Saturday, June 02, 2007

More Misinformation from Media Matters

I've written before about the disingenuousness of Media Matters (see here and here for starters).

Media Matters likes to tout itself as "balance" to conservative media, ignoring the fact that most MSM is liberal to start with and needed balancing by conservatives. Frequently, MM has been caught cherry-picking quotes or twisting facts to fit its mantra that there's this vast unchecked rightwing takeover of the media.

Via Redstate, we have these Media Matters quotes:

* Combining newspapers and television, conservative religious leaders were quoted, mentioned, or interviewed in news stories 2.8 times as often as were progressive religious leaders.

* On television news -- the three major television networks, the three major cable news channels, and PBS -- conservative religious leaders were quoted, mentioned, or interviewed almost 3.8 times as often as progressive leaders.

* In major newspapers, conservative religious leaders were quoted, mentioned, or interviewed 2.7 times as often as progressive leaders.

According to GetReligion, which was linked to in the Redstate post,
The religious conservatives analyzed were James Dobson, William Donohue, Gary Bauer, Charles Colson, Jerry Falwell, Franklin Graham, Ted Haggard, T.D. Jakes, Richard Land, Tom Minnery, Joel Osteen, Rod Parsley, Tony Perkins, Pat Robertson, Rick Warren and Wendy Wright. The religious liberals analyzed were Tony Campolo, Joan Chittister, Robert Edgar, Jim Forbes Jr., C. Welton Gaddy, Jesse Jackson, Michael Lerner, Brian McLaren, David Saperstein, Al Sharpton, John H. Thomas and Jim Wallis.

As Redstate author Hunter Baker points out, perhaps the reason the first group (conservative) gets quoted more is that the membership of their groups dwarfs that of the second (liberal) one. After all, that's the argument we hear about why NOW, NARAL, and Planned Parenthood get quoted all the time when abortion is the topic.

But Mollie at GetReligion gives us what is really missing from the coverage, and it's not the "statistics" Media Matters wants to use.
Before we get to the journalistic analysis, I must point out how — once again — this study exists in a media environment where politics is everything. Even in religious coverage. Of the 20 folks analyzed, not a single one represents my theological views. None even come close, as a matter of fact. From my perspective, all 20 share a somewhat similar religious viewpoint — not a political one. Their ministries don’t emphasize creeds, the liturgy, forgiveness of sins or sacraments. No, every single one of these people is focused on politics and personal or societal improvement. It supports the views of historian Darryl Hart, who argues that this left-right comparison obscures the fact that political religious types on left and right are two sides of the same coin. If these guys feel they don’t get a fair shake from the media, imagine how those of us feel whose churches are less concerned with politics! We’re invisible!

The survey also fails to highlight one of the greatest wrongs perpetrated against the religious left. There is simply no discussion at all of the theology of the religious left. There’s very little on the right, either. But the absence of coverage of the left’s theological views is just sinful.

Virtually everyone MM studied is looking at moral issues from a political slant: abortion, embryonic stem cell research, fighting poverty, etc. But those two groups don't come close to covering the various beliefs of Christians on any of these issues, primarily because most Christian churches aren't political about their beliefs.

We've stated before (see here) that Democrats and liberals tend to ignore the Christian left until they need their votes. But Mollie points out that journalists also ignore this constituency when they are covering religion.

Perhaps this is another example of media bias, the kind that we don't talk about as much. That is, because journalists agree with views expressed by the Christian left, they tend to focus only on conservative Christian controversies when looking for a story.

Take poverty. Mollie points out that everybody opposes poverty. But the Christian left and Christian right approach the problem with different solutions. The Christian right is more likely to advocate for food banks, voluntary giving, nonprofit shelters and so on. The Christian left is more likely to advocate large government-run bureaucracies to deal with the problem. This creates a controversy in Christianity that we don't typically see reported in the MSM. If Media Matters was really interested in who isn't getting quoted, it would spend its energy search for these voice on issues instead of making up statistics to fit their conspiracies.