagon or the United Nations. These are large, impersonal institutions having many different perspectives, fiefdoms and empires dwelling within them.

One of the fav current carps coming from the right in reaction to the low approval ratings of President Bush is to cite the even lower approval numbers of "Congress". Of course, the right means democrats in Congress; bit, if poll numbers are to be believed, democrats in Congress enjoy a 12 to 15 point advantage over republicans in their approval ratings, so what dfoes that mean?

Similarly, the media is not the monolith creature that its critics pretend it is when they villify it. For conservatives, the bias is liberal. For liberals, the bias is conservatives. For independents, it is in favor of the corporate ruling elites. For others, the media is just a gang of foul, relentless thugs--the paparazzi--in search of sleaze.

This is my point. Rush Limbaugh and Matt Drudge are as much the media as is Katie Couric, the New York Times and Chris Matthews. Fox news is as much the media as is CNN. And for every Huffington Post or Politico there is a National Review Online or

To be sure, there is bias in the media. But, the nice thing about it is that it comes from all wildly divergent perspectives and we, the people, get to choose.

Posted by: jaxas | November 13, 2008 9:54 AM | Report abuse

The whole conversation about whether the media is biased seems silly if for no other reason than what is considered "bias" is completely objective.

Chris Matthews' "thrill" comment wasn't the "media" being biased. It was him commenting on how he felt about a speech. It's the same sort of feeling I often hear about when Democrats refer to Reagan as the Great Communicator. They pinpoint certain things he said and comment in the positive.

The Post Ombudsman should be fired! On one end you have people saying that the media didn't cover much of McCain's past associations and yes Cindy's drug use. Is that media bias? On the other you have people saying that the information about McCain was "old news" and the media would be biased in bringing it up. Is that biased?

Guess what? I didn't know anything about Cindy's drug use nor McCain's past associations. Rev. Wright and company were played in continous loops on every liberal and conservative airwave. Was the media biased by bringing it up since the sermons themselves were "old news?"

I believe that the media wasn't necessarily biased towards Obama. He just ran a more positive, inclusive campaign which resulted in more positive coverage.

My criticism of the media is that many pundits/reporters/commentators etc. seemed interested in making the news rather than reporting it. See: Dana Milbank's debunked Obama story, NYT's McCain adultery story, FoxNews' Michelle "whitey" story. If nothing else, the media needs to take a real look at themselves and figure out if they want to be tabloid, rabble-rousers or they want to go back to journalism school.

The "unbiased media" did very little to dissaude americans that Obama wasn't a Muslim, Socialist and in the later stages of the campaign, a terroist sympathizer. The incessant coverage proved more harmful than not. These stories weren't honorable mentions like Cindy's drug use or McCain's military record.

Yes, this is the view from an Obama supporter and I doubt anyone can objectively deny what was said here.

Posted by: dcis1 | November 13, 2008 9:54 AM | Report abuse

The bias FOR Obama and AGAINST McCain showed up most obviously in two areas - (1) the CHOICE of stories the Post decided to devote time to develop and publish, and (2) the timing of their publishing. In McCain's case, the hatchet job on his wife's drug problems was a CHOICE to do that story. Unlike a story on McCain that would delve into the Keating 5 (even though old news), there wasn't an obvious public policy reason for running it. The bias shows up in what stories the Post is CURIOUS about doing and running. The Post editorial staff had NO curiosity about Obama's time at Columbia, no curiosity about his drug use and NO hatchet job on "MONEY IN POLITICS" on Obama's reneging on a choice to sit down w/McCain and talk about financing. If the Rs had done that it would have been front page news not just once, but SEVERAL times. Contributors would have been identified and the "benefit of the doubt" would never have been assumed. I found myself yearning for a story on this issue - not just on the amount of money Obama collected in September but from WHO - and the Post never took that angle.

Again, it's the CHOICE of stories to pursue.

Finally, there's no reason why Biden should get a pass when he said that FDR was on television every many other gaffes he makes are simply mistakes, as are those made by Palin. But if you criticize Palin you should criticize Biden.

