Sunday, January 30, 2005

Matthews, Again, Skews Hardball Panel To The Right

Chris Matthews, for the umpteenth time, has offered viewers of MSNBC's Hardball a panel that skewed right.

On the Jan. 30 show, focusing on the Iraq election, Matthews' panel featured Howard Fineman of Newsweek, Judith Miller of The New York Times, and Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard. Matthews portrayed this as a roundtable of "journalists," but by including Hayes without a liberal counterpart, he was in fact offering his viewers an unbalanced panel.

Not to be redundant from previous JABBS posts, but did Matthews lose Joe Conason's phone number? Was Katrina van den Heuvel stuck in traffic? Was Eric Alterman out of the country?


For those of you who are not journalists, let me walk you through the problems Matthews creates when he so poorly structures a panel.

I have nothing against Hayes (or a similar conservative "journalist") appearing on Hardball, but the truth is that conservative "journalists," like their liberal counterparts, seek to advance a political ideology, and cherry pick facts to do so.

That's not the case for mainstream journalists. Their goal is objectivity and balance. Yes, some are better than others. But ideally, that's the mainstream journalist's goal. (And of course, reporters should not be confused with columnists, such as Charles Krauthammer of The Washington Post or David Brooks of the Times, who are paid to have a political bias.)


When Matthews creates a panel of two mainstream journalists and a conservative "journalist," he does a disservice to his viewers. How?

First, by default the panel skews right. (It would be equally wrong to skew the panel left). A panel of one mainstream journalist, one conservative "journalist" and one liberal "journalist" would offer balance. An alternative would be a panel featuring three mainstream journalists.

Beyond that problem, the right-skewed panel fosters the stereotype of "liberal media bias," placing the idea that, in this case, Hayes is need to counter the "liberalism" of Fineman and Miller. That's farcical, because even among those who believe in "liberal media bias," Fineman and Miller don't fit the bill.

Who is Howard Fineman? Readers of media criticism sites have long wondered about his politics. Earlier this month on Imus in the Morning, Fineman praised Brit Hume for being a "terrific journalist" -- hardly the sort of thing you would expect from a "liberal." But then again what liberal would offer pointers for President Bush on how to "skewer" his Democratic rival, John Kerry, in the debates? Fineman did just that, in October, on Imus.

Who is Judith Miller? She's the Times reporter who fell hook. line and sinker for the Bush administration's original "hunt for WMD" rationale for going to war with Iraq. The Times ultimately ran a lengthy apology to readers, saying that the newspaper (read: Miller) should have been worked harder to find sources outside of the administration during the run-up to war.


Why does Matthews structure so many panels with a mix of mainstream journalists and conservatives? Why do conservatives outnumber liberals on such panels?

Let's not forget that Matthews got his start as a top aide for former Speaker of the House Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill (D-Mass.), and although his politics have clearly changed over the years to some sort of Reagan Democrat status, his resume hasn't.

Combine that with the rumors, dating back more than a year, that Matthews would like to jump to Fox News. Perhaps that has led Matthews to consider appeasing his conservative viewers more important than a balanced analysis of the news.

That's just a theory, of course. But the alternative is to suggest that Matthews doesn't recognize the difference between mainstream journalists and those wishing to advance political ideologies. Or that he doesn't care. That may be true for the Rush Limbaughs of the world, but I've got to think Matthews deserves more credit than that.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's see ... The host is a Democrat. There are two middle of the road journalists, and a conservative opinion journalist, and that is unbalanced? Maybe he should have included Michael Moore, Howard Dean, Zarqawi, and Oliver Willis, and then you would have seen it having more "balance".

12:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like JABBS says, to assume Matthews is a liberal is part of the "conservative myth" of "liberal media bias." Do you watch Hardball? No way you can say Matthews ia a liberal, based on what he says, who he brings on as guests, etc.

If you are only pointing to Matthews' political origins, you're being silly. Tons of people change from liberal to conservative, or vice versa, over 10, 15, 20 years.

12:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw Hardball last night and watch it often. Matthews is pretty middle of the road (pretty much calls it as he sees it) with a slight lean left if you ask me. As far as I can tell, Fineman is straight centrist. Miller-I am not sure where her views stand. The guy from the weekly standard obviously is conservative. So, yes, there could have been a liberal on the panel. That said, the discussion was for the most part right on the mark, if you ask me. Ah, a debate/discussion by mostly centrists--what wonderful thing. Not enough of that around. The far left commentary and the far right detract from virtually every rational discussion because partisan ideology completely subsumes rational thought.

On air america this morning, a typical commentator was giving his list of how the election was terrible for everyone, a lie byt the administration etc....another usually liberal guy (forget his name) suggested meekly that maybe it would serve the liberal cause to give a little credit when things went right, better or at least better than expected. I think they took this man out back and shot him soon thereafter. He violated the liberal mantra of "always hate all things Bush"---he wasnt on again, at least during my commute. Sad.

Oh, by the way, it is not a myth that print media leans left. It is also not a myth that radio leans right. I would even go as far as saying network news leans left and cable right. Myths? Sometimes stereotypes have their base in truth.

2:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Above blogger; unfair to lump terrorists in with liberals to be put on a panel. michael moore also.

actually, michael moore shouldnt be classified as liberal or democrat or whatever. Basically he is a self serving blowhard who doesnt care much for america. but i support his right to say what he wants.

and it is nor fair to equate liberal with zarquawi. you see, the terrorists hate what america is. liberals tend to hate what america does. i am trying to figure out the difference.

the real truth is liberal do not hate america. terrorists do. liberals hate george bush. more than the terrorists do. i think liberals believe bush is more dangerous than the terrorists actually. I have heard this said on many occasions.

just some crazy people out there. not just the liberals either. I mean, there are some right nuts that think whether sponge bob does spongestuds or spongettes is actually a national story. embarrassing on both sides.

2:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

JABBS provides a detail about Miller "skewing" right. Maybe that's why Matthews put her on the show.

But one of the above posters -- I'm assuming he's a conservative -- drives right over that reference point and goes back to the standard cry of "liberal media bias." Blah, blah, blah.

The other day, Matthews interviewed Elisabeth Bumiller of the Times, who wrote ga-ga puff pieces -- White House Notebooks -- about Bush during the election (about how well rested he is, how much support he has from his family, etc.) Why would Matthews have Bumiller on, if not to provide a complimentary view of Bush?

The big picture is that people who say that the NY Times and Washington Post are liberal don't read this and other blogs enough. They're stereotyping based on waht Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity tell them to think.

And even if those two papers were the most liberal in the country, how many people in Dallas or St. Louis or Boise or Salt Lake City or Phoenix or Birmingham or Atlanta or Charlotte or Louisville or Nashville or Charleston or Omaha or Juneau actually read those papers? How many of them get their news from writers who, their coverage has shown, are basically centrists (or possibly mildly leaning right, to match their red-state surroundings)?

I agree with JABBS -- "liberal media bias" is a bogus charge.

4:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My understanding is that if you look over the last 25 years at the top 40 newspapers, it will show a decisive slant left. This is likely where the myth began. But so what---cable news seems to slant center-right.

i just asked 9 people in my office.

--7 of them described themselves as democrat.
--6 of them voted for kerry and one didnt vote
--2 had heard of hannity, the rest hadnt.
--All 9 had known of rush limbaugh, 5 had heard him and none listen to him on any regular basis. none particularly like him.
--7 think the print media leans to the left; the others said it depends on the paper
--all 9 said network news leans left
--6 said cnn leans right; 3 said left
--9 said fox leans right
--6 knew of chris matthews. all said he was centrist or left. all like him but said he talks over his guests.
--asked what they thought combining print media, network and cable tv---all nine either said all news together leaned center-right or center left.

My view of this:
just because someone thinks a liberal media exists does not mean they heard it from hannity or rush L. there is some truth to the print media leftist slant but it seems to be offset by other news outlets.

all in all, given a small sample, it seems overall the media isnt too far from center, which is good.

i also asked about fahrenheit 9/11. 7 had seen it (including the 2 conservatives) and 6 liked it. 6 of them liked it most while watching because they thought it was true. now, only 3 of the 7 think the movie is wholly true and dont trust what it says.

last--do they like bush?
on a personal level---5 said yes; 4 said no
as a leader---8 of 9 do not like him as a leader

5:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think "liberal media bias" is one of those things that is easy to say. Evaluating the nation's newspapers is a herculean task. Evaluating even one newspaper is a ton of work.

