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October 23, 2009


I agree that much of the media have moved farther left. To take a few examples:

-- CBS News' use of crude forgeries trying to sway the 2004 election.

-- giving minimal reporting and no investigation of the expanding ACORN scandal.

-- smearing Limbaugh using obviously fake quotes.

-- giving Obama enormous air time to sell his Health Reform, while giving much less time to opponents of his plan.

Perhaps the more interesting question is why. Brendan says CNN and MSNBC were responding to market forces. If so, they're not very good marketeers. Companies normally copy a successful competitor. A more normal market response to FNC's success would be to move right and get a share of FNC's conservative audience.

Furthermore, it isn't working. They're falling farther and farther behind FNC, just as liberal newspapers are falling farther and farther behind the Wall Street Journal.

I think most of the media moved left in spite of market forces. They changed because ideology was more important to them than business success.

Interesting chart and analysis Brendan.

I followed the links to try and understand what is being measured to determine "distance between the parties" but don't have time to read all I found. Is there a succinct explanation of the Y-axis?

Also, I would add one word (in caps) to the sentence above:

"Murdoch was simply the first to recognize that a cable news channel with a DIFFERENT ideological/partisan slant could attract larger audiences."

Marty -- the chart is from here: http://voteview.com/Polarized_America.htm

It uses Poole and Rosenthal's DW-NOMINATE algorithm to scale roll call votes in Congress -- see http://voteview.com/dwnomin.htm

Thanks Brendan - that was the quick explanation I was looking for.

Also interesting about the graph is that in the first half of the 20th century, the Senate consistently tracked below the House in terms of partisanship, but since about 1960 the Senate tracks the House fairly closely, which aligns with the general rise in partisanship you mention above.

"A more normal market response to FNC's success would be to move right..."

Why should a news operation should be "moving" in any ideological direction (either left or right)? Thanks for confirming that when conservatives, generally speaking, complain about "liberal bias in the news media", what they're actually griping about is "LIBERAL bias in the news media." Conservative bias in the news media, as is illustrated by their figurative embrace of the F(R)NC, is heartily welcomed by many on the right.

And just because the Republican network has the most viewers doesn't automatically mean that CNN and MSNBC should emulate them. If the latter two operations have liberal bias problems, then they should try to be objective, not have a CONSERVATIVE bias.

An advantage of polarized media is that they tend to correct errors made by the other side. Media Matters probably won't mention Chris Matthews' goof, but David Horowitz took him to task for asserting that: “The group in this country that most resembles the Taliban, ironically, is the Religious Right.”

Also I'll just add that 'market forces' shouldn't be unreflectively used as a justification for any behavior. After all there's a market for cocaine and AK-47s, but that doesn't mean a democratic society shouldn't regulate those as deleterious to itself. Of course one can't regulate partisanship, but one can provide a buffer against these relentless 'market forces' which would provide room for less-partisan news to flourish. Take PBS, for example - probably the only thing we have left to somewhat 'objective' journalism.

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