Monday, January 15, 2007

Still Fair and Balanced

The Media Research Center has released the results of a ten-week study on Cable TV's coverage of the Iraq War. The MRC reviewed all three news networks' reporting on Iraq between May 15 and July 21. That period of time included the successful air strike that eliminated al-Qaeda terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, as well as allegations of U.S. military misconduct at Haditha. The results? No surprises...

All three cable news networks ran more stories reflecting bad news about the situation in Iraq than stories about coalition achievements. But Fox News (FNC) was the most balanced, with 20 percent of stories emphasizing optimism, compared with 30 percent that stressed pessimism.

Fully three-fifths (60%) of all CNN stories on the war emphasized setbacks, misdeeds or pessimism about progress in Iraq, compared to just 10 percent that reported on achievements or victories. MSNBC’s tilt was closer to CNN, with four times more bad news stories (48%) than reports stressing good news (12%).

While FNC provided significant coverage to unproven claims of U.S. military misconduct in Iraq (12 stories), the other networks took a much more sensational approach to the story. MSNBC aired three times as much coverage of alleged misconduct as FNC (36 stories), while CNN aired a whopping 59 stories — nearly five times the coverage of FNC.

FNC aired a total of 81 stories announcing coalition victories in Iraq, nearly as many as MSNBC (47 stories) and CNN (41 stories) combined. During the ten weeks of our study, most coverage of Iraq’s political process reflected optimism about the democratically-elected government, a topic that FNC also showcased more than either MSNBC or CNN (63 stories vs. 34 and 38 respectively).

While all three networks presented news of Zarqawi’s death as a victory for the U.S. coalition, CNN chose that day to interview a Middle East journalist who complained, "There’s no good news in Iraq. There’s no corner that’s been turned, there’s no milestone... I just feel very depressed and hopeless." Over on MSNBC, the network took time away from covering the breaking news of Zarqawi’s death to feature positive profiles of United States military deserters.

And the folks at CNN and MSNBC wonder why FoxNews remains the runaway, clear #1 cable news channel in the U.S.