Tuesday, March 15, 2005


SAEN Misrepresents Study's Findings

On page 10A of Monday's SAEN there is a story headlined "Study reports balance in most of war coverage." To say that headline whitewashed the conclusions of the study is putting it mildly. Here is what the study found about coverage of the Iraq war:
Over all, across all media studied, stories about the war were just slightly more likely to carry a clearly negative tone than a positive one (25% negative versus 20% positive). The majority of stories, however, had no decided tone at all. The largest number, 35%, were neutral, and another 20% were about multiple subjects for which tone did not apply.

The SAEN story says:
Despite the exhaustive look, the study likely won't change the minds of war supporters who considered the media hostile to the Bush administration...

Well, my mind has not been changed so far because the study only confirms SAEN Watch's belief that the SAEN's coverage of the Iraq war is mostly negative. According to the study, 25% of the reports it looked at were negative in nature. In addition, the study found that 36% of stories about President Bush were negative, 3 times more than those about Kerry:
When it came to the campaign, on the other hand, the criticism that George Bush got worse coverage than John Kerry is supported by the data. Looking across all media, campaign coverage that focused on Bush was three times as negative as coverage of Kerry (36% versus 12%) It was also less likely to be positive (20% positive Bush stories, 30% for Kerry).

So despite the SAEN's rosy headline, the study simply confirmed the media's bias. My favorite part of the SAEN story is where they describe the study as "exhaustive;" however a look at the methodology of the report shows this not to be the case at all:
First, newspapers were divided into four groups based on daily circulation: Over 750,000; 300,001 to 750,000; 100,001 to 300,000, and 100,000 and under.

We included four newspapers over 750,000: USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. (The Wall Street Journal, which also falls in this category, was excluded as a specialty publication.)

Four newspapers were chosen in each of the remaining three categories. To ensure geographical diversity, each of the four newspapers within a circulation category was selected from a different geographic region of the U.S. Regions were defined according to the parameters established by the U.S. Census Bureau.

It should be noted that the SAEN was included in one of the groups studied. So the "exhaustive" survey looked at a total of 16 newspaper in the United States, and a total of only 28 days were chosen for review:
January- 13, 16, 23
February- 2, 13, 23rd, 29th
March- 8, 12, 13, 14, 19, 24
April- 8, 15
May- 1, 4, 20
June- 8, 9, 16
July- 19, 25
August- 10, 12
September- 4, 22, 26

Still think this study was exhaustive? Well, according to Journalism.org there were 1,457 newspapers in the U.S. in 2002. This study looked at about 1.1% of all newspapers published in the U.S., hardly "exhaustive" by any means. In addition, the sample was further reduced because the stories chosen were very particular:
All stories with distinct bylines that appeared on a particular newspaper's front page (Page A1), on the first page of the Local/Metro section, or on the first page of the sports section were selected for analysis.

Furthermore, the study only looked at the content of articles and not at things like photos, and as I point out here on an almost daily basis, if you look at any photo in the SAEN about Iraq it is bound to be negative. So the "death Box" that the SAEN publishes day in and day out about Iraq had no effect on the results of the study. In conclusion, the SAEN can jump for joy at these results; however, as I have shown the study has no basis in reality. The reality is that the SAEN's coverage of Iraq has been, and continues to be, overwhelmingly negative. In the SAEN's own words, it's propaganda.
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