Posted by: failsafe | November 13, 2008 9:48 AM | Report abuse

Howell neglected to mention that most of the press gave McCain a pass on his military record, which was spotty, at best - not to mention his history of womanizing, not just with Cindy while still married, but with many others. To focus on Obama's casual teenage drug use would be even less relevant than that omission from news stories.

How old is Howell, anyway? Is she not aware that teenagers have pretty frequently experimented with drugs since the 1960s. Obviously, whatever Obama did didn't prevent him from getting good grades and being accepted first to Occidental College and then to Columbia University. A "druggie" would have difficulty competing at those schools.

If anyone thinks Obama got a pass from the press, just remember that he was only candidate who had to repeatedly tell the press that he was not a muslim, that he did salute the flag, and explain why he wasn't wearing a flag pin - and the only one who answered such questions from the press during a debate.

Posted by: johnsonc2 | November 13, 2008 9:42 AM | Report abuse

The country is in severe trouble now in part because the MSM neither knew nor cared to learn about the records and personalities of Bush and Cheney. If they had done the hard work of looking into these men failures and lack of regard for the law and lack of regard for people in general, there might have been a different outcome.

Barack Obama may turn out to be a man who respects the Constitution and treats the people of the country with more respect and regard than Bush/Cheney. So far, there is little evidence of that. And there have been no questions. Will he be as imperious and despotic as Bush/Cheney? Given his personality, it is imperative that those kinds of questions be asked. After 8 years of secrecy and extra-Constitutional rule, why have no questions been even asked to Obama regarding his FISA position and his wacky scary national security force idea?

Obama's past was ignored by the Post. His poor legislative track record was ignored. Only the Houston Press (in an article by Todd Spivak "Obama Screamed at Me" and later changed to Barack Obama and Me") ever examined his legislative record. His troubling connections were untouched until the right wing exposed them. His lack of personal warmth and humor and suspicious nature remains unexplored.

What can be done to remedy the bias? Do your homework. Quit acting like subjects of a ruler. The president works for the American people and needs to be accountable. Quit being cowed and infatuated. Not only will the press improve, the President will be a better President if he is forced to be subservient to the people and work for his living.

Posted by: ophelia3 | November 13, 2008 9:34 AM | Report abuse

The big problem was simply because someone had been on the national scene for a long time, much of the press assumed that the public knew everything important about that person. This was evident in the primaries when in fact the Rezko issue was studied pretty intensively. There simply was nothing there. You had these long pieces on Obama's formative years at Harvard Law or as the UofChicago prof and soforth. Nothing was made of Hillary's associations. I don't know if there was anything to report, but once Hillary started hammering Obama over Ayers, her own shady associates had to actually out themselves. They didn't get much attention, but this was after the primaries had pretty much been settled.

I think I could have lived the rest of my life without hearing on how Obama used drugs as a teenager (apparently this is Howell's idea of a relevant issue), but I do think Biden was woefully undercovered. Yes, he has been on the stage for a long time, but that doesn't mean most people have a clue as to who he is. Just some background, some of his voting record, some of his controversial statements. Palin is new to the scene for Belway insiders, but I'm willing to bet a lot of people don't know much about Biden.

And again, simply because one person receives more favorable coverage doesn't indicate bias. Mother Teresa received far more favorable coverage than Charlie Manson. McCain really did run a despicable campaign. Yes, Obama wasn't completely above the belt 100% of the time, but to say that the campaigns and the ideas of both campaigns were equally meritorious is creating a false equivalence.

Posted by: DDAWD | November 13, 2008 9:26 AM | Report abuse

"Media Follies'(sung to "Camptown Races")
Chris Matthews says his job is done,doodah
Now that his messiah's won,oh doodah day
And Campbell Brown she shoots no bull ( "")
She's always been Obama's girl ("" "" "")
Tellin' lies all night,tellin' lies all day
they take the truth and twist it 'round
to what they want to say
the media picks it's photos well (doodah)
made poor Sara look like hell,oh doodah day
Time magazine's got a front page spread (")
With a halo 'round Obama's head ("" "" "")
Tellin' lies all night,tellin'ies all day
they take the truth and twist it 'round
to what they want to say

Posted by: philagumbo108 | November 13, 2008 9:24 AM | Report abuse

ernest121: Seems to me you were purposely looking for negative stories about Obama, whether they had a basis in reality or not, so you "chose" to go to right wing media to shore up an opinion you already had. Don't blame the media for your own bias.

