Professor's Study Shows Liberal Bias in News Media

By Robert B. Bluey | July 7, 2008 | 8:04 PM EDT

( - In a new book that will be released later this month, a Dartmouth College professor claims the news media ignore far-left, moderate and conservative viewpoints in favor of a "narrow brand of liberal bias."

Author Jim A. Kuypers, a senior lecturer at the Ivy League college, said he had no political agenda when conducting his research of nearly 700 newspaper articles from 116 publications. He called the results of his study surprising and warned of the consequences on American society.

"I didn't set out to look for a particular type of bias and I took steps to ensure I didn't impose my preconceptions," Kuypers said. "What I found was a narrow brand of liberal bias within the mainstream media."

The book, "Press Bias and Politics: How the Media Frame Controversial Issues," is a compilation of Kuypers' research on six prominent speeches between 1995 and 2000. He first obtained copies of the speeches and then compared their objectives with their coverage in the news media.

"I did not honestly believe the level of bias and misrepresentation would be as deep and terrible as it was," he said.

Kuypers analyzed two speeches by then-President Clinton on race and human rights, comments U.S. Sen. Trent Lott made on homosexuality, remarks by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan at the Million Man March, a speech condemning homosexuality by former football star Reggie White and an Alabama state senator's remarks on the Confederate flag.

As part of his findings, Kuypers said liberal opinions from editorials and news analyses often found their way into straightforward news reports. He speculated that the culture of news organizations was partly to blame.

The head of a media watchdog group, Accuracy in Media, agreed with Kuypers' findings.

"I've seen no difference and no great change in the last decade or last two decades," chairman Reed Irvine said. "The journalists -- the people who are editing and writing for papers -- are still overwhelmingly liberal."

Irvine has been studying the news media since the 1970s. He said the press continues to display liberal characteristics just as it did 30 years ago.

In fact, he said that bias is probably more expansive today, citing the rise in coverage of race and homosexuality -- the two issues that were the primary focus of Kuypers' study.

But Steve Rendall, a senior analyst for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting, another media watchdog group, said the press has done a poor job covering many social issues, including race and homosexuality.

Rendall cited a study conducted by his organization that showed reporters in the nation's capital lean to the right when covering many issues.

"When it comes to foreign policy and the economy, the U.S. media have a long way to go before they reach a standard of fairness and accuracy," he said. "On issues such as race and homosexuality, there may have been some progress in recent years, but we would say they have a long way to go on those issues as well."

Mainstream journalists routinely ignore or do a mediocre job covering issues such as consumer rights, environmental matters and topics related to the poor and minorities, Rendall said.

"The right-wing and conservative movements are well represented and the center is well represented," he said. "What's not well represented are progressive movements."

Kuypers said he anticipates criticism, but defended his methods. He said they are clearly outlined in the book and allow readers to conduct their own analysis if they wish.

"I just don't give examples of what I think is bias," he said. "I outlined how I was going to look for bias in such a way that others can do this as well."

The only thing readers might disagree with is his conclusion, Kuypers said. He ends the book by issuing a warning that biased reporting could endanger democracy by presenting only a narrow viewpoint.

"I'm scared for the state of democracy in this country in terms of how the press interacts," Kuypers said. "They are, in my opinion, an anti-democratic institution because they stifle alternative voices and paint an incredibly inaccurate picture of issues and ideas."

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