Out of Proportion

AS THE ELECTION OF 2012 draws near, many conservatives have accused the media of “liberal bias” with regards to their more radical candidates, especially Representative Michele Bachmann from Minnesota. Certain portrayals of conservative candidates may be over the top, such as the Newsweek cover that hailed Michele Bachmann as the “Queen of Rage.” Such typecasting does not serve any purpose but to mislead and misinform the public. It is undeniable that on occasion, the media has maligned a conservative candidate for president. However, assertions that Republicans face more media bias than Democrats are unfounded. According to the New York Times, Fox News is the most viewed primetime news network, and some months has more viewers than MSNBC and CNN combined, the two main networks regarded as liberal. The Wall Street Journal is the most widely subscribed newspaper in the country, and its conservative editorial page is to the right as the New York Times op-ed page is to the left. In terms of reach, conservative media reaches just as many people, if not more, than liberal media. In the past decade, the major television networks have gradually moved to one side or another of the political spectrum. Gone are shows like CNN’s “Crossfire” or Fox’s “Hannity and Colmes.” These shows were attempts at providing objective coverage, with liberal and conservative commentators debating the issues of the day. Now, networks make no attempt to hide their political affiliations. Fox fields a slate of right-wing pundits, and MSNBC has just as many left-wing pundits. The definition of media bias is, in itself, a subjective one. During times of patriotic fervor or intense national debate over an issue, the media will inevitably be biased. During President Clinton’s tenure, studies found that the media was more liberal on average, the opposite being true during the Bush presidencies. It should be no surprise then that with Obama as president, his party and his ideology will receive somewhat more favorable coverage. That isn’t to say that there is nothing being said against the president or his party; there is plenty of criticism of the White House, as well as both sides of the aisle. On average, coverage of President Obama and the Democrats is more favorable, but that does not mean that there is no media criticism of him or his policies. This becomes obvious when you consider how the media chose to portray Obamacare, choosing to focus on allegations of death panels instead of hard policies. Rest assured, there are reporters and pundits who are actively questioning the Obama Administration’s agenda. Finally, we should examine the media’s coverage of Bachmann through the context of another candidate. In 2008, as a man was nearing a historic presidential victory, the media gave tremendous airtime to those who questioned his place of birth and presented other conspiracy theories. That man, of course, was Barack Obama. When a candidate offends certain people’s sensibilities in some way they will attract scrutiny. Michele Bachmann has made her fair share of controversial statements just as Obama had controversial connections to Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers. In a sense, the negative coverage of some Republican candidates for president can be seen as a counterweight to the same negative portrayals that Obama received during his campaign. The media is merely performing the role that is has now settled into. No longer are networks impartial conduits of straight news. This new status quo is something that affects liberals and conservatives alike. Jeremy Chen is a three-year Upper fr from Monmouth Junction, NJ.