Posted by: DJShay | November 13, 2008 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Both Palin & Obama got more media attention because they were new on the scene compared to McCain and Biden who've been around forever. Frankly, they were much more interesting than two older white men. I thought the media was far more biased against Al Gore in 2000. They happily repeated all the Bush/Rove talking points(lies)about Gore and promoted the idea that Bush was a really nice guy who Americans would enjoy having as president.

Posted by: HFNY | November 13, 2008 9:19 AM | Report abuse

the post is biased towards selling newspapers. nothing else.

Posted by: djp2 | November 13, 2008 9:16 AM | Report abuse

Of course there is a media bias. When I say media here I'm talking about papers like the WaPo and the NYT. These outlets are for THINKING people. Therefore their stock in trade include facts, carefully studied opinions, and above all erudition. That being said, the morons who angrily holler "media bias" because these outlets don't report things the way they see the world, have something of a point (on their heads at least).

For these people I have some advice - go read the Washington Times. They report the news the way you would like. Think about all the anger and frustration you'll avoid. You can get up each morning peruse that poor excuse for a newspaper, sip your instant coffee, slobber down a gooey Kripy Kreme donut and face the day knowing that you're not alone - well, almost.

Posted by: adrienne_najjar | November 13, 2008 9:16 AM | Report abuse

Palin was covered more then Biden. Perhaps that's because she was a no body on the national scene who was never vetted.

Conservatives then whine that Obama was a nobody and apparently two years of vetting wasn't enough. But somehow this doesn't keep them from complaining that Obama got more coverage then McCain. Really, they'll complain about media bias no matter what, it's easier then arguing the issues.

If there was a media bias, it was to focus on the trivial stuff too much and not as much on serious policy. McCain certainly didn't help in that regard.

Posted by: theamazingjex | November 13, 2008 9:13 AM | Report abuse

I would have to agree with "newsagent99." I've seen you as a guest commentator on cable news and I was under the impression that you were pro-Obama. Of course I could be wrong but that's the impression I got.

Posted by: samebs | November 13, 2008 9:11 AM | Report abuse


The numbers certainly indicate perceived bias, but I don't think they reflect actual bias. This will sound partisan, but if McCain had picked anyone other than Palin the coverage may have been considerably more balanced numerically. Biden, McCain, and Obama were (to varying degrees) known quantities by the conventions. Palin was not, and her gaffes drew a fair amount of scrutiny from media generally, which in turn fed news about her.

As for the lack of Obama background stories, these were things which came up when he was running against Hillary, they were well reported over the course of a two year campaign, and Obama owned up to some things (Rezko) and gave reasonable answers to explain others (Ayers). Had the media reported them more extensively, it would have only been in response to the McCain campaign constantly bringing them up. I doubt there were that many people still in the dark about Obama's preacher, so how would increased coverage of this have helped? Partly, this also may be an indicator of the greater roll "new media" played in this campaign, wherein a lot of negative stuff about Obama was in video, rather than print.

Objective coverage would also reflect that fact that McCain's campaign appeared to lack a unified strategy, message discipline (think of all the anti-Palin leaks in the closing weeks), and sense of purpose. I often got the sense that many in the media were convinced that McCain didn't even believe what he was saying much of the time based on his long history of candid policy conversations with anyone who would listen prior to the campaign.

One campaign was making mistakes, and received additional coverage because of it. It is also worth noting that McCain did not have the same experience as Obama in the primaries. Had Hillary dropped out earlier, negative stories about Obama would have been deployed by McCain in October as fresh news rather than a rehash of known quantities that did not work the first time around.

