Novel Idea: Measuring Media Bias

I happened to catch an interview on (a noted conservative think tank and web media outlet, it should be fairly reported) with a UCLA sociology professor named Tim Groseclose. Now he was shilling his new book, so there was some mutual ego stroking during the interview (as his message appeals to conservatives)…but what it all boils down to is worth a read in my opinion.

Dr. Groseclose decided that the way to understand media bias was to use powerful text and voice search engines to make an accounting of how frequently the various media outlets cited various think tanks and political scientists (of known political bent), how often their reporting included loaded phrases with a known political slant in popular usage, and how many times certain loaded political facts were reported. The underlying assumption in this research is that bias in the media is largely governed not by an absence of reporting on specific events (since it behooves news agencies to cover things that are attention-getting news stories), but in the choices each outlet makes with regard to which specific facts will be reported and which buzzwords will be given greater weight.

He uses a massive amount of this search-based data to calculate a “slant quotient” for the agencies and that quotient tells you something about how bad the bias is, and in which direction. The best thing about this tool is that it’s not a relative metric. It doesn’t pit Fox News against everyone else in a relative contest. It pits each news agency against popular vernacular – a better standard of neutrality.

I have already purchased the book…I’m looking forward to his defense of the system. The SQs on his website seem about right to me (he can rate politicians as well as media corporations so you get some points of comparison)…and you can calculate your own political quotient there as well. For the record, I scored a 25.7 (50 would be neutral) – which is actually moderately conservative in an absolute framework…less conservative than John McCain and definitely not on the same planet as Michelle Bachmann. But ironically enough…MORE CONSERVATIVE than Fox News.

Food for thought.

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