Do editors care that the public thinks that their coverage is biased?
The latest Rasmussen poll is rather remarkable, especially if you are an editor and want readers to believe your work. It shows that the public clearly sees media bias:
Fifty-nine percent (59%) think that coverage will be slanted instead, with 36% who say most reporters will try to help Hillary Clinton during the campaign and 23% who say they will try to hurt her bid for the White House instead. Seventeen percent (17%) are not sure.
The numbers have been consistent:
Three months before the 2012 presidential election, 74% of voters said most reporters when covering a political campaign try to help the candidate they want to win, consistent with surveying for several years prior to that.
Fifty-one percent (51%) expected most reporters would try to help President Obama at that time, while only nine percent (9%) thought they would be biased in favor of his GOP opponent Mitt Romney.
These findings were nearly identical to those just before Election Day in November 2008.
At that time, 51% felt most reporters had tried to help Obama win the presidency, while only seven percent (7%) thought they had tried to help Republican candidate John McCain.
Frankly, I'd be furious if I was a newspaper or TV news editor, especially one who is trying to be fair.
At the same time, can you blame the public for thinking that the media is in the tank for Obama?
I agree with Bill Katz, the editor of Urgent Agenda, that this kind of bias can swing an election. (Fifty-one percent in the Rasmussen poll thought that the media tried to help Obama.)
Going forward, it seems to me that the media needs to do a couple of things:
1) Have more diversity in the newsroom. How can you have a serious discussion of news coverage when everyone loves Obama and hates Bush? Diversity would help!
2) Go out and talk to real people!
Talk to a small business owner about the real-world impact of raising the minimum wage, for example.
Talk to minority parents with kids stuck in Chicago and D.C.'s public schools or the same ones that the Obama family didn't send their kids to.
Talk to the millions of Americans who go to church every Sunday and write about their devotion to faith.
Finally, the editors must be aware of something else. People do not have to buy a newspaper or magazine that they think is bias. People have choices, and many are choosing to read something that they find more reliable and truthful. Newspaper circulation is down, and I don't think that it's all about the internet or that people don't like to read anymore. I think that media bias is a factor in this drop in circulation.
The media will never be 100% objective, but it should aim for fairness. The recent encounter between Senator Ted Cruz and a TV reporter confirms that the media has a long way to go.