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Tuesday, March 2, 2004

Smokey Briggs

Sage Views

By Smokey Briggs

The left-wing bias
of journalists

Are you a conservative?

Do you ever find yourself feeling alone in this brave new world? Do you read a major newspaper or watch the national news on television and become convinced that you and a few gun-toting hillbillies are the only people in the world who think like you?

This has happened to me more often than not since I learned to read. Years of therapy at shooting ranges and redneck bars were the only things that kept me from doubting my own sanity at times.

Most of my colleagues in the news business scoff when you claim that there is a left-wing bias amongst most who call themselves journalist.

Itís not a conspiracy. I do not think it is even done consciously by most.

But, the bias of individual reporters and editors bleeds through the front pages of every major daily in the state.

The labeling of political persons as either liberal or conservative in news articles, not opinion pieces like this one, illustrates the point.

There are groups that keep score in such matters. Texas Media Watch is one such group and can be contacted at .

Recently the group published a number of statistics regarding the labeling of politicians and groups by the five largest daily newspapers in Texas (Austin-American Statesman, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News).

It also published an opinion piece in the January issue of Texas Press Messenger from which I am lifting much of this information. Texas Press Messenger is the official publication of the Texas Press Association.

A few examples of unequal labeling by the Big Five:

Texans for Public Justice, a group with an agenda that makes Bill Clinton look conservative, was not identified as liberal a single time last year in a Texas news story.

On the other hand, Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy was identified as conservative in every article it was named.

At the same time Gov. Rick Perry was identified as conservative in 481 articles last year while not a single Texas Democrat was routinely labeled liberal.

While not all Texas Democrats are liberals, I know for a fact that there are some who would be pleased if communism/socialism reigned supreme in this land.

The same kind of thing takes place at the national level.

Back in November a study was published by David Brady, a Stanford University professor, and Jonathan Ma, an economics student.

They reviewed news stories published from 1990 to 2002.

Brady and Ma found that the New York Times and the Washington Post labeled U. S. senators conservative four or five times more often than they labeled senators liberal.

Brady and Ma noted that they found similar patterns in other newspapers - even the Wall Street Journal.

To its credit, the Journal published the study, even though it was found to label senators conservative twice as often as it described them as liberal.

Brady and Ma also found that supposedly unbiased reporters and editors often added negative labels such as unyielding, extreme and belligerent when characterizing conservatives while the guys they like were far more often characterized as respected, old-school, or good old-fashioned liberal (if they bothered labeling them liberal in the first place).

The problem with all this labeling is that it gives the impression that conservatives are not in the mainstream - something most of my colleagues would like to think.

At least here in the United States, that is generally not the case.

Texas Media Watch publishes the results of non-partisan poles throughout the year and if you study them I think you will find that most really do seem to be non-partisan.

In recent months they have reported the results of polls that indicate that 56 percent of Americans actively support the war in Iraq and just over half of all American women oppose all legal abortion.

Other polls published indicate that 76 percent of Texans support the death penalty and only 7 percent support a state income tax.

Reading the front pages of the Big Five, much less flipping across the channels of the major network news programs, it seems such views were only held by my gun-toting kinfolk and a few heartless Republicans occupying penthouse suites in big-city skyscrapers.

Certainly you do not get the impression that my kin are in the majority or, dare I say it, Mainstream?

Edwards appears more "electable" in the long run

Dear Editor:

Public perceptions of "electability" with regard to Senators John Kerry, John Edwards may be inaccurate, In the television age, Kerry's appearance and personality may be less effective than John Edwards'.

Kerry's sudden gain of momentum animized the opportunity to evaluate the candidates. There is time. The Democratic Party nomination process should not be a herd driven without sufficient reflection.

I am frightened for our country and our world. Many of the policies pursued by President Bush threaten our country and mankind. From nuclear proliferation to illegal aggressive war and aggravation of terrorism, there are too many policies that are not sound psychologically, and will likely worsen many problems.

John Edwards' personality may "wear better" over a long campaign, and through a Presidency. Edwards exudes confidence, vitality, charisma, and resilience. Perhaps Edwards fulfills national emotional needs like Ronald Reagan did when his good humored optimism confronted our "national malaise."

We have been much more afraid the last couple of years, and have lost much of the world's goodwill.

Edwards exudes qualities that exemplify Americans' ideal self image: intelligence, respectfulness, friendliness, openness, and optimism. He has a persona that Americans traditionally take pride in presenting to the world.

Polling data reported suggests that Edwards may be able to get more support than Kerry from independents, Republicans, and people who decide late. These voters are critical in deciding and election. News reports indicate that President Bush sees Edwards as the more difficult challenger. This is echoed by conservative commentators. Edwards appears more "electable" in the long run.

Robert E. Griffin

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