People who are politically active tend to stick to their own ecosystems, though we do crossover to mainstream media such as the Times or the Post, and CNN, of course. But most liberals find sites such as this one because they want to read analyses in accord with their own priorities, we watch Maddow, follow the same people on Twitter, and read The Nation.
Thus, it is easy to get lost as to what the “casual” political consumer sees.
According to a new study covered in the Washington Post, the average political news consumer is finding far more negative coverage of Joe Biden than that for Donald Trump, a man who handled an epidemic about as poorly as it could be handled and played some role in what amounted to a failed coup.
According to the Post, a very sophisticated meta-study was done regarding the coverage each man received:
Artificial intelligence can now measure the negativity with precision. At my request, Forge.ai, a data analytics unit of the information company FiscalNote, combed through more than 200,000 articles — tens of millions of words — from 65 news websites (newspapers, network and cable news, political publications, news wires and more) to do a “sentiment analysis” of coverage. Using algorithms that give weight to certain adjectives based on their placement in the story, it rated the coverage Biden received in the first 11 months of 2021 and the coverage President Donald Trump got in the first 11 months of 2020.
There is a very important point buried in that last sentence. Most presidents enjoy a honeymoon period. This study did not cover Trump’s “honeymoon,” it measured Trump’s last year, a year that could only be described as “disastrous” on a historic level, especially as compared to Biden’s first year which, despite some setbacks, has largely been a spectacular return to “normalcy.”
After a honeymoon of slightly positive coverage in the first three months of the year, Biden’s press for the past four months has been as bad as — and for a time worse than — the coverage Trump received for the same four months of 2020.
The article then goes on to highlight some of the most devastating events which occurred in Trump’s final year, culminating in the first violent transfer of power in our history, all of it versus Biden’s first year – this year:
And yet Trump got press coverage as favorable as, or better than, Biden is getting today. Sure, Biden has had his troubles, with the delta variant, Afghanistan and inflation. But the economy is rebounding impressively, he has signed major legislation, and he has restored some measure of decency, calm and respect for democratic institutions.
We need a skeptical, independent press. But how about being partisans for democracy? The country is in an existential struggle between self-governance and an authoritarian alternative. And we in the news media, collectively, have given equal, if not slightly more favorable, treatment to the authoritarians.
If this was just another article written by an analyst who has “reviewed” the materials and come to his or her own conclusion, we likely wouldn’t give it much weight. It is exceedingly difficult to remove our own biases and, as individual people, assess meta media bias. But it is not that difficult a task for certain types of computer programs that can calculate certain words and topics.
The fact that a study this sophisticated arrived at results this irrefutable truly is troubling. Yes, the mainstream press must remain neutral in reporting the facts. That does not, in any way, equate to neutralizing positive versus negative coverage of administrations, nor does it equate to a broad assumption that the tragedy in Afghanistan is equally egregious as the tragedy in New York during COVID’s first wave. The one that Jared Kushner called a blue state problem, the one Trump said he takes “no responsibility” for.
There is something very wrong in American media if Joe Biden is receiving more negative media attention of his first – largely successful year – than the devastating trail that Trump blazed in his final year. It is hard enough to keep a democratic republic, we don’t need a media “working hard” to avoid sounding partisan in covering Biden’s success, or fogging over Trump’s egregiousness.
Jason Miciak is a political writer, features writer, author, and attorney. He is originally from Canada but grew up in the Pacific Northwest as a dual Canadian-American citizen, which he grows increasingly thankful for every day. He now enjoys life as a single dad, writing from the beaches of the Gulf Coast, getting advice from his beloved daughter and teammate. He is very much the dreamy mystic that cannot add and loves dogs more than most people. He also likes studying cooking, theoretical physics, cosmology, and quantum mechanics. He likes pizza.
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