Posted by: hiberniantears | November 13, 2008 9:10 AM | Report abuse

I think it is telling that to get any facts on Obama, I had to check the right's literature and web sites. I was curious why nothing could be found in the "regular" media. I found that the MSM was mostly defending Obama. An example is that I never read or heard discussion on Obama's support for FOCA, which would pave the way for abortion on demand. More than anything I think the MSM's demonstration in this election will call for a return to the values of good journalism. I would love to see the likes of Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley again. The closest we come is Alan Colmes and Sean Hannity. With all the hoopla over readership and viewership, it is no wonder that media outlets are hitching a ride on the most popular or provocative position and riding the wave. I will be interested in seeing the same coverage of Obama during his term. Already I hear and read of how difficult the task will be, which will excuse Obama if he can't do what he said he would do. The promise should be to hold his feet to the fire because we gave him his post through hope and trust. I would like to think the media feels the same trust and hope that they will perform with honor.

Posted by: ernest121 | November 13, 2008 9:08 AM | Report abuse

MScholar you said..."Palin was covered so intently because so little was known about her"

FYI; little is known about Obama, at least according to Tom Brokaw. If only the media had done their jobs, maybe we would have known more.

TOM BROKAW: We don't know a lot about Barack Obama and the universe of his thinking about foreign policy.

TOM BROKAW: There's a lot about him we don't know.

Posted by: samebs | November 13, 2008 9:01 AM | Report abuse

The turn these recent comments are taking, toward comparing coverage of palin vs. obama does reflect the push by democrats during the campaign to make it a palin vs. obama race (including the innocuous 'one heartbeat away...' argument). Bias in the press during the campaign was evident, especially toward the end, in picking up this way of thinking, without really addressing presidential canditate vs. candidate, as readers should demand.

Posted by: georgeh | November 13, 2008 8:58 AM | Report abuse

gee, mr. fix , given you were one of the extremely biased columnist, does this really come as a surprize.. or are you still blinded?

Posted by: newagent99 | November 13, 2008 8:56 AM | Report abuse

I thought the Washington Post and its website weren't biased. I think Ms. Howell misses the point: Palin was covered so intently because so little was known about her and even as Governor of Alaska was a semi-private citizen. Biden has been a public figure since the 1970s and had been through the rigor twice in running for President. I think it logically follows that reporting on the unknown and focusing resources on that reporting makes sense.

Similarly, just because Obama had more laudatory pieces regarding him against McCain does not mean that there is bias. Ms. Howell seems to take issue with the op-ed section being tilted towards Obama, but the purpose of that section is to present an opinion. And if even conservative columnists were questionable about McCain's campaign & his positions and wrote opinion pieces on that, it is not the Post's responsibility to force them to change their minds.

The back-and-forth about whether a particular media outlet has a liberal or conservative bias, to me, just strengthens my belief that there is most likely none there. There may be some exceptions (Fox News is generally regarded as conservative and MSNBC is recently being generally seen as liberal), but that's exactly what they are: exceptions.

The only true bias in media is money.


Posted by: MScholarC04 | November 13, 2008 8:53 AM | Report abuse

Chris Matthews quotes in reference to Obama...

"I felt This thrill going up my leg"

"I want to do everything I can to make this thing work, this new presidency work. Yeah, it is my job"

If that's not media bias, I don't know what is.

Posted by: samebs | November 13, 2008 8:53 AM | Report abuse

Obama certainly received more attention from the media, but that isn't necessarily unfair or even a positive for him. Too much coverage lends itself to increased expectations and an overload of info on the good and the bad on Obama.

Bias is simply in the eye of the beholder. Ideology and and political leanings define it all.

Posted by: parkerfl1 | November 13, 2008 8:49 AM | Report abuse

@nycLeon - So, do you support Obama or not? Frankly it sounds like you are extremely distrustful of him. The Rev. Wright episode was replayed in endless loops on ALL news outlets for weeks. And you're saying he got a pass? Were you living under a rock when this was revealed? It got so bad he felt compelled to make the speech on race. And the Trade Agreement snafu was played out on the news outlets for a long time. Remember the Ohio primaries? Austin Goolsbee was in the news every day. The Michelle comment, the Bitter comment. He took hits in the polls, if you'll remember. He was able to overcome this though by being a much better candidate.

