Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Houck’s Complaint About Soundbites Bites

MRC Watch Dept. -  In recounting tonight’s network evening news coverage of the gay marriage case presently before the Supreme Court, Curtis Houck identified and complained about a disparity in soundbites.

In the report that ran on the NBC Nightly News, justice correspondent Pete Williams, recounts Houck, “played two soundbites from Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Antonin Scalia in support of traditional marriage but three from other justices expressing doubt for that argument.” Meanwhile, over on the CBS Evening News, justice correspondent Jan Crawford “aired three soundbites from justice[s] for gay marriage compared to just two in favor of traditional marriage.”

Given Williams’ tally of where the court’s justices seem to stand — he says there seems to be “a bare 5-to-4 majority in favor over same-sex marriage” — this split would seem appropriate. When it comes to the general population, support for gay marriage is overwhelming. In a portion of tonight’s ABC News report on the case, anchor David Muir points out that support is, by the ABC News/Washington Post poll, currently at 61%. Houck goes through Muir’s set-up but, unsurprisingly, leaves out that part (though the video clip that accompanies his article leaves it in). More broadly, most Americans have supported some form of official recognition of homosexual unions for over a decade.[*] This is the mainstream view, regardless of whether Houck edits it out of his story, and it and William’s take on the mood of the court renders rather absurd Houck’s complaint about an imbalance in soundbites.



[*] ABC’s Muir gets this wrong, as so many press outlets have. The 2004 poll he cites for comparison purposes shows 62% opposed to gay marriage. The word “marriage” was, for many years, a stumbling-block in polling on this issue. If respondents at the time of that older poll were only offered the option of “marriage,” a majority were opposed, but if respondents were offered the option of “civil unions” alongside “marriage”–as they were in the CBS News/New York Times polling–support for official recognition was overwhelming. An overwhelming majority going back at least to 2004. Over time, people just became more comfortable with using the word “marriage” to describe it.

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

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