The Republican National Convention and media bias

The first full day began Tuesday at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, MN

The first full day began Tuesday at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, MN

Hurricane Gustav has passed. Let the Republicans roll.

The GOP confab began in earnest Tuesday in St. Paul, MN, a day after Gustav made landfall, delaying the Republican gathering.

From what I’ve seen thus far, the Republican National Convention lacks the emotion and diversity of last week’s Democratic National Convention. That may change as Sarah Palin and John McCain take stage later this week.

What has been underscored thus far is the GOP’s message that John McCain is the presidential candidate with experience when America needs it most.

First Lady Laura Bush spoke at the GOP National Convention Tuesday

First Lady Laura Bush spoke at the GOP National Convention Tuesday

That message was driven home Tuesday by President George W. Bush, who appeared before delegates via satellite from the White House. Laura Bush also appeared in person to tout Mr. and Mrs. McCain’s suitability for the presidency.

Senator Joe Lieberman, (I) CT

Senator Joe Lieberman, I-Conn.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., who eight years ago helped Al Gore head the Democratic ticket, threw his support behind McCain.  “What you can expect from John McCain as president is precisely what he has done this week — which is to put country first,” said Lieberman.

Convention delegates also turned their attention towards the news media covering the convention today. “Tell the truth! Tell the truth,” they chanted at what they call “liberal mainstream media” who represent newspapers, radio and TV stations, cable and broadcast networks from across the country.

Who’s keeping score on media bias? The Republicans appear to be this week.

On a broader scale, the audience is keeping score too. The audience decides which newspapers they read, which TV stations they watch, and which radio stations they listen to. They decide who to believe and what, if any media shape perceptions, views, votes.

A poll of likely 2008 United States presidential election voters released by Zogby International last year reported that 83 percent of the survey respondents believe that there is a bias in the media. Sixty-four percent of the respondents said the bias favors liberals. Twenty-eight percent believe the bias is conservative.[18]

I worry that such perceptions may cause separate realities for audiences who travel through an increasingly fractured news media landscape. Audiences, fueled by the Internet and cable television, are becoming more segmented. They can choose more specifically which media they most closely agree. What worries me is that today’s audiences are defining themselves more by their differences than what they share in common.

I don’t think all news media are biased. Many consciously work to balance reporting with context, attribution and opposing viewpoints.  That was the case at WBNS-TV in Columbus, Ohio during my six years rotating between posts as a weekend anchor, reporter and investigative reporter. Daily newsroom story meetings involving producers, news executives, reporters, videographers, assignment desk personnel and editors. The focus was on objectivity, diverse views and balanced reporting. This doesn’t guarantee though that news organizations which work hard to be accurate and fair don’t get lumped in with media bias claims from members of their audience.

Statehouse Reporter Tim Skubic

Statehouse Reporter Tim Skubic

Example: Tim Skubic

Tim Skubic is a former colleague of mine at WILX-TV in Lansing, Michigan.

A veteran Michigan political reporter, Skubic has covered Lansing’s political scene since 1969. He covers the state capitol for a variety of media outlets including Michigan Public TV where he anchors the Emmy-awarding winning “Off the Record” series which is now in its 35th year. Since 1970, he has been the Lansing Bureau Chief for WWJ NewsRadio 950 in Detroit. He also covers the capitol for the Michigan Radio Network which includes over 60 outstate radio stations. He writes a weekly political column for 22 statewide newspapers including the Lansing State Journal, the Oakland Press, and the Macomb Daily.

Skubic has broken big political stories involving Democratic and Republican lawmakers. He’s also been criticized by viewers, listeners and readers who disagreed with his fair, but sometimes tough questioning and reporting on elected officials.

What surprised me about Skubic’s political reporting is this: If Skubic’s persistent questions were leveled at Republican politicians, some viewers complained that Skubic had a liberal ax to grind. If Skubic was grilling a Democratic politician, some viewers claimed he had a conservative bias against Democrats.

To be honest, I couldn’t tell you if Skubic is a Republican, Democrat, Independent, Green Party member, conservative, liberal, vegetarian or red neck.

I do know that he’s a hard-nosed journalist. He asks tough questions. Many of those questions are about accountability. They’re addressed to politicians representing all political parties. The same politicians voters elect to represent them in Michigan and Washington, D.C.

Over the past four decades, Skubic has been painted red and blue by various politicians and viewers. They claimed he had one media bias or another.

I never saw bias in Tim’s reporting. What I did see was a solid journalist doing his best to present fair,  balanced reporting to an audience whose majority seem to agree he’s doing a good job keeping them informed and he;ping to keep politicians accountable.

About Bernard McCoy

My views are my own and not a reflection of my employer. I'm a professor of Journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I've also been a working journalist for the past 29 years. I have covered news stories in war zones, reported on human and natural disasters, presidential conventions, a presidential inauguration and the September 11th, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. My career experiences include work as an award-winning documentary producer, television news reporter, photographer, producer, and anchor. I worked at WIBW-TV, Topeka, KS., KCTV, Kansas City, MO, WKBD-TV, Detroit, MI., WILX-TV, Lansing, MI. and WBNS-TV, Columbus, OH. I have also worked as a contributing reporter for The Columbus Dispatch, Associated Press, CBS, CNN, the Ohio News Network and lecture at the Kosovo Institute of Journalism and Communications. I have a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Kansas and a master’s degree in telecommunications management from Michigan State University.
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One Response to The Republican National Convention and media bias

  1. Pingback: MSNBC re-assign Olbermann and Matthews « JournalCetera

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