Posted by: DJShay | November 13, 2008 8:48 AM | Report abuse

Anyone who claims, with a straight face, that the media has a conservative bias, after this election, is clearly delusional. And the length of time that McCain has been around, and is old news, did not stop the rehashing of Cindy McCain's drug problem, although that is old news. Did the Post run stories about the fact that Michelle Obama's salary was doubled after his election to the Senate, and his procurement of millions in earmarks for UChicago Hospital? Or the almost 1 billion in earmarks that he procured, in his short two years in the Senate? We know all the minute details of Sarah Palin'e life, but did the Post run any stories about Joe Biden's former bank lobbyist son and his indictment for fraud in relation to his hedge fund? Considering the recent news, that would have been a timely story. And imagine if Sarah Palin had invented an imaginary war with Hamas in Lebanon, as Biden did in the debate. Imagine the howls of derision.

Posted by: kshannon27 | November 13, 2008 8:46 AM | Report abuse

Oh, so poor John McCain got only 48% of the stories to Obama's 52%. (Those figures are based on Ms. Howell's data)
The same percentages except for B&W photos and colour photos.

So maybe the Post should print a tally with every story.

Now, as for Ms. Howell's 52-48 "tilt", does it follow that the coverage was "bias?"

Posted by: edlharris | November 13, 2008 8:41 AM | Report abuse





This is all correct - however they left out the situation over Jeremiah Wright - the media allowed Obama to get out of a clear bind by proclaiming that Obama had "made the best speech since Gettysburg"


The media should have brought to light how close the connections were between Obama and the philosophy of the hate church.


Clearly the speech was terrible to anyone who had bothered to carefully comprehend what was being said. Sorry guys.





Posted by: 37thOSt | November 13, 2008 8:40 AM | Report abuse

Was there a similar count of articles done for the 2000 and 2004 elections? Just curious to see how those numbers add up.

Also, it seems that everytime McCain or Palin (or Clinton in the primaries) called out Rev. Wright or Bill Ayers -- then another "research" article was written about Obama's association with them. As Howell states, the Post did cover the Retzko connections. The Post also ran an AP story (I think) on how Obama was grumpy with reporters on Halloween night, when he was with his daughter.

So yes, Obama may have had more news stories written about him, but they were not necessarily positive.

I would have liked to see more coverage of Biden. Not just the Post, but every media outlet seemed to pass him by in favor of some comment or gaffe by Palin. The few articles I saw on Biden also included his gaffes. Could any media outlet just focus on the content and the candidates positions, instead of on stupid things they said? If journalists had simply asked Palin again to define her position specifically...well, the result might have been the same but we don't know. I think the media does have the responsibility to get the questions back on track, instead of going over and over again about either candidates slip of the tongue.

Posted by: brigid1 | November 13, 2008 8:23 AM | Report abuse

Here's an example of media bias...
AP claimed that when Palin linked Obama to Bill Ayers, that was "racially tinged." AP was playing the racecard against Palin; by the way, Bill Ayers is white. What was the point of the racism charge? In my opinion, it was to help Obama's campaign by making it politically incorrect for McCain-Palin to bring up Bill Ayers.

Posted by: samebs | November 13, 2008 8:18 AM | Report abuse

I volunteered intensively for the Obama campaign because I am left politically and can barely say the "dirty R word" that other party without choking.

That being said, there was undoubtably media bias this cycle toward Barak. Nothing he said or did was challenged- it was a cake walk. I liked the posts that compared what HRC was put through to what he was put through. She embellished Bosnia- he actually sent an envoy to another country to tell them that he was not serious about what he was saying to try to win a primary- which one is really news? The Wright story (a man he had a 18 year relationship, whom he credits as a mentor and guid in "dreams of my father" and who was saying this stuff clearly in front of Barak many times) was on the internet for a year and some months before ABC picked it up. Let's imagine that HRC had close ties to some radical feminist who went in front of crowds saying that women should not deal with men at all- etc. and that she gave ~20,000$ to this person over the years that they knew each other- would that be labeled as Wright was as an attack on her rather than a questioning of her judgement? They allowed rhetoric to replace actually policy proposals as well.

