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July 01 2010

14:15

When a journalism gig is paid for by outsiders

In the sea of good pieces last week about the Dave Weigel imbroglio, his own explanation of events stood out. And there was one paragraph that particularly interested me:

In 2004, when I was graduating [from Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism], I was offered two jobs — an editing role at the libertarian magazine Liberty and a fellowship at USA Today, sponsored by the conservative Collegiate Network. I chose the USA Today job, but kept freelancing, mostly for magazines like The American Spectator and Reason.

I was familiar with the Collegiate Network from my own college days; it funded a conservative publication on campus, and that’s what I thought the extent of their work was. But I didn’t realize that it also pays for journalists to work at mainstream news organizations. So I contacted USA Today and got this reply from spokesperson Elga Maye:

We’ve had Collegiate Network interns — including Weigel — working with the paper’s editorial board for several years. They participate in board discussions, their primary daily duty is fact-checking, and their work (like that of all interns) is closely supervised. Toward the end of their internships, some have written editorials reflecting the board’s consensus or, less frequently, bylined op-ed pieces reflecting their own point of view. Their value to us — apart from their labor — is to add another voice, young and conservative, to the diversity of perspectives we already have on an ideologically mixed editorial board.

In that context, the fact that they have a strong point of view — their own, not the Collegiate Network’s — is an asset. We’d gladly take a qualified intern from a liberal organization on the same terms if we were aware of such a program.

The Collegiate Network describes these jobs as year-long fellowships, with stipends of $24,000 to $30,000 paid by CN, and along with USA Today lists Roll Call among outlets where it’s placed journalists. Their Wikipedia page also lists a wide variety of conservative publications and outlets, but also US News & World Report. The application form also lists the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the News & Observer, the San Diego Union-Tribune, and my old paper The Dallas Morning News — although that form doesn’t differentiate between summer internships and the year-long fellowships. And based on this post, fellows aren’t just on the editorial board — they’re also writing news stories.

We normally don’t write about issues of media bias here — we leave that to the 10 million other people out there who write about media bias — so I didn’t pursue this any further. Go make your own calls! But given what some journalists have argued recently about the proper role of ideology and opinion in a newsroom — which is to say, no role — it’s an interesting data point that a political group is paying the salaries behind some of the bylines you see.

May 14 2010

16:26

E&P: US media ‘unabashedly biased’ toward Barack Obama

Editor & Publisher have a comment piece from Congressman Lamar Smith in which he claims the US media have been exceptionally favourable toward President Obama and relatively disparaging of George Bush and the tea party movement.

The mainstream media’s treatment of President Obama provides an interesting case study. Journalists who gave to President Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign outnumbered those who contributed to Sen. McCain by 20-to-1.

And once the election was over, the slanted coverage continued. The nonpartisan Center for Media and Public Affairs, comparing media coverage of Presidents Bush and Obama at the same point in their presidencies, found that 58 percent of all network news evaluations of Obama and his policies were favorable, while only 33 percent of assessments of Bush were favorable.

Full story at this link…

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March 05 2010

08:54

NewsTrust.net: The hunt for bad journalism

US professor Howard Rheingold and his Stanford University students have been reviewing coverage of politics by US newspapers, broadcasters and news sites, assessing levels of trust and bias in news stories, opinion pieces and coverage by media watchdog organisations.

This ‘News Hunt’ looked at stories published between 18 February and 2 March:

For this News Hunt, NewsTrust editors hand-picked stories for review, focusing mostly on political topics covered by mainstream sources, with the goal of highlighting flawed or questionable stories from some of the news outlets that people read and watch most (e.g. cable news and talk radio). We also took great care to feature stories representing political viewpoints from the left, right and center. What we wound up with is not a “worst of the worst” list, but a round-up of stories from a variety of media that our staff and community found to be examples of bad journalism.

Read more about the News Hunt’s findings at this link…

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