Monday, May 4, 2015

Houck Sings A Different Tune on Coverage of Candidates [UPDATED]

MRC Watch Dept. - Last week when independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders formally entered the race for the 2016 Democratic nomination, his announcement was barely mentioned on the three major network evening newscasts, yet Curtis Houck (falsely) described the NBC "coverage" as "fawning" and NBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell as gushing over Sanders, the candidate she had barely mentioned. Rather than comparing the near-non-coverage of Sanders to the extensive coverage offered his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton, Houck complained that, "in contrast to the coverage Sanders has received thus far, the networks were far less warm toward any of the three declared Republican candidates." The three declared Republican candidates who, like Hillary Clinton but unlike Sanders, received full coverage of their campaign launches by all three network newscasts.

Monday, the entrance into the Republican race of retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and former failed Senate candidate Carly Fiorina received similar short shrift on these same programs yet this time around, Houck sang a very different tune, complaining that the networks
"showed no interest in giving extensive to either candidate during their Monday evening newscasts with a combined one minute and 10 seconds of news briefs devoted to new 2016 candidates."
The networks, in his recounting, "downplay 2016 presidential announcements of Republicans... Clocking in with the least amount of time was the CBS Evening News... Meanwhile, NBC Nightly News clocked in with a measly 21 seconds of airtime..." And so on. Because his thesis is that Republicans were given short shrift, Houck avoids comparing the much more extensive coverage given to the other already-announced GOP candidates and instead compares the Carson and Fiorina coverage to the also-extensive coverage of Democrat Hillary Clinton.

The two events underscore the complete lack of seriousness with which those at the Media Research Center approach their work as media critics. There is a very real real problem illustrated by the raw data here. The corporate press is, as an institution, conservative and works to limit the range of opinions allowed in mainstream political discourse. It appears as if Carson and Fiorina may have gotten snagged (temporarily or otherwise) by this, treatment usually reserved for candidates like Sanders or, on the right, Ron Paul. Instead of tackling the very real problem in evidence (and because doing so would undermine the MRC's central project of portraying news media as "liberal"), Houck opts for a double standard and performs the intellectually empty gymnastics he needs to suit his pointless partisan ends. Too bad.


UPDATE (5 May, 2015) - On Tuesday, former Arkansas governor and failed 2008 Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee threw his own hat into the 2016 contest and he, too, was given very little coverage by the network evening newscasts. Over at Newsbusters, Curtis Houck again objected under the headline "ABC, NBC Barely Cover Mike Huckabee's 2016 Presidential Announcement." As before, Houck breaks it down by how many seconds the story ran. Using his chronometer (and setting aside that grading such things by the second can be rather silly in a situation like this), Huckabee actually received more coverage than Sanders from every network. CBS, which only mentioned Sanders' candidacy in a line tacked on to the end of an unrelated story, ran a full report on Huckabee, something none of the networks did for Sanders.

[This article was written for MRC Watch, a blog dedicated to a critique of the work of the Media Research Center.]

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