the Right Angler            

 Give a man a fish, he eats for a day.  Teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime

Media Motives
Todd A. Carges
Do you ever wonder what makes a news story a news story?  In other words, how do they decide which news stories will be broadcast or printed?  Even more important, why do they choose to deliver certain news stories over others.  Well, if you want to find out more about the “hows” and the “whys”, you need to look closer at who “they” really are.

Fortunately, there have been several studies conducted over the past 27 years that shed light on the political viewpoints of those delivering our news.  By reviewing the results of these studies, we can gain insight into the core beliefs of these people and use this insight to make critical decisions regarding the credibility of the information they deliver.  So without further ado, here is just a sample of several important media studies:

In 1981, two fun sounding guys named S. Robert Lichter and Stanley Rothman released a survey of 240 journalists at top media outlets including the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Time, Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report, ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS.  The survey polled their political attitudes and voting patterns.  The signature finding of the study showed that since 1964, more than four-fifths of the journalists interviewed voted for the Democrat presidential candidate in every election between 1964 and 1976.

In 1985, The Los Angeles Times conducted an extensive survey of print journalists.  Using the same questionnaire they had used to poll the public, the Times polled 2700 journalists at 621 news papers across the country.  Two signature findings emerged: while 74% of the American public supported prayer in public schools, 67% of journalists opposed it, and while Republican Ronald Reagan won the 1984 Presidential Election over Democrat Walter Mondale 59% to 41%, journalists at major newspapers voted for Walter Mondale over President Reagan 58% to 26%.  Keep in mind that President Reagan won 49 states in this election, a landslide that sparked this famous quote from a media insider: “I can’t believe Reagan won, I don’t know anyone who voted for him.”

In 1988, a New York newsletter entitled: The Journalist and Financial Reporting surveyed 151 Business Reporters from over 30 publications including the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, USA Today, New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Money Magazine, Fortune Magazine and Business Week.  The signature finding of this survey was that 54% of Business Reporters identified themselves as Democrat, 37% identified themselves as Independent, and only 9% identified themselves as Republicans.

In 1992, Indiana University journalism professors, David H. Weaver and G. Cleveland Wilhoit surveyed 1,410 journalists from “a wide variety of daily and weekly newspapers, radio and television stations, news services and magazines throughout the United States.”   The signature finding of this study was that 47% of journalists label themselves “liberal” while only 22% label themselves “conservative”.  Compare this to the American public at the time where only 18% referred to themselves as “liberal” and 34% called themselves “conservative”.

In 1995, Kenneth Walsh, a reporter for U.S. News & World Report, polled 28 of his fellow White House correspondents from ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC, the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, USA Today, Washington Post, Copley, Cox, Hearst, Knight-Ridder, plus Newsweek, Time and U.S. News & World Report about their presidential voting patterns.  The poll yielded the following results: since 1976, White House correspondents placed 57 votes for President of the United States, during this time, 50 votes went to Democrat candidates while only 7 went to Republicans.

In 1996, the Freedom Forum published a report by Chicago Tribune writer Elain Povich entitled: “Partners and Adversaries:  The Contentious Connection Between Congress and the Media.”  Tucked away in Appendix D was this juicy tidbit: of the 139 Washington Bureau Chiefs and Congressional Correspondents who returned the questionnaire: 89% voted for Bill Clinton in 1992 while only 7% voted for George H. W. Bush.  That is a margin of 9-1. Also, 61% consider themselves “liberal” or “liberal to moderate” while only 9% consider themselves “conservative” or “conservative to moderate.”  Apparently, 30% don't consider themselves anything at all.

In 2001, national political correspondent, Thomas Edsall, summarized the findings of a Kaiser Family Foundation poll of 301 “media professionals”.  The media professionals included “reporters and editors from top newspapers, TV and radio networks, news services and news magazines.  The signature finding of the poll was that 4 times as many “media professionals” identified themselves as “liberal” as identified themselves as “conservative”.

In 2004, the Pew Research Center for The People and The Press surveyed 547 journalists and media executives including 247 at national-level media outlets.  The same group conducted similar surveys in 1995 and 1999.  The signature finding was that 5 times more national journalists identified themselves as “liberal” than identified themselves as “conservative”.  Another interesting find was that 55% of national journalists in 2004 said the media was “not critical enough” of President Bush; while in 1995, 48% of journalists complained of “too little” coverage of President Clinton’s achievements.  Keep in mind that this was before Clinton's most infamous achievement.

In 2004, New York Times columnist John Tierney surveyed 153 campaign journalists at a press party at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.  The key finding: journalists outside Washington, D.C. preferred Democrat Nominee John Kerry to President George W. Bush by a 3 to 1 margin; while journalists from inside Washington D.C. preferred Kerry by a 12 to 1 margin.  President Bush ultimately received 2 million more votes than John Kerry.

There you have it. 27 years of media research.  So what does all this tell us besides that media members love filling out surveys.  Well, for one, it tells us that their viewpoints have been at the very least consistent. It also tells us that the media's political views are not the views of the majority of the American public.  Yet, many of us don't question the news stories forced upon us.  I will let you decide whether or not this information makes you think more critically about your news sources, and I will leave you with a quote from Andy Rooney, self-described “liberal” and longtime journalist on the 60 Minutes news program.  Referring to the 2004 presidential election, Rooney said: “I know a lot of you believe that most people in the news business are liberal.  Let me tell you, I know a lot of them, and they were almost evenly divided this time. Half of them liked Senator Kerry; the other half hated President Bush.”

...more columns by Todd A. Carges

Web Hosting Companies