May 7, 2007

Readers of this blog are probably well aware of the low opinion I have of the mainstream media. I’ve been asked why I often refer to the so-called and once-esteemed “fourth estate” as the “mainstream dino-media” – well, today’s post provides the clearest of examples as to why the mainstream media cannot, nor should be, trusted anymore to report even the most innocuous piece of information accurately, and why, therefore, it is a dinosaur on the brink of extinction.

Take tonight’s Reuters story with the headline, “Bush’s approval rate falls to 28 percent: report”. In this case, the “report” being referred to is a recent Newsweek poll that, among other things, not only places the President’s popularity at an all-time, Carteresque level of 28 percent, but also breathlessly reports the leading Democrats in the 2008 Presidential sweepstakes soundly beating the leading Republican challengers across the board. At first glance, the story should be enough to shake the confidence of even the most loyal and enthusiastic conservative out there, enough to make them say, “whoa darlin’, we be in a whole heapin’ world of hurt.”

Except that the poll the story is based upon has no credibility whatsoever, and therefore should be discounted on its face. Take a look, for example, at what Reuters disingenuously reports as the poll’s “demographics”:

The poll, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International on Wednesday and Thursday, interviewed 1,001 adults 18 and older. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

1,001 adults, 18 and older, huh. But what, pray tell, was the breakdown of party affiliation among those 1,001 adults, and does it accurately reflect the American electorate? Thanks to Captain Ed at Captains Quarters, we learn that the Newsweek poll is bogus, for they pulled that old, time-worn, dino-media trick of oversampling Democrats:

Yes, this would be a devastating poll, if one could rely on it. It contradicts nearly every other poll, which has consistently shown Giuliani beating Obama, Clinton, and Edwards. How could Newsweek get the results they have published?

Well, for one thing, it helps when you poll 50% more Democrats than Republicans. If one reads the actual poll results all the way to the end, the penultimate question shows that the sample has 24% Republicans to 36% Democrats. Compare that to the information given by Newsweek’s NBC partners in February, which showed that party affiliation had shifted from a difference of less than a percentage point to a gap of 3.9 points — 34.3% to 30.4%, with 33.9% independents.

Does it really surprise Newsweek that a sample where half again as many Democrats as Republicans were polled tend to prefer Democrats for President? Do they find it all that surprising that George Bush isn’t terribly popular when surveys oversample Democrats? They knew that the poll had to have some problems; the margins of error for the poll were 7% for the Democrats and 8% for the Republicans, quite high for these kinds of polls.

Newsweek apparently doesn’t employ people like editors and fact checkers before rushing their analyses to print. Thankfully, the blogosphere can take the time and effort to have these layers of correction so that we can provide the best possible information to our readership.

So what we have here is a poll done by one mainstream media outlet (Newsweek), whose results are then breathlessly repeated by yet another mainstream media outlet without any kind of critique or concern as to whether the story itself is worth reporting or an accurate reflection of the mind of the American electorate. In this case, both Newsweek and Reuters had to know that the poll’s demographics weren’t reflective of a realistic sampling based on party affiliation, yet they still went ahead and reported it as if it were gospel. Did they really think they could do this and no one would notice? That ultimately, people out there willing to do the work their staffs should have done would be able to (and easily so) research the poll’s demographics and be able to discredit it on its face? This is either lazy journalism (at best), or a deliberate attempt to manufacture and misreport news in order to further denigrate the President and his party’s chances in 2008. You make the choice.

You know, it wasn’t that long ago that the “fourth estate” took pride in getting the facts right and doing the necessary investigative work their readers both expected and demanded of them. Who knows where or how it happened – perhaps it was a result of Vietnam, or Watergate, or the rise of news as opinion rather than as factual reporting – but, whatever the reason, it has become all too obvious that the mainstream media (and by that I mean, the major news channels like ABC, NBC, and CBS, large city newspapers like the New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, and the Los Angeles Times [to name just a few], NPR, and one-time major, influential weekly publications like Time and Newsweek) are not just unafraid to skew and misreport the news to suit their own left-wing political leanings, but, when one does so, the others are more than happy to repeat it without even the slightest hesitation or question of the story’s integrity. In effect, the mainstream dino-media has become one gigantic echo chamber operating under the assumption that if you tell a lie often enough, it soon becomes truth.

And this is where their existence as dinosaurs bordering on extinction comes into play. With the rapid rise of the Internet, alternative media, and the blogsphere, the mainstream media no longer has sole control, distribution, or use of the “news” it reports. Therefore, they can no longer dish out this kind of garbage without concern that no one out there will notice. Perhaps 5-6 years ago that was the case, but no more. The emperor no longer has his clothes, and the number of people who get their news solely from these outlets is dwindling rapidly. As a result, they’re in the midst of a battle that they are not just losing, but, in all probability, have already lost. Why? Because, once you’ve lost your integrity, your past and your name will get you only so far, and in the end, the only people you’ll be preaching to is an ever-dwindling choir too intellectually lazy or incapable of getting their information from anywhere else. People today demand and expect more, and the once-esteemed dinosaurs of the mainstream media now face an extinction – or, at best, a culling out – largely of their own doing.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 01:34 | Comments Off on Can’t Trust the Mainstream Media
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