Study provides shocking news about political news coverage

The information in the next few paragraphs will shock most of you. It shocked me when I read it. I suppose I’d fallen victim to believing the message that was the loudest and the one heard most often must be true. In this case that was the one spouted by the right-wing noise machine. At the moment, it does have the biggest bullhorn in America.

Ever since the dawn of The Age of Obama, we have been told over and over that the press is in love with Barack, that he gets a pass from the media, that he never gets the scrutiny that those on the right are subjected to. Of course it goes back even further. In the Bush years, W. was the one who got the rough treatment. I never bought that. To the contrary, I thought then and still think he got a pass, at least early on in his administration. There was genuine timidity on the part of the media to question anything he did immediately post-9/11, and certainly there was no rigor in the coverage prior to the adventure in Iraq.

But this is about Obama.

Everyone please sit down and, if necessary, take your blood pressure medicine. Because guess what. All those right-wing shouters who have been telling you the press has been going so easy on Obama vis-a-vis the other side have been wrong.

Hard to believe isn’t it? Almost impossible to believe, isn’t it? Many of you, I suspect, will simply refuse to believe it.

The Pew Research Center studied 11,500 news outlets and found negative coverage of Obama outweighed positive coverage by nearly four-to-one, compared to the coverage Republican presidential candidates were getting during the same time period.

Here are the findings:

✓ Rick Perry: 32 percent positive, 48 percent neutral, 20 percent negative.

✓ Sarah Palin: 31, 47 and 22. (She hadn’t bowed out of the race at the time of the study.)

✓ Michele Bachmann: 31, 46 and 23.

✓ Herman Cain: 28, 49 and 23.

✓ Mitt Romney: 26, 47 and 27.

✓ Rick Santorum: 23, 51 and 26.

✓ Ron Paul: 21, 62 and 17.

✓ John Huntsman: 21, 62 and 17.

✓ Newt Gingrich: 15, 50 and 35.

✓ Tim Pawlenty: 12, 58 and 30.

✓ Barack Obama: 9, 57 and 34.

I was as surprised as you. What’s of real interest, at least to me, is the four candidates with the best press are the four tea party darlings, and the tea partiers tend to be the loudest complainers of all.

Apparently, all that whining works. Complain long enough and loud enough and get enough of the big mouths to do it for you and the press backs off.

Unfortunately, a lot of people get a lot of what they call news from the Hannitys, Olbermanns, Maddows and O’Reillys of the world. That’s too bad, because it’s not news. The good ol’ First Amendment is a wonderful thing. It lets anybody say just about anything and there’s no requirement that what they has to have any resemblance to the truth.

Back to the study. The first thing the doubters will question is the motives of Pew. I would too.

Pew, though, is a fiercely independent organization with no ties to any ideology. We can trust its data.

The Pew Research Center is funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts. It is a non-partisan organization. If you must know its roots, it was founded by Joseph Pew. He and his family were very conservative. When he founded the J. Howard Pew Freedom Trust, he wrote that it was to “acquaint the American people with the evils of bureaucracy and the values of a free market and to inform our people of the struggle, persecution, hardship, sacrifice and death by which freedom of the individual was won.”

I, for one, am thankful for organizations like Pew. It’s easy to fall victim to confirmation bias. Without even trying, we are bombarded every day with more information than we can possibly process. After a while, we can’t help but start to believe what we hear or start to hear only what we believe. Independent thought goes out the window.

It’s good when someone comes along to remind us that just because we hear something over and over doesn’t mean it’s true.

I don’t mind that Obama gets all that negative coverage. That doesn’t mean it’s unfair. He’s a public official and public officials deserve tough scrutiny. All of them do. Even the Republicans.

Denny Herzog is the retired executive editor of The Daily Sentinel. Email him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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