27 December 2007


When it comes to coverage of both the Democratic and Republican presidential races, FOX News is the fairest of the big networks. At least that is what one study has turned up.

Before I go any further, I must provide a bit of background here.

I work for News Corp.- the owner of FOX News.

I didn't work for News Corp. until about two weeks ago, when the fairly large newspaper company I work for was taken over by News Corp. Our flagship publication is the Wall Street Journal. You may have heard of it.

Like most of the journalists at Dow Jones, I was, and still am, a bit skeptical about this new ownership. After all, News Corp. publishes The New York Post and The Sun (London's raciest tabloid). It also, of course, broadcasts the FOX News Channel, itself the subject of some ridicule for its "fair and balanced" claims.

So you can imagine my surprise to read the results of a study by the Center For Media And Public Affairs, which shows FOX News has been the most balanced of the national TV outlets in recent coverage of the presidential campaign.

The study of the main nightly broadcasts of ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX showed that FOX's news stories about the Democrats were 51% favorable and 49% unfavorable. The numbers are reversed for the Republicans, and split 50-50 when the two are taken together.

Among the traditional broadcast networks, the coverage of the Democrats was 47% positive and 53% negative, while the coverage of the GOP candidates was 40% positive and 60% negative.

The press release for the study (which I have linked above) does not break out each broadcast network individually and the center's Web site says only that full results will be posted soon.

The study also showed, based on analysis of 481 election news stories from Oct. 1 to Dec. 15, that Bill Clinton's frequent assertions that the media are hardest on his wife may be correct. The numbers bear that out, at least among the Democrats.

Of the stories about Hillary Clinton, 42% were deemed positive by those completing the study, while 58% were negative. Coverage of her closest competitor, Barack Obama, was 61% positive and 39% negative.

John McCain had the least positive coverage of all candidates at 33%. Mike Huckabee fared best among the GOP at an even 50-50.

The results seemed to validate another of Bill Clinton's complaints as well - that the media is focused on the horse race and not the substance of the candidates' positions.

Campaign strategy and tactics far outweighed other aspects of coverage with all the candidates.

The Center For Media And Public Affairs is an academic endeavor at George Mason University, so presumably there is no ideology involved in the study. It is interesting, however, that the headline on the study press release reads: "Obama, Huckabee Fare Best; FOX Is Most Balanced (not a typo)"

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