Earlier this week Pew Research published the results of a study of how media -- broadcast, print and blogs -- have covered the 2012 candidates for President. One candidate in particular had remarkable numbers, particularly when it came to how much
October 20, 2011

Earlier this week Pew Research published the results of a study of how media -- broadcast, print and blogs -- have covered the 2012 candidates for President. One candidate in particular had remarkable numbers, particularly when it came to how much of the coverage was negative, versus positive. Who was it? Bachmann? Perry? Cain? If you guessed any of those three, you guessed wrong.

One man running for president has suffered the most unrelentingly negative treatment of all, the study found: Barack Obama. Though covered largely as president rather than a candidate, negative assessments of Obama have outweighed positive by a ratio of almost 4-1. Those assessments of the president have also been substantially more negative than positive every one of the 23 weeks studied. And in no week during these five months was more than 10% of the coverage about the president positive in tone.

These are some of the findings of new work by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism that combines PEJ’s ongoing weekly content analysis with computer algorithmic technology developed by Crimson Hexagon. In combination, the two research methods assess coverage across more than 11,500 news media outlets each day. A separate analysis also tracks the level of discussion and tone across hundreds of thousands of blogs. The study covers the 23 weeks from May 2, when candidates began to announce, to October 9, one week ago—that first phase of what might be called The Media Primary.

The blogosphere, it turns out, is proving a much rougher environment than the news media for candidates, including contenders associated with the Tea Party movement. But one candidate has emerged as the winner of the blog primary so far—Texas Congressman Ron Paul.

But wait, there's more. Guess who keeps getting happy, happy glowing coverage?

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin continued to display a gift for fascinating the media during these past five months. Though she never entered the race, finally announcing on October 5 that she would not run, Palin seemed to generate significant coverage whenever she hinted she might get into the contest. That was enough to make her the fourth-most-covered Republican figure in news coverage, and the most-discussed candidate in blogs. And despite her complaints about what she calls the “lamestream media,” Palin enjoyed coverage that was considerably more positive than negative—by a factor of almost 3-2. Bloggers, meanwhile, were much more disapproving.

As if to prove the truth of this study, The Hill ran with an amazing headline today:

Poll: Half of Americans believe Obama doesn't deserve reelection

Hmmm. Let's see. If half of Americans believe he doesn't deserve re-election, then that means the other half does, right? Which means that headline could easily have been flipped around to read "Half of Americans believe Obama deserves re-election." And if that headline could have been flipped and wasn't, one might ask why? Here's another way they could have worded it: "Americans evenly split on whether Obama deserves re-election". That would have been neutral, at least.

That headline came from The Hill, which seems to have a permanent right-wing tilt. But here's one of The Politico's headlines: Obama Gets Low Marks With Jews. Uh-oh, that's a core constituency, right? Oops! The headline is a bit misleading, since the question was specific to how the conflict between Israel and Palestine is being handled, not his overall rating. Bet you'd never have guessed that from the headline though, which I'm sure was intended.

I'm still looking for that liberal media. Let's go to the traditional media outlets and see what's there. CNN.com was either neutral or just obsessed with last night's Republican debate. Not much there and what was, was neutral. MSNBC.com next. Nope, no there, there. All about Republicans and debates. Nothing really about the President's bus tour, which wrapped up in Virginia today, or anything else, for that matter. On to Fox News, where I will supply screen shots of below-the-fold headlines:

Screen Shot 2011-10-19 at 10.14.jpg

That would be a slam article on Biden, featuring President Obama in the image. And then there's this:


Wow. There ya go. Lots and lots of negative, although I expect nothing less from Fox News.

So for this night, anyway, the mainstream outlets are either ignoring the President altogether or slamming him, Fox News style.

In the past, I have been the target of a lot of criticism for taking people on the "liberal" side of things to task for what I consider to be criticism that ignores reality. Take, for example, the public option debate. I hear this over and over, how the public option could have been reality if only the President had taken the bully pulpit and pounded Congress, kind of like he is now.

Only, he's pounding now and getting absolutely nothing in return for it. Yet I will still hear about how the President has some kind of magical power to convince Congress to roll over just because he said so.

It has taken a toll, all that negativity, just as I said it would at the time. If you think otherwise, go back and look at that chart again, which includes blogs. Not right-wing blogs, but blogs, overall.

2012 is right around the corner. If you think nothing is at stake, I urge you to reconsider. The Supreme Court, the modest gains with the health care act (like covering pre-existing conditions and kids up to age 27 on parents' policies, for example), what little financial industry regulation we were able to get -- gone. Of course, we can count on women being sent back to the eighteenth century while people sleep in the street and children are allowed to work with no protections, unions are decertified and barred from existing, liberal votes go uncast and uncounted because of voter suppression and employees' protections are rolled back.

I'm not exaggerating. If you've watched what's happening in the states you know I'm not exaggerating. It's real, and we can't count on media -- blog, traditional media, print media or social media -- to balance what they say and write about this President. If we're not going to get his back, I would suggest it is time to breathe deep and get ready for what President Romney or Perry will serve up.

In the past when I say this, people laugh. Quit laughing. Because if you're not seeing what's at stake and how skewed the reporting is that gets out to people less engaged and less interested than anyone reading this blog post right now, then you should take a closer look at what is right in front of us. Whatever your complaint with this President might be, I assure you it will look and sound nothing like the sound and fury of the United States going to hell down a fast slide under the guidance of a right-wing crazy type.

There's a reason Rick Perry wins elections. He tears down his opponents. He'll do it this time too. First Romney, then Obama. And if no one is willing to line up behind Obama, I'm guessing we'll all be Texas.

Update: Andrew Sullivan, who I have a love-hate relationship with, echoes this theme with expansion:

At some point, he needs to shuck off the restraint, and tell the actual story of the last three years - against the fantastic and self-serving lies and delusions we keep hearing in Republican debates and Beltway chatter. If he does it with panache, he won't need a jumpsuit onto an aircraft carrier. And many of his missions may even be accomplished.

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