The media willingly went along with the stereotyping of the other parties candidates as "old" and "stupid". There was little talk of the vast issue differences between the candidates.

As a lefty, my fear is that the American Public bought a candidate rather than an agenda- and now driving the agenda may be difficult, as I don't think the majority of people are really at that point where they are willing to make sacrifices- which is what we need now. When I was doing canvassing from the Obama volunteers SUVs- it made me think- maybe some of these supporters are missing something...

Posted by: nycLeon | November 13, 2008 8:15 AM | Report abuse

Let he who is without bias cast the first stone. This fantasy of 'objective' reporting is an impossible standard to uphold. When someone can reasonably ask the question "Did the media hew to its' traditional 85% support for the democratic candidate, or did we reach the 90's this time?", you don't really have a serious question.

The numbers Ms. Howell reports are telling, but the areas that she indicates warrant further scrutiny aren't the important ones.

The accusation that the media missed some 'smoking gun' evidence that would have changed the outcome is not credible. The profit motive (I guess we call it greed, this week) is a pretty strong incentive to get those stories out, and out in your paper/show/outlet first.

The biggest issue is that Mr. Obama was allowed to develop a narrative for the future that involves no pain, no sacrifice, for most 'ordinary' Americans. As his decisions get tougher, the howling will begin.

As an example, a better accounting of the 'tax cut for 95% of Americans' would've helped -- the plan is something only a lawyer could dream up -- but instead, Mr. Obama is going to have to spend time (in the spring, I guess?) explaining it over again.

Posted by: daggar | November 13, 2008 8:11 AM | Report abuse

You claim that the first priority is to get the story right first. If the story is that candidate A is running a crappy campaign for 2 months straight and candidate B's campaign is run considerably better, then facts are facts. The problem comes when the media tries to put an artificial balance on it for the sake of appearing too biased. That's when the media falls down on it's job. If there's nothing positive to report on, don't "spin" the story just for the sake of balance. I'm sorry all you McCain supporters, but he ran a crappy campaign. And the media reflected this.

Posted by: DJShay | November 13, 2008 8:04 AM | Report abuse

Pew research came to the conclusion that 57 percent of the print and broadcast stories in reference to McCain was negative, 29 percent of the media's coverage of Barack Obama was negative.

Posted by: samebs | November 13, 2008 7:58 AM | Report abuse

I think Howell (not Powell) pointed out the glaring omission of coverage, that being of Tony Rezko. I don't think this was necessarily idealogical, imagine if Hillary Clinton had Obama's relationship with Rezko. Clearly, a large portion of the media became swept up in Obamania, and resorted to reacting to Republican attacks (Ayers, Wright, and over-the-top ones like socialist and Muslim) instead of doing their job and getting out in front of these issues. All of the rather unprecedented admissions by those in the media that Obama's candidacy overwhelmed them in one way or another led to a transparent and almost comical favorable disposition, and this is coming from an Obama supporter.

As for 2012, I think the remedy is near inherent. With the remarkably high expectations the country has for an Obama presidency, the media is certain to begin heavy scrutiny of his every move. Let's face it, the media loves building up a larger-than-life figure then destroying them. And concerning healthy scrutiny of whoever the Republican candidate is in 2012, I don't think many are worried about that.

Posted by: DMC515 | November 13, 2008 7:51 AM | Report abuse

Chris, the media has a clear profit-seeking bias. I bet if you controlled for the number of clicks, you'd find the stories that were run one week closely matched the stories that were read a short time before. You get more Palin stories because no one was interested in reading about a guy who'd been around already for 36 years, and more Obama stories for a similar reason.

The tenor of those stories have to do with what is juicy enough to get a read. Obama certainly got heaped on when Wright was new, but when McCain didn't press it in the election, it was already old news. By the time we got to Ayers, there were more eyeball sucking stories elsewhere, so it got short-shrift, especially to the new story that Obama had things locked up -- which after a year of campaigning was something that might attract more attention.

