More on op-ed pages’ ‘slant’

You may recall this post from a while back, from a group calling itself "Media Matters" which set out to prove that set out to prove that newspaper editorial pages favor conservative over "progressive" columnists, and (gasp!) found just that — as do all such groups, whatever they are setting out to prove. (For a group that will always magically find just the opposite of what this group finds, click here.)

Anyway, "Media Matters" has separated its data out state-by-state, and (gasp again!) found the same thing on the state level:

Media Matters for America today released
South Carolina data for its new report “Black and White and Re(a)d All
Over: The Conservative Advantage in Syndicated Op-Ed Columns,” a
comprehensive and unprecedented analysis of nationally syndicated columnists
from nearly 1,400 newspapers,
or 96 percent of English-language U.S. daily newspapers.

If you care about this at all, you’ll probably care most about the paper-by-paper breakdown, so here is that:

Newspaper                 State Circulation   Conservatives   Progressives
Aiken Standard                       15,856                  100%            0%
Anderson Independent-Mail    36,781                  100%            0%
Beaufort Gazette                    11,994                    25%          25%
Charleston Post and Courier    97,052                    75%          13%
The State                              116,952                    50%          17%
Florence Morning News           33,078                      0%            0%
Greenville News                      88,731                    58%           33%
Greenwood Index-Journal       14,243                    79%           14%
Hilton Head Island Packet       19,514                    60%            20%
Myrtle Beach Sun News           51,303                    60%            20%
Orangeburg Times and Dem.  17,016                  100%              0%
Rock Hill Herald                      31,428                      0%              0%
Seneca Daily Journal/Msgr.      7,661                    50%             50%
Spartanburg Herald-Journal    48,514                      0%               0%
Sumter Item                            20,187                    75%             13%
Union Daily Times                    5,447                    57%             29%

But there will be no surprises in that for you. Since I already analyzed our pages for you using this group’s assumptions (something that I’m guessing they assumed I wouldn’t do), you knew where we’d end up.

So now you have it again. Are you gasping yet?

10 thoughts on “More on op-ed pages’ ‘slant’

  1. weldon VII

    The conservative slant is easy to explain.
    More liberals mature into conservatives than the other way ’round.
    Newspaper readers are on average older than the general population.
    Thus newspaper readers are more conservative than the general population.
    Newspapers are just trying to satisfy their customers.
    Next question?

  2. Susanna

    I recently moved to Aiken and started getting The Aiken Standard in addition to The State. And I have to say that from what I’ve read, the MM study seems right on. Though, personally, I’d have thought The State’s editorial columnists were closer to 50-50.

  3. Brad Warthen

    We ARE more like 50-50. It’s a matter of terminology. As I pointed out in the previous post, this group has rigged it so conservatives predominate. What they did wasn’t horrible, and I’m sure it honestly reflects things as THEY see them, but it isn’t what you’ve get from a non-ideological observer.

    Here’s what they did: They took any syndicated writer who could be considered even a little bit right of center, and pushed him or her all the way into the "conservative" category. But they didn’t do that with people who were a little bit left of center. They called them "Centrists." They only left the decidedly partisan and ideological liberals in their "Progressive