Media bias: news services and their political donations

Last week began with a report that Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. (Fox News, Wall Street Journal) contributed one million dollars to the Republican Governors Association. This prompted Nathan Daschle, executive director of the Democratic Governors Association and son of former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, to demand in a letter to Fox News chairman Roger Ailes that the Fox News cable news outlet include a disclaimer in its coverage of gubernatorial campaigns: “Fox News is owned by News Corp., which also owns The Wall Street Journal.”

When people think of partisanship in the news, the first news network that comes to mind is the Fox News Network. In this vein, the liberals have been very successful through repetition. If one were to ask a conservative about Fox News, however, most would tell you with some annoyance that Fox News does everything it can to present both sides. Some conservatives would even say that Fox News goes overboard to present the liberal viewpoint to attempt to appease its detractors. The only reason that this partisan charge may be effective with the non-partisan, non-political people is that prior to Fox News no network made a concerted effort to present a fair representation of the conservative/traditional viewpoint.

Prior to Fox News, the news outlets presented the conservative/traditional viewpoint in roundtable settings that consisted of (at least) a two to one ratio in favor of the liberal viewpoint. The major news networks also picked specific (i.e. soft) conservatives to represent the voice of the movement. They picked polite conservatives that would yield and concede to certain liberal talking points. They picked conservatives that would concede to the liberal playing field and answer from that vantage point.

Prior to Fox News certain news stories didn’t make it past editors, as stated at various points, by Bernard Goldberg and Dr. Thomas Sowell. Sowell furthered this idea by stating that bias is not necessarily something you can see. Often times it is as much what you haven’t seen as what you have.

Sowell also goes on to point out in various other columns that the anchors on Fox News, and Rush Limbaugh, openly inform you that they are biased, and their shows are opinion (or editorially) based. The major news networks lay the implicit claim that theirs is a straight news product. The Washington piece points out that there may be more to these broadcasts and broadcasters when one judges them based on their political contributions:

Senior executives, on-air personalities, producers, reporters, editors, writers and other self-identifying employees of ABC, CBS and NBC contributed more than $1 million to Democratic candidates and campaign committees in 2008, according to an analysis by The Examiner of data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

The Democratic total of $1,020,816 was given by 1,160 employees of the three major broadcast television networks, with an average contribution of $880.

By contrast, only 193 of the employees contributed to Republican candidates and campaign committees, for a total of $142,863. The average Republican contribution was $744.

$142,863 to $1,020,816 is not even 1 to 10.

President Obama received 710 such contributions worth a total of $461,898, for an average contribution of $651 from the network employees. Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain received only 39 contributions totaling $26,926, for an average donation of $709.

Ninety-six contributions by broadcast network employees to the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Senate and House campaign committees totaled $217,881.

Thirty-eight contributions by broadcast network employees to the Republican National Committee and the Republican Senate and House campaign committees totaled $23,805.

Among the individuals in the data are ABC News president Lloyd Braun, who contributed $1,000 to the Our Common Values PAC, which is associated with White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, and ABC Radio Networks president Jim Robinson, who gave $250 to GOP presidential candidate Fred Thompson.

Other individual givers found in the data include ABC reporters Sarah Amos, who gave $1,285 to Democratic presidential aspirant Bill Richardson, Clarisa Ward, who gave $500 to President Obama, and Kristina Wong, who gave $400 to the Democratic Party of Virginia.

Notable contributors found in the CBS data include “journalist” Seth Davis, who gave $2,750 to Obama, CBS Corporation vice president and editor-in-chief Jane Goldman, who contributed $250 to Obama, CBS Radio “host” Mike Omeara, who gave $1,471 to Obama, and “journalist” Beverly Williams, who donated $200 to Obama.

Among NBC contributors were Saturday Night Live producer Jeffrey Ross, who contributed $500 to Sen. Chris Dodd, D-CN, former NBC Today Show weatherman Willard Scott who gave $500 to the Republican National Committee, NBC Universal CFO Jennifer Cabalquinto, whose donations to Obama totaled $1,200, and NBC Universal “editor” David Mack, with $250 to Obama and $2,300 McCain.

Many, like Nathan Daschle, make the claim the Fox News should be more forthright in claiming a bias. Liberals like to claim that Fox News views the world through rose colored glasses (get it, red state versus blue state?). Yet, not only do they fail to call for objectivity from their major news networks, they fail to view their news networks objectively. To follow the metaphor, they view their networks through glasses that have a blue hue and are probably wire-rimmed and circular in the John Lennon mold.


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