And anything about Palin was gold, mostly because of the soap operatic nature of her roll out and campaign.

Posted by: Section506 | November 13, 2008 7:50 AM | Report abuse

It's hard to find any media outlet that covers both political parties equally and without slant. Even if they try to report objectively, the media outlet's editorial views will cloud what the reader comes away with.

I agree with some of the posters who say that Obama and Palin received more coverage due to their newness on the scene. Biden and McCain are known quantities and each were raked through the coals during previous presidential campaigns.

I also agree the media often act like sheep in these matters and focus on what other outlets are reporting. Palin received very positive reporting in the early days and the public bought it at first. It actually wasn't until voters began to sour on her that the media did as well.

Not sure how to change this moving forward. Obviously more prominence of fact checking when charges are leveled against candidates would be helpful. (And a return to the Fairness Doctrine will help as well.)

However, at the end of the day, I prefer to read/watch media outlets that generally share my views (although I do read/watch others).

Posted by: RickJ | November 13, 2008 7:48 AM | Report abuse

Face it, the "media bias" charge was invented by the right to prove that Republican losses don't reflect that most people think their policies stink -- they're still right and if the media hadn't smeared them "the truth" would have won out. It's an emotional salve for sore losers.

Besides, if the media was so leftist we'd have heard a lot more (as we should have) about how the Patriot Act threw out at least 3 of the 10 Amendments that make up the Bill of Rights; we'd have had a lot more about how judges were fired for not doing Republican Party bidding; we'd have heard endless stories about how the administration broke all sorts of laws and rules regarding how energy policies are to be made; and the list could go on.

Liberal bias? Please. Until W's ratings began to tank during his last 2 years the media gave that man the biggest pass I've ever seen.

Posted by: bushbad1 | November 13, 2008 7:47 AM | Report abuse

While the columns and blogs may have some left learning bias, I don't believe it is a systemic problem in the media in general. IF you read more of the "news" stories, they do portray and fairly balanced account of events and ideas. The perception of bias probably comes from the same perception of fairness that children have - you have to be exactly equal or you are biased. But just like you don't divide six cookies evenly between a twelve year old and a two year old, you don't necessarily cover campaigns or individuals with one for you and one for the other approach. Fair should be judged by each story - did the association between Obama and Ayers get covered and investigated? Yes. Etc. McCain and Palin probably shot themselves in the foot by closing her off to reporters and claiming any question was sexist. I am aware all of this stemmed from some report or blog about her daughter initially, but as someone who reads three newspapers a day, I never saw any mention of that until the campaign issued the official statement. To assume that blogs are the press and to lump everyone together (as the left does with Limbaugh and others) shows lack of perspective.

Posted by: puppiesandkitties | November 13, 2008 7:43 AM | Report abuse

The Post should report the news, not balance the news. Unlike Howell, the Post should strive not be intimidated by those claiming bias.

Posted by: spidey103 | November 13, 2008 7:42 AM | Report abuse

Journalists are often thinking people that are interested in how the world works and are generally inquisitive. These people often are – or become – liberal. Others become journalists because they want to promote their political view – these people can have any type of political ideology. No one can be totally unbiased, so it is likely that the coverage has had some kind of slant.

Journalists that want to dig into things like a candidate’s teenage habits, if they had talked to someone 20 years ago etc – are not really interested in politics or in the world around them – since these issue doesn’t have anything to do with the candidate’s current and future performance whatsoever. This is the second category of “journalists” and the less we see from them the better.

I don’t think that the Post or anyone else should have to follow up that kind of dirt for any candidate – leave that to the tabloid press and for gossip bloggers. I think Fix and the Post has done a good job!

On the other hand – media must be aware how easily they – and the rest of us – are caught up in mass psychosis, like during the build up to the Iraq War. This is a reminder to always question oneself.

Posted by: dantheS | November 13, 2008 7:40 AM | Report abuse

FYI; According to Pew Research who recently did a study on media bias during this election....YES! THE MEDIA WAS BIAS AND FAVORED OBAMA WITH POSITIVE COVERAGE. You don't know this? Maybe print media is too busy trying to figure out a way to get their government bailout too.

