Tag Archives: pew research center

Mission accomplished

Robert Samuelson, opinion writer for the Post, thinks the Press has been too kind to Obama.  They are, he claims, "infatuated" with him; they have, as it were, a crush on Obama.  What is the evidence for this claim?  Why, studies, of course:

Obama has inspired a collective fawning. What started in the campaign (the chief victim was Hillary Clinton, not John McCain) has continued, as a study by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism shows. It concludes: "President Barack Obama has enjoyed substantially more positive media coverage than either Bill Clinton or George W. Bush during their first months in the White House."

The study examined 1,261 stories by The Post, the New York Times, ABC, CBS and NBC, Newsweek magazine and the "NewsHour" on PBS. Favorable articles (42 percent) were double the unfavorable (20 percent), while the rest were "neutral" or "mixed." Obama's treatment contrasts sharply with coverage in the first two months of the Bush (22 percent of stories favorable) and Clinton (27 percent) presidencies.

Unlike George Bush and Bill Clinton, Obama received favorable coverage in both news columns and opinion pages. The nature of stories also changed. "Roughly twice as much of the coverage of Obama (44 percent) has concerned his personal and leadership qualities than was the case for Bush (22 percent) or Clinton (26 percent)," the report said. "Less of the coverage, meanwhile, has focused on his policy agenda."

Gee.  None of this supports Samuelson's claim that there is "collective fawning" or "infatuation" on the part of the media for Obama.  Besides, he's not even mildly suspicious of the metrics of the study.  What does it mean, for instance, that an article is "favorable"?   Does it advocate Obama's position (whatever that may be) or does it just report that that position enjoys broad support?  Newspapers are filled with all kinds of articles (many of them are of the inside baseball variety); lumping them all together under the simple "favorable/unfavorable" metric is bound to obfuscate questions of bias rather than clarify them.  More importantly, however, increasing "unfavorable" does not entail that the press has grown any more critical or skeptical.  Knee-jerk skepticism in the name of balance is (ironically) worse than none at all.  Finally, its seems wrong to presume, as Samuelson has, that there is some ideal position for the favorable/unfavorable ratings.  Perhaps this is where it ought to be.  But that's another matter.