Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Last Year From The Rear View

As I wind down from celebrating WVU's Sugar Bowl win over Georgia last night (Coach Rod, if you're listening, that fake punt was absolutely genius), I think it's time to take a look back at 2005. Most news sources would do a fairly bland overview covering the major stuff, but because I'm sure you've all seen those already, I'm going to put the emphasis on the things you may not have heard much about. Without further ado, here are my award winners.

Book of the Year

This choice will come as a surprise to many people, but I wanted to pick a non-fiction work that's having some influence. After all, picking Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince wouldn't seem fair, now would it? So this award goes to 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America by Bernard Goldberg.

As many of you may remember, I asked people to recommend me some new reading last summer. Though all of those choices were very good, there was nothing I enjoyed more than 100 People. In the book, former CBS anchor Goldberg gives us a sometimes funny, sometimes scathing, and very sincere look into why each of these people made his list and where he thinks our culture is going wrong. The first half of the book is basically a collection of his analysis on everything from the kind of people he listed ("Hollywood Blowhards" and "America Bashers" among them) to controversial topics such as modern feminism and gangsta rap. With a voice ranging from biting sarcasm to righteous indignation, Goldberg then goes on to give us his list. Some of his picks are just funny, such as Courtney Love at #95, who gets a simple, one-word description: "Ho." Others, such as political hacks Kitty Kelley (a left-winger at #80) and Michael Savage (a right-winger at #61), deserve every bit of the biting commentary they get. The self-described "liberal the way liberals used to be" does turn his guns on the hard left more than most other liberals would be comfortable with; however, his quarrel is not with their politics, but with their methods. Even on the rare occasions when his writing feels strained, it still works out; he uses the dreaded "fake interview" tactic on Al Franken at #37, but it somehow holds weight because Franken's "responses" sound like they came right out of his own mouth.

One of the most remarkable things about this book is that, unlike Goldberg's previous two, it got quite a bit of mainstream media coverage. That's possibly because his earlier books, the bullseye-hitting Bias and its sequel Arrogance, went right after the MSM with style less befitting a mere disgruntled ex-employee and more befitting a well-armed whistleblower. Bias, in particular, is an essential bit of muckraking that I would recommend to anyone with even a passing interest in journalism. Those books might get even more readers now, because the humor and press afforded to 100 People have gained it a surprising audience: young teenagers!

Several of my younger friends, mostly between middle school and early high school, have been raving to me about this new book lately and how intriguing and funny it is. Most of them have no clue that I'm into politics at all, let alone that I have a blog; however, it's leaving such an impression on them that they're telling anyone who will listen about it. When a $25.95 book about politics and the media can gain younger readers in droves, that makes it a lock in my eyes for Book of the Year.

Link of the Year

You may have heard about a lot of big-time studies in the media lately, but unless you read Drudge regularly, I doubt you've heard anything about this one. A study conducted by UCLA political scientist Tim Groseclose and University of Missouri economist Jeffrey Milyo shows that there is generally a liberal bias in the media. The study, which compared media outlets politically by using members of Congress as a reference point, was conducted by looking at everything from citation patterns to references to specific interest groups. Because the study managed to assign ADA scores to rank how liberal or conservative an outlet was - a tactic common in political science when applied to politicians - it is believed to be the first objective quantifying and ranking of media bias in history.

The study did not take editorial content into consideration, which led to an unlikely conclusion: When it is reduced strictly to its news content, The Wall Street Journal is actually the most liberal newspaper. (The next two in line are the more obvious New York Times and LA Times.) The most liberal television news source is CBS Evening News (cue shock), which is the second most liberal outlet overall.

Out of the 20 outlets tested, 18 scored left of the average American voter. The ADA scale, which ranks from 100 to 0 with 100 being the most liberal, scored the typical voter at 50.1 for the study. Only FOX's Special Report with Brit Hume and The Washington Times scored lower than the 50 mark.

Two other conventional theories were bent a bit here. Drudge scored left of center, but only because the material linked by Drudge and "very little of" Matt Drudge's original reporting was taken into account. Also, NPR, which almost always gets flagged by conservative as an ultra-liberal outlet, had a score on par with the major newsweeklies (Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News) and slightly right of The Washington Post.

So how can we get a perfectly balanced version of the news? Says Milyo, "If viewers spent an equal amount of time watching FOX's Special Report as ABC's World News and NBC's Nightly News, then they would receive a nearly perfectly balanced version of the news." If you prefer to read your news, however, consult your friendly neighborhood McPaper. That's right, what I've believed for a long time has held true: USA Today scored the most centrist of any newspaper tested.

Now why haven't you seen this on the news? Well, can you imagine having to admit on the air what your own media outlet scored?

Quote of the Year

One is a small chunk of an interview that explains a lot about Memogate. The other...well, you may remember it if you were with me months ago.

-Grand Prize


Brian Ross, reporter for Good Morning America: “Do you still think that [the Bush National Guard memo] story was true?”
Mary Mapes, producer of the Memogate segment: “The story? Absolutely.”
Ross: “This seems remarkable to me that you would sit here now and say you still find that story to be up to your standards.”
Mapes: “I'’m perfectly willing to believe those documents are forgeries if there'’s proof that I haven'’t seen.”
Ross: “But isn’'t it the other way around? Don’'t you have to prove they’'re authentic?”
Mapes: “Well, I think that'’s what critics of the story would say. I know more now than I did then and I think, I think they have not been proved to be false, yet.”
Ross: “Have they proved to be authentic though? Isn’'t that really what journalists do?”
Mapes: “No, I don'’t think that'’s the standard.”

-Taken from a segment aired November 9 on ABC. This extended quote was also the conservative Media Research Center's choice for Quote of the Year.

-Runner-up

Peter Arnett, in response to whether the media is liberally biased:
Oh, it was! But it's being well-balanced now.

-Excerpt from a presentation given by Arnett in West Virginia University's Clark Hall on February 17. Arnett is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and former reporter for the AP, CNN, and MSNBC. He famously lost his job at MSNBC in 2003 for telling Iraqi TV that the first U.S. war plan had failed.

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