Posted by: samebs | November 13, 2008 7:40 AM | Report abuse

I'm not sure it is reasonable to measure bias only in terms of numbers of articles written. What if there is more public interest in a particular candidate? Why is it "bias" for a paper's reporting to reflect that?

The total number of articles written in the Post ended up going 55%-45% to Obama. The popular vote in the election was 53%-46% to Obama. Seems to me the Post was pretty close to representing public opinion in its reporting.

Posted by: Boutan | November 13, 2008 7:37 AM | Report abuse

I agree with Shep from Foxnews...the media bias story is a crock.

The real story is that the media is incompetent and ball-less, regardless of their biases.

Narcissism, greed, complacency abounds.

Posted by: wpost4112 | November 13, 2008 7:20 AM | Report abuse

LOL. Of course the media was biased for Obama. The Pew Research group shows that 70% of Americans agree and that includes a lot of Democrats.

Anyone who claims that there is any conservative bias is insane.

Posted by: bobmoses | November 13, 2008 7:19 AM | Report abuse

The WaPo was so in the bag for Obama, I'd like to see the accounting records and verify how much the Obama campaign paid you so called "reporters". A more telling number would be how many articles were positive for each candidate. %99.99 of all Obam articles were treating him like The second coming of Jesus. I would guess that almost all McCain/Palin articles were slanted negetive.

Posted by: trjn30 | November 13, 2008 7:18 AM | Report abuse

I think the lower number of articles about Biden and McCain reflect the fact that both were known entities coming into the race. How many times can the Post tell us Biden and McCain's life stories -- we knew them already. Voting records? Histories in public service? Political outlook? We knew that already, too. So, Cindy gets raked over the coals (hadn't heard all of that story yet) and Biden's speaking errors (entertaining but insignificant) were endlessly covered.

So, the new faces got a lot more press because they were NEW, and the media swarms to new the way it swarms over train wrecks. Obama's race and what his popularity inicated about our country got a lot of press. It was worth thinking about. Obama trying drugs in High School is supposed to concern us? Not really -- it clearly isn't an issue in his life as an adult. As a former Chicagoan, I'm surprised Rezko didn't get more play in the press. Was it too complicated to get across in a sound bite? Too boring a story?Did that scare the press off the story, or were they afraid of lookng racist by being the first outlet to cover it?

Palin was just so darned interesting: she really did come from nowhere, so besides getting to tell her story the press used a lot of ink figuring out why she was tapped and by who and was it working. She was an interesting, novel story. And never underestimate appearance: Governor Palin is an attractive, fresh, vital woman and I thinked her attractiveness and vitality got her a lot of attention in comparisson to the "men in suits" we usually see in politics.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | November 13, 2008 6:49 AM | Report abuse

Oh there were a number of stories about McCain that were never covered. There were also stories about Palin that were never covered. Also Biden never got a lot of coverage after Palin came on the scene he was mostly ignored. As far as media bias I remember McCain as the one who said the media was his base. And he used them for a long time. He still depended on them this time to not report on his shady connections while all the time pushing the envelope on Obama's. No one ever investigated Palin's because she was on the scene so little time there was not enough time and every time anything was tried to be reported about her or talked about it was called sexist. What is going to happen if she runs in 2012 at the top of the ticket? Does she think fellow Republicans will be so easy on her? They have no mercy. Every speech she made to AIP will be examined and played over and over and her witch hunter preacher who prayed over her will be shown to protect her from the evil ones and praying her into office again. Then the Jews for Jesus will be out in the open. She has more than just Rev. Wright hanging around. But these were never examined. So was there a media bias??

Posted by: sweetlucy47 | November 13, 2008 6:38 AM | Report abuse

Please ... the media has a right wing bias. Have they really looked into how Palin financed their house? Were his buddies who helped him doing work at the Sports Center? It goes on and on.

Posted by: bradcpa | November 13, 2008 6:14 AM | Report abuse

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