On last night’s "News Hour" on PBS, reporter Jeffrey Brown conducted a segment on media bias as it pertains to the coverage of the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah. As his guests, Brown talked with Timothy McNulty, public editor of the Chicago Tribune, Andrew Kohut, President of the Pew Research Center, and Lee Ross, professor of social psychology at Stanford University. Surprisingly, not a media critic among them. The panel attempted to portray the media as fair, pointing to a Pew Poll that showed that 61% of Americans believed the media coverage of the Middle East was fair. But the PBS newscast is selective in publicizing Pew polls. PBS did not report the new Pew Center finding, as reported by Brent Baker in the August 9, 2006 Cyber Alert:
"by a margin of 50 percent to 34 percent, Americans think that news organizations have hurt rather than helped the interests of the American people" with "news reports that the government has been secretly examining the bank records of American citizens who may have ties to terrorist groups."
Additionally, Lee Ross attempted to portray media bias as a myth and a matter of perception:
"Well the hostile media effect just refers to the fact that, when partisans view the media, it’s likely that they see the media as biased against their interest. They also see the people responsible for the program as biased to their own interest."
Had PBS invited a news critic to be part of the panel, maybe viewers could have been educated on instances of real bias, and Mr. Ross’ theory that bias is just a perception could have been discredited.
A full transcript of the segment is available here.