Reuters Laugher: 'Media Bias Largely Unseen in Presidential Race'

File under: Don't believe your lying eyes and ears. Barely two weeks after a Pew Research Center for the People and the Press survey determined that “by a margin of 70%-9%, Americans say most journalists want to see Obama, not John McCain, win on Nov. 4,” as even 62 percent of Democrats recognized how journalists hoped Obama would be victorious, Reuters set out to prove any and all favorable Obama coverage had nothing to do with liberal bias. In a November 6 dispatch, “Media bias largely unseen in U.S. presidential race,” Steve Gorman of the Los Angeles bureau focused his story on undermining the “perception that mainstream news organizations routinely gave Obama preferential treatment en route to his election as the first black U.S. president.” Gorman contended:
But media scholars, including a former top aide to McCain, disagree. They said campaign coverage often did lean in Obama's favor, though not -- as many conservatives have suggested -- because of a hidden liberal agenda on the part of the media. Instead, academic experts said, Obama benefited largely from the dynamics of the campaign itself and the media's tendency to focus on the “horse race,” emphasizing ups and downs in the polls and political tactics. As Obama's poll numbers rose in response to events, so did favorable press coverage for him, not the other way round.
Who said the liberal agenda was “hidden”? It was out in the open for all but Gorman to see.

Two of Gorman's equally blind experts:
"Winning begets winning coverage," said Mark Jurkowitz, an author of a study by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism that tracked campaign coverage.

Dan Schnur, communications director for McCain's 2000 presidential bid and now head of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California, agreed. "I don't think there's partisan or ideological bias because the mainstream media tries not to take sides in policy disagreements," he said. "Favorable news coverage is...more a function of favorable poll numbers."
Of course, the pro-Obama idolatry went far beyond horse race stories. Just take a look at the MRC's “Barack Obama's Media Groupies” collection of quotes. Here are several from long before Obama was above single-digits:
Run, Barack, Run!

"Obama’s personal appeal is made manifest when he steps down from the podium and is swarmed by well-wishers of all ages and hues....Obama seemed the political equivalent of a rainbow — a sudden preternatural event inspiring awe and ecstasy....He transcends the racial divide so effortlessly that it seems reasonable to expect that he can bridge all the other divisions — and answer all the impossible questions — plaguing American public life."
— Time’s Joe Klein, October 23, 2006 cover story, "Why Barack Obama Could Be the Next President."

"Many people, afterwards [after Obama’s 2004 convention speech], they weren’t sure how to pronounce your name but they were moved by you. People were crying. You tapped into something. You touched people....If your party says to you, ‘We need you,’ and, and there’s already a drumbeat out there, will you respond?"
— Co-host Meredith Vieira to Obama on NBC’s Today, October 19, 2006.

Is He "The One?"

"You can see it in the crowds. The thrill, the hope. How they surge toward him. You’re looking at an American political phenomenon....He inspires the party faithful and many others, like no one else on the scene today....And the question you can sense on everyone’s mind, as they listen so intently to him, is he the one? Is Barack Obama the man, the black man, who could lead the Democrats back to the White House and maybe even unite the country?...Everywhere he goes, people want him to run for President, especially in Iowa, cradle of presidential contenders. Around here, they’re even naming babies after him."
— ABC Nightline co-anchor Terry Moran, Nov. 6, 2006.

The Ultimate Obama Fan

Senator Barack Obama: "Let’s roll back the Bush tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans, let’s make certain that those resources go to the people who need it....We’re not going to solve it by pretending that issues of poverty and struggle among working families are just going to go away magically because the stock market is going up."
Moderator Chris Matthews: "So much of what you say just grabs people like me, because it sounds like Bobby Kennedy. It sounds like the ’60s at its absolute best."
— Exchange at AFSCME Democratic candidates forum shown live on MSNBC, June 19, 2007.
For videos of those quotes, and many, many more, go to the “Campaign 2008 Review: Barack Obama's Media Groupies” special November 3 edition of Notable Quotables.

More on the Pew poll: My October 23 NewsBusters item, “By Nearly 8-to-1, Voters Say Journalists Want Obama to Win,” recounted:
"Voters overwhelmingly believe that the media wants Barack Obama to win the presidential election," a Pew Research Center for the People and the Press survey released Wednesday discovered. Specifically: "By a margin of 70%-9%, Americans say most journalists want to see Obama, not John McCain, win on Nov. 4. Another 8% say journalists don't favor either candidate, and 13% say they don't know which candidate most reporters support." The question: "Who do you think most newspaper reporters and TV journalists want to see win the presidential election -- Barack Obama or John McCain?" Unsurprisingly, 90 percent of Republicans recognized how journalists hope Obama is victorious, yet so did 62 percent of Democrats and independents....
For many more surveys this year which found the public saw a pro-Obama and/or anti-McCain or anti-Palin bias, check the “How the Public Views the Media” section of the MRC's “Media Bias Basics.”

Thanks to James Taranto for highlighting the Reuters article in his Friday “Best of the Web Today” compilation, where he put the Reuters headline under this heading: “If They Do Say So Themselves.” 
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center