In the modern world, more and more people are turning to the Internet as their main source of world news. Within this relatively new form of media, some of the classic arguments about journalistic slant and bias are still made. It is not uncommon to hear the term “liberal media” when reading stories in the news, especially those that are political in nature. The natural reaction to hearing this term is to think of it as a way that the Republican Party is condemning the actions of their adversaries and blaming the media for being biased to the left side of a particular issue. Taking from this general idea, one can arrive at the question: just how much of a factor does journalism bias play when reporting a particular story? In order to fully appreciate and analyze this, it is important to look at three different news sources and how they report the same issue. By looking at a news source that is usually very right-wing in its reporting, such as Fox News, one that is relatively neutral, in this case, CNN and one that is known to be left-wing, NBC, the question of bias in the reporting can be fully looked at and appreciated. It is through factors of presentation such as the structure of sentences and fact presentation all the way down to the pictures that are chosen to report on a particular story that truly shows the slant that a particular news coverage network is placing upon a particular reported event.
As the country faces political battle and discourse, different news providers provide different styles of coverage on how the government is dealing with the issue at large. Currently, the nation is facing a difficult battle in planning the budget in relation to taxation and spending cuts. All of the major news providers have run many different stories daily covering this event. NBC runs a story that has a very understated message to it. In the coverage that they provide, President Obama is fighting a battle to try to save the country from falling into further debt and is simply being bullied and brought down by the Republican party that simply care about disagreeing with his efforts because they view his entire presidency as being the enemy. The article goes on to show pictures of the President walking alone on a snowy day looking burdened by the weight of the troubles the country faces being solely on his shoulders. The story almost makes it look as though Obama is a sort of hero or valiant knight that is fighting against all odds for those he cares about, which in this case is the American people. The story goes on to show that the Republicans are the “bad guys” in this scenario by providing them with quotes that give the general tone of being disgruntled and unwilling to cooperate. Some of the quotes in the story say things such as, “I’m damned tired of it,” or “I’m not interested in more revenue at this point,” (Curry). These sorts of quotes are then attached to important Republican representatives in order to show that they are the ones that are unwilling to compromise and are the very reason why the political process in the United States has come to a halt. The bias in this form of news clearly favors the left-winged side of politics but it can be easily countered by the story that Fox News provides for the same event.
Fox News presents the same event in a much different light than its left-winged news competitor NBC. Fox News has long been criticized as being very biased and unfairly right-winged dominated in its coverage, and this appears to be an accurate statement when it comes to the budget, taxation, and federal spending cuts stories that it has run. In the Fox News stories, all of the actions of President Obama are a means of sabotaging the Republican party’s credibility as a means to boost the general population’s view of the Democratic party, regardless of the consequence its has on the actual country. In their version of the story, Obama is attempting to “run up the score against Republicans,” (Stirewalt). His basic plan is to blame all of the economic hardships from the near future on the GOP because they refused to support the President’s purposed tax increase to cover the spending cuts that were requested. By the story’s account, Obama is a sort of evil genius that is using the country’s hardships as a means of holding down the GOP while appearing to be the victim that only wants to help make the country a better place for the American people. Even the photograph chosen for the news story appears to go along with this general message. The picture chosen is that of Obama entering Airforce 1 with an almost wicked smile that gives the general feel of “I’m pulling one over on the GOP and no one is the wiser.”
The truth of the issue must lie between these two extremes that Fox and NBC have painted. Clearly, President Obama is not a valiant knight riding into Washington to save the American people, nor is he the devil incarnated that is only in power to ruin the GOP and drive the United States into the ground. To find a more unbiased version of the story, another, more centered version of the news should be looked upon such as that of CNN. In the coverage of these events about the country’s budget, CNN has a much more fact-driven, unbiased approach to the coverage of the events. They simply tell the exact details of what is happening without placing a large amount of slant to their story. One of their stories, in particular, gives the abridged version of the President’s latest day plan. The story gives the exact times that the President will be arriving, fielding the media, and giving a general discussion about topics of importance. The facts of the story are clearly stated such as in the following passage: “The president will depart the White House at 10:50 AM and his remarks in Norfolk will come a little after 1 PM,” (CNN). From an article such as this one, a reader is truly able to step back and realize that there is an incredible amount of bias that news sources provide on events that have occurred in the recent past as it allows for journalists to be able to find quotation and other abilities to turn the story in a particular political direction to suede the audience to favor one course of action over another. The next question one should ask upon arriving at this conclusion is logically this: can different news sources provide the same amount of bias on breaking news stories where they have a limited amount of time to find the necessary backing statistics and quotation to give the news source’s usual political bias?