But if you read JABBS, and The Daily Howler, and Media Matters and Daily Kos and so on, you do see a pattern. Now, each of these is picking out examples that fit their collective belief that "liberal media bias" is a conservative myth. But face it, they find story after story from Miller and Bumiller and Kit Seelye and Adam Nagourney and so on, where the reporter either based a story on a GOP talking point, or let slide some obvious flip-flop by Bush, or some hyperbole from Cheney, etc.

I mean, look at the archives of these blogs, and even if the blog is correctly pointing out a flawed story (a right-leaning story, that is) 50% of the time, you're talking about dozens, if not hundreds of stories.

Now, are there left-leaning flawed stories in the Times, too? Sure. And there are other blogs ready to point those out.

But if there are X number of left-leaning stories and X number of right-leaning stories, don't those stories cancel out? And if so, wouldn't that mean the Times was pretty much a balanced newspaper?

I think we all get caught up in what's easy. Think of all the e-mails you get that you forward to your friends. You don't fact check those e-mails, right?

Now consider that all those conservative radio stations -- I think JABBS said there were more than 1,000 -- and Fox News and all the Krauthammers and Brooks and Safires of the world are out there with a concerted effort to tell you that there is liberal media bias. But there's no one on the other side making a concerted effort to say there's a concerted conservative bias -- except for the blogs. What's the result? Isn't it that the repeated message -- not fact-checked, but circulated -- becomes fact?

That's just how I think about it.

5:31 PM  
Blogger Norm Weatherby said...

Gosh, since when has Matthews been at a loss in expressing his leftist opinions? I love the way he first engages in a one or two minute monologe disguised as a "question" the asks for agreement in the dumbfounded guest. Or his some what loaded questions, as all who have seen him can attest. Something like this: "Since it is pretty well understood that you are gutter slime and a fornicator of children, how do you answer all those that hold you are a disgrace to your party, a coward and a moral degenerate? ...Understanding of course that people are saying that you also cheat on your wife, have been a draft doger and traitor to your country and some say you cheat on your taxes. What is your pitiful defense to all these legitimate and well founded charges by honest Americans you illiterate moron?"

8:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Typical conservative. Unable to cite actual facts, Norm resorts to uninformed opinion. Way to add to the conversation ...

10:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

since you have so easily labeled a typical conservative, i am curious what your definition of a typical liberal is.

10:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The above blogger makes an overly sweeping, bogus statement that terrorists hate what America is, liberals hate what America does. I think Liberals stand for fairness and equality for all people everywhere regardless of race or economic background. We hate death, war, torture and suffering and think it should be avoided at most any cost.
One more point. I hear so much trashing of Michael Moore on this blog. Although he and his films undoubtedly have shortcomings, ABSOLUTELY NO ONE can deny the contribution they have made towards bringing important issues to the forefront for national debate. These include corporate greed (Roger and Me), gun control (Bowling for Columbine) and war's devastation upon its victims, whether they are collateral damage or the families of the soldiers who fight it (Fahrenheit 9-11).
I can appreciate the ends as well as the means. And Moore's depiction of the "truth" is not all that much of a stretch than a Bush depiction of the truth at a press conference.
Of course, right wingers and Bushies would rather these issues stay buried.

10:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a typical liberal is really isn't relevant.

My "typical conservative" comment comes from the fact that Norm made an outrageous comment with no factual backing. It's not unlike things you hear on conservative talk radio -- sweeping statements by Rush and Laura Ingraham and Mark Levin about how so-and-so Democrat is a Socialist or a "femi-nazi" or "hates America." It's simpleton loud-mouthed opinion, easy for the masses to swallow, easy to toss out with any real thought, and better suited for the end of the bar after a night of beers. It's not news analysis.

10:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

interesting commentary above about what a liberal is. maybe i should have said what differentiates liberals. I am not a liberal. Yet I do not like war, famine, torture, people with body odor etc...and also basically believe people should have equality under the law etc..... this was a non answer.

as far as michael moore, i dislike him. thats ok. however, i did think some of his movies were very good, in particular columbine. yet, your listing of the issues the movies bring about is interesting. For example, you say columbine brought up the issue of gun control which is of course true because that is what the movie was about. But f 9/11---different story. this was not about the effects of war. it was about george bush, his family, and what moore sees as his destroying the foundation of america. where some truth is mixed in with so many falsities and exagerations, under the guise of a documentary, with the designed purpose of character assassination on a public mass scale--this i disagree with. and i didnt think the movie was very good anyway. hey, everyone has their opinion. he has the right to do what he wants. i have the right to think what i want about it.

5:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I disagree. I think the general theme of Moore's 9-11 film was predominately the effects of war on its various victims and the sheer hypocrisy and callousness of those in power who wage it.
The so-called character assasination of Bush was used to support this theme.
I reiterate my point. Those who accuse Moore of distortion and propaganda to make a point should take a look at an equal dose of propaganda and distortions in most any Bush public speech.

5:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you and i clearly did not see the same movie. michael moore himself has described his movie as his attempt to show the american people what Bush is all about. I never heard him describe it the way you do. Whatever.....everyone i know thinks it was a character assasination. the only disagreement is about whether they agree with it or not.

9:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bush sympathizers, in particular, were so taken aback by the character assassination aspect of the 9-11 movie (even though, I believe, some of it had merit) they blinded themselves to the movie's overriding themes.
Moore on several talk shows has clearly described his movie the way I have, as an indictment of a war of dubious merit. How do you explain all the scenes involving Lily Liscomb, of Iraq people slaughtered after a U.S. bombing, the active recruitment of poor teenagers in ecnomically depressed cities, interviews with soldiers who had their limbs amputated, attempts to recruit sons and daughters of U.S. Congressman who voted for the war?
Many even right-wing critics cited the value and power of such scenes. But also suggested Moore blew it via interweaving the less than substantiated Bush attacks, such as his relationships with the Saudis and Bin Ladens.
Nonetheless, if you think Moore's ONLY point was to crush Bush, then you watched the movie with your eyes closed.

9:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

saw this movie. it was not his only point but his primary point to attack bush. yes, showing the devastations of war has its value. americans tend to think war is a clean activity when it clearly is not. there are many shows, movies etc. about war but this movie was not about war. it was using this example of war to show the supposed bush's incompetence and shadiness or even criminal activity. and it was to attempt to change the view of the president in order to shift votes in an election year. not saying anything is wrong with that but you dont have to be a bush sympathizer to see this. every scene with Lily and or about war was clearly interwoven with commentary designed to show Bushs actions in causing the problems. But yes, you are correct in one sense. Moore is anti war under virtually any circumstance-he was against the aphgan invasion as well. Fair enough-everyone has their own opinions. But lets call things for what it is. I dont think Moore was pushing to show the movie on TV the night before the election because he felt americans needed to better understand the atrocities of war.

11:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a matter of fact, that was precisely Moore's point, to show another side to the war than the mainstream media's "Rah Rah Rah!Go Bush Go! Kill them F'N Arabs! We'll show them we're not going to take it anymore after 9-11!" (It was precisely this type of journalism that subvented experts doubting Bush's WMD claims from a very early date).
During the election season, Moore wanted the masses to see this justified OTHER side of the war, being ignored by the mainstream media, so they had something else to think about when considering a vote for the president. Moore was certainly more meritorious in these actions than the Swift Boat bullshitters.

2:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a matter of fact, that was precisely Moore's point, to show another side to the war than the mainstream media's "Rah Rah Rah!Go Bush Go! Kill them F'N Arabs! We'll show them we're not going to take it anymore after 9-11!" (It was precisely this type of journalism that subvented experts doubting Bush's WMD claims from a very early date).
During the election season, Moore wanted the masses to see this justified OTHER side of the war, being ignored by the mainstream media, so they had something else to think about when considering a vote for the president. Moore was certainly more meritorious in these actions than the Swift Boat bullshitters.

2:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:19 PM  

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