Just in time, New York Times media reporter Jeremy Peters noticed on Election Day that MSNBC has been rather slanted in its hostility toward Mitt Romney, and that it's starting to reflect badly on its sister network NBC, in "Dueling Bitterness On Cable News."
Peters used findings from the Pew Research Center as his launching point to hit both MSNBC and Fox News for partisan stridency, though MSNBC seemed to take more punches.
As the cable news channels count down the hours before the first polls close on Tuesday, an entire election cycle will have passed since President Obama last sat down with Fox News. The organization’s standing request to interview the president is now almost two years old.
At NBC News, the journalists reporting on the Romney campaign will continue to absorb taunts from their sources about their sister cable channel, MSNBC. “You mean, Al Sharpton’s network,” as they say Stuart Stevens, a senior Romney adviser, is especially fond of reminding them.
Spend just a little time watching either Fox News or MSNBC, and it is easy to see why such tensions run high. In fact, by some measures, the partisan bitterness on cable news has never been as stark -- and in some ways, as silly or small.
Neither outlet has built its reputation on moderation and restraint, but during this presidential election, research shows that both are pushing their stridency to new levels.
A Pew Research Center study found that of Fox News stories about Mr. Obama from the end of August through the end of October, just 6 percent were positive and 46 percent were negative.
Pew also found that Mr. Obama was covered far more than Mr. Romney. The president was a significant figure in 74 percent of Fox’s campaign stories, compared with 49 percent for Romney. In 2008, Pew found that the channel reported on Mr. Obama and John McCain in roughly equal amounts.
The greater disparity was on MSNBC, which gave Mr. Romney positive coverage just 3 percent of the time, Pew found. It examined 259 segments about Mr. Romney and found that 71 percent were negative.
In her ad, Rachel Maddow breathlessly decodes the logic behind the push to overhaul state voting laws. “The idea is to shrink the electorate,” she says, “so a smaller number of people get to decide what happens to all of us.”
Such stridency has put NBC News journalists who cover Republicans in awkward and compromised positions, several people who work for the network said. To distance themselves from their sister channel, they have started taking steps to reassure Republican sources, like pointing out that they are reporting for NBC programs like “Today” and “Nightly News” -- not for MSNBC.
Peters softly admitted that Fox News was almost alone in questioning the White House line on the terror attacks in Benghazi.
Lately the White House and Fox News have been at odds over the channel’s aggressive coverage of the attack on the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya. Fox initially raised questions over the White House’s explanation of the events that led to the attack -- questions that other news organizations have since started reporting on more fully.