One of the more recently breaking stories was the appointment and confirmation of the new Treasury Secretary Jack Lew. As with any news story, the major news providers all ran stories to announce the confirmation of Secretary Lew by the Senate. With the story breaking very recently, would the slanted, biased news providers of NBC and Fox be able to immediately work in their particular political point of view, or would they only really be able to report the confirmation of the new man in office and generally report on their agreement and/or disagreement of his appointment? The answer, as one would expect, is that the sources were able to put in less of their journalistic bias into a breaking story. NBC, the most left-winged of the three providers, ran a very short story that simply stated the confirmation by the Senate. Because Lew was appointed by the Obama administration, it comes as a small shock that this news source would have many negative comments to say about the man Obama wanted to have the job. There is brief mention to the Republicans attempting to deny him access to the job as the article mentions, “all five votes against him came from Republican committee members,” (Dann). This is the only real political slant to the article as a reader could take this statement as a way of saying that, once again, the GOP is attempting to block the progress of the nation just to screw over the Obama administration. Fox attempts to cast the appointment in a much more negative light, as one would expect.
The Fox News coverage of the event has a much larger story of the confirmation of Jack Lew. The story that runs casts Lew as a puppeteer for some of the financial difficulties that the nation has faced in the past several years. Fox is quick to point out that Republicans are blaming Lew for “his role in drafting deficit-heavy budgets under President Obama” (Fox News). The story also points out that Secretary Lew has been apart of many organizations that have been seen as the corporate “fat cats” that have received money from the government that has cost the American public billions of dollar. The general attempt by Fox is to paint a portrait of an individual that is not entirely fit for the job, but received it because the government is controlled and run by the Democratic Party who are simply trying to run their own agenda with no input and attempt to establish a bipartisan relationship. Even the image chosen to show off the new Secretary of the Treasury is one that gives negative credibility to Lew. The picture is one of him looking away as he answers questions before his appointment. The image shows a relatively weak-looking, larger man who will not even make eye contact with those he is addressing because he clearly is running his own secret agenda that will financially benefit himself at the cost of the American people.
Even on a relatively new news story, the reader can immediately see that the political split remains between the two extremes in the news world of Fox News and NBC. Again, by looking at the story presented by a more neutral news source, CNN, the reader can see the truth in the middle of these stories provided where Jack Lew is not a back alley, scheming man nor is he the single most qualified person to ever hold the office in the history of the country. The CNN story finds a much more balanced way of presenting what is actually happening in the confirmation of Jack Lew. CNN provides the criticism that the GOP has with his appointment, citing his connections to Citigroup during the financial crisis, but also points out the overwhelming 71-26 vote that confirmed him as the secretary of Treasury (Liberto). What CNN does better than either Fox or NBC is to show that, with almost all political issues, there is no extreme and all or nothing answer to a story. Lew clearly is not the single worst appointment ever made nor is he the greatest. The appointment and confirmation of Jack Lew were made because the President feels, and the Senate agrees, that he is the best person to currently hold the office of Secretary of the Treasury.
Bias and political slant in journalism is something that all readers should look out for whenever they find a story dealing with politics. What is most important to remember is where the news story is coming from. It is not only important to recall the facts of the story, but it clearly is just as important to realize who is telling the story. As the analysis has shown, not all coverage is fair and impartial. Regardless of how old or new a story is, the journalists will find a way to slant any story to fit a particular model that is expected by their news providers. From what has been examined, one can clearly draw the following conclusion. NBC News will provide a very left of center outlook on all of the nation’s political stories that it posts, Fox News will provide a very right of center outlook on basically the same stories ( such as they did in Trump's presidential campaign), and CNN will provide a very factual account that is a very neutral version of the actual event or issue. It is extremely important for a reader to remember this when they are encountering a new event that is breaking in the political news world. There are no issues that divide our nation as greatly as that of politics, and there is no reason why we should widen the gap between the political parties because of unfair reporting on roughly the same event. Instead, readers must remember that certain coverage of events will always have a certain agenda that they are pushing for. The reader must be educated enough to look past the political bias in journalism to see the truth of the issue and decide for themselves how they feel about what is happening in the world around them.
CNN. "Obama's day ahead: Sequester at Newport News Shipbuilding ." CNN Politics. 26 Feb 2013, http://whitehouse.blogs.cnn.com/2013/02/26/obamas-day-ahead-sequester-at-newport-news-shipbuilding/ Accessed 27 Feb. 2013.
Curry, Tom. "Budget battle is as much about taxes as spending." NBC News. 27 Feb 2013: n. page. http://nbcpolitics.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/02/27/17117477-budget-battle-is-as-much-about-taxes-as-spending?lite Accessed 27 Feb. 2013.
Dann, Carrie. "Senate confirms Lew as next Treasury Secretary." NBC News. 27 Feb 2013: n. page, http://firstread.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/02/27/17120585-senate-confirms-lew-as-next-treasury-secretary?lite. Accessed 27 Feb. 2013.
Fox News. "Senate confirms Lew as Treasury secretary." Fox News. 27 Feb 2013: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/02/27/senate-confirms-lew-as-treasury-secretary-71-26/?test=latestnews Accessed 27 Feb. 2013.
Liberto, Jennifer. "Senate confirms Jack Lew as Treasury Secretary." CNN. 27 Feb 2013: http://money.cnn.com/2013/02/27/news/economy/jack-lew-treasury-secretary/index.html Accessed 27 Feb. 2013.
Stirewalt, Chris. "Spending Fight Enters the Silly Stratosphere." Fox News. 26 Feb 2013: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/02/26/spending-fight-enters-silly-stratosphere/ Accessed 27 Feb. 2013.