I didn't know where exactly to share this post, since it isn't appropriate for my regular teacher site: http://sciencenvrsucks.wordpress.com
, but it was for a wider audience than my facebook wall. So, I'm going to go ahead and post it here on Google+ to the Public.
Your comments are welcome.
MEDIA SOURCES EQUALLY TOUCHY ABOUT RELIGION, SO LONG AS IT'S CHRISTIANITY FOR THE RIGHT AND ISLAM FOR THE LEFT
Whether or not our big news organizations are biased one way or another is constantly talked about. Conservatives generally view the New York Times and other "mainstream media" as heavily biased in favor of Democrats and liberals whereas liberals view Fox News as heavily biased in favor of Republicans and conservatives.
This assumption sometimes leads people to jump to conclusions. See the bit of backtracking the Daily Caller had to make after it accuses New York Times reporter Jennifer Preston of being biased using the headline: "New York Times reporter advises White House media staff on Twitter" when really, all she was doing was asking for a hashtag. The Daily Caller has since changed the headline to: "New York Times reporter prompts White House media staff on Twitter" but the damage has been done.
(Interested in this story? Check out The Daily Caller <http://dailycaller.com/2011/07/29/new-york-times-reporter-advises-white-house-media-staff-on-twitter/
>, Washington Post 'Daily Caller cheap-shots the New York Times' <http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/erik-wemple/post/daily-caller-cheap-shots-the-new-york-times/2011/07/29/gIQANNfehI_blog.html
>, Jennifer Preston 'What's the Hashtag?' <http://storify.com/nyt_jenpreston/whats-the-hashtag
>, and The Atlantic 'The Daily Caller Accuses the NYT of 'Prompting' the White House' <http://www.theatlanticwire.com/politics/2011/08/daily-caller-accuses-nyt-prompting-white-house/40660/
This appears to be a good time to prompt another investigation into media bias, this time concerning religion.
Here are the facts. On July 22nd, 2011, a gunman opened fire on Utoya Island where youths were attending a Labor Party conference. The gunman is identified as Anders Breivik, and the manifesto he wrote to justify his actions included a call for a 'Christian war to defend Europe against the threat of Muslim domination.'
This is how the different news organizations reported Anders Breivik's religious affiliation:
New York Times, front page above the fold. "As Horrors Emerge, Norway Charges Christian Extremist'" and in first paragraph of news report "The Norwegian man charged Saturday with a pair of attacks in Oslo that killed at least 92 people left behind a detailed manifesto outlining his preparations and calling for a Christian war to defend Europe against the threat of Muslim domination" <http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/24/world/europe/24oslo.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=%22the%20norwegian%22%20%22manifesto%20shows%22&st=cse
Fox News, on the other hand, never identifies Anders Breivik as Christian in its top news story on the shooting. Instead, in the Associated Press article Fox news posted on the website, the only time the word "Christian" is mentioned was in this context: "The use of an anglicized pseudonym could be explained by a passage in the manifesto describing the founding, in April 2002 in London, of a group he calls a new Knights Templar. The Knights Templar was a medieval order created to protect Christian pilgrims in the Holy Land after the First Crusade in the 11th century" <http://www.foxnews.com/world/2011/07/24/norwegian-suspect-wanted-european-anti-muslim-crusade/
If you do a count as to which paragraph the word "Christian" appears in the main July 24th stories* of a sample of major news organizations, you find the following pattern:
New York Times 1 http://nyti.ms/mVZ3xZ
NPR 2 http://n.pr/oglTXL
Los Angeles Times 8 http://lat.ms/qELe6k
Fox News 32 http://fxn.ws/oBzZti
New York Post never mentioned http://nyp.st/pCHlPR
This is unlikely to be a simple coincidence.
To test the connection between news organization and tendency to report on religion, note the difference between the previous list and the next list, which counts which paragraph the word "Muslim" appears in the main November 6th, 2009 articles on the Fort Hood shooting which left thirteen people killed. Major Nidal Malik Hasan was the gunman in this case.
The New York Times reported that Major Hasan had listed "no religious preference" on his personnel records and the only time Muslim was mentioned was in the context of the Muslim Public Affairs Council which commented on the shooting, calling it a 'heinous incident'.
In Fox News, the story instead reads in paragraph 6, "Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison said generals at Fort Hood told her that Hasan, a Virginia native and a Muslim, was about to deploy overseas."
New York Times 33 http://nyti.ms/onPoeS
NPR 17 http://n.pr/paebjE
Los Angeles Times 5 http://lat.ms/qyZmIs
Fox News 6 http://fxn.ws/onFT60
New York Post 1 http://nyp.st/n7g7O7
Now I would love to have people help gather more data, because I understand that these newspapers and the articles I chose are but a small sample of what's available, so please add our knowledge-base by filling out the following google form: http://bit.ly/nvQdh2
. I'll update with more information if/when the number of unique articles and analyses passes 50. You can see the progress on the spreadsheet here: http://bit.ly/oKyzZ8
It would be interesting to see if these tallies on when the shooter was identified as a certain religion change depending on what date the story was, whether the story was in news or opinion, and whether there was small or large variance within a news organization.
Please spread the word by linking to this post (copy-and-paste link here: ). The more data we have, the stronger our analysis.
Even more analysis can be done as to which newspapers posted opinion pieces or news pieces on the bias they see in other news organizations during these respective incidents. The New York Post said, for example, that the November 8th, 2009 attack was Fort Hood's 9/11 and "political correctness killed those patriotic Americans at Ft. Hood as surely as the Islamist gunman did" <http://nyp.st/qDB7rT
> while The New York Times wrote how "Killing in Norway Spotlight Anti-Muslim Thought in U.S." <http://nyti.ms/qstUr4
But clearly, organizations along the entire spectrum of political thought have to do a bit of rigorous analysis if they truly aspire to be fair and truthful.
This post could not have been possible without the help of KMW and UB.