Sunday, February 26, 2012

Wherever the people are well informed, they can be trusted with their own government - T. Jefferson

People have been complaining about bias in the media  as long as we have had media.  The trouble with reporting the news, is that in order to do it effectively, reporters have to think, speak and write.  It is that thinking part that always trips them up.  To examine this further, let's take a closer look at Fox News, the highest rated cable news network according to the Nielson Company

Fox New was founded by Rupert Murdoch in 1996.  Conservative news consumers had been complaining about the liberal bias in news reporting for years, and Fox News was seen as a refreshing alternative.  Fox News claimed the mantra fair and balanced, but  Fox News viewers were not tuning in because the coverage was fair or balanced, they wanted their news to reflect their own world view.

The large viewership of Fox News took some of the other news outlets by surprise.  These other more left-leaning news outlets, of course, did not recognize the bias in their own news coverage, but Fox News did an effective job of pointing out just how left-leaning the coverage had been (and continues to be), and the numbers of devoted Fox News fans grew to more than double that of any other news network.

But now Fox News finds themselves at an interesting cross-roads.  It seems that another form of media bias has crept in.  Fox News may have taken sides in the battle between the grass-roots conservatives and the Washington, DC ruling elite.  The coverage of the candidates in the GOP nomination race does not appear to be fair and balanced, but it appears they are actually promoting a specific GOP candidate, namely Mitt Romney.  Is this intentional? .. or merely an oversight on their part?

There is a narrative, that is being delivered through Fox News (and other news outlets), that Mitt Romney is the most electable among the GOP candidates for president.  But when you examine the data, that narrative doesn't seem to measure up to reality.  It is also clear that conservative news consumers are falling into two distinct camps: those who believe the Republican party leadership knows best who should be the leader of the GOP, and those who believe the grassroots conservatives (including Tea-Party activists) know best.  

So who is right?  Let's look at some alarming data:
  • Voter turnout in both Iowa and New Hampshire sharply down from 2008
  • In South Carolina overall turnout  was up, but down in precincts carried by Romney
  • In Florida voter turnout was down 14% from the 2008 GOP primary
  • In Florida turnout was lowest in precincts that Mitt Romney carried, lower than 2008
  • In Florida turnout was highest in precincts that Newt Gingrich carried, higher than 2008
  • Voter turnout in Nevada was way down from 2008 GOP Caucuses
  • Only 8% of registered voters participated in Missouri GOP Primary, down 57%
  • In Colorado turnout was down 7%.  Romney campaigned heavily & lost to Santorum
  • Turnout in Minnesota was down 24% from 2008 levels.
Interestingly, voter turnout has been up in nearly every precinct carried by Newt Gingrich in all primaries/caucuses.  The only state showing an overall increase in voter turnout (up 35%) was South Carolina, where Gingrich carried all but two precincts.  Turnout was lowest in Maine (only 1% participated in the GOP Caucuses) and Missouri carried by Romney and Santorum respectively.  

Decreased voter turnout is not the only signal that Romney may not be the most electable of the GOP contenders.  The number of voters choosing a candidate other than Romney has been greater than the number choosing to support him in all states except Nevada where he received 50% of the vote.  The cry from an increasing number of conservative voters is Anybody but Romney.   

So where does Fox News play in all of this?  Fox News has, unfortunately, been in the DC establishment bubble for some time.  They are hearing from the likes of Karl Rove, Britt Hume, and other inside the beltway political junkies and pundits.  Comments such as presumptive nominee Mitt Romney occur regularly, and news anchors, pundits and guests are often offering advice to Romney about how to seal the nomination, while simultaneously ignoring or discounting the other GOP contenders.  

What we are not hearing from Fox News, are the voices of  the folks in fly-over country, who are enormously suspicious of Mitt Romney.  Romney is now behind in Georgia, Tennessee and Oklahoma, and if he doesn't manage to seal the deal in his home state of Michigan, the hand-wringing will commence about Romney's chances in November.   The fact we are not hearing about this on Fox News, lends to the theory that Fox News is an arm of the GOP party leadership.  As much as conservatives may be grateful to Fox News for giving voice to Republican ideas, this was not what conservatives in fly-over country signed up for.  If Fox News intends to maintain its dominance, they need to pay attention to the vast majority of their viewers, who do not reside in Washington, D.C., New York or Los Angeles.  

As long as human beings are reporting news there will be bias.  The only way to make it fair, is to have different news organizations representing all viewpoints so that viewers can choose.  We now have a vast selection of news resources online to choose from.  For Fox News' sake, they would be wise to listen to the voices of conservatives outside the beltway or those ratings will start to drop as the conservative majority seeks out other sources for their news.

1 comment:

  1. Well done, Sue! I will promote this, as it needs to be.
    Thank you for this work.