Drudge: Least Biased?
Matt Drudge links a September 2003 academic study by three academics at major schools entitled, “A Measure of Media Bias.” Doing a content analysis of several major media outlets, they came up with some interesting results.
Our results show a very significant liberal bias. All of the news outlets except Fox News’ Special Report received a score to the left of the average member of Congress. Moreover, by one of our measures all but three of these media outlets (Special Report, the Drudge Report, and ABC’s World News Tonight) were closer to the average Democrat in Congress than to the median member of the House of Representatives. One of our measures found that the Drudge Report is the most centrist of all media outlets in our sample. Our other measure found that Fox News’ Special Report is the most centrist. These findings refer strictly to the news stories of the outlets. That is, we omitted editorials, book reviews, and letters to the editor from our sample.
While the findings that FSR is relatively centrist doesn’t surprise me, Drudge’s histrionic tabliod style certainly strikes me as biased.
The research methodology:
To compute our measure, we count the times that a media outlet cites various think tanks. We compare this with the times that members of Congress cite the same think tanks in their speeches on the floor of the House and Senate. By comparing the citation patterns we can construct an ADA score for each media outlet.
As a simplified example, imagine that there were only two think tanks, one liberal and one conservative. Suppose that the New York Times cited the liberal think tank twice as often as the conservative one. Our method asks: What is the estimated ADA score of a member of Congress who exhibits the same frequency (2:1) in his or her speeches? This is the score that our method would assign to the New York Times.
While I agree that the citing of think tanks is one useful indicator, it strikes me as a rather odd single measure. Indeed, one would think the vast majority of news stories and congressional speeches lack any such references, making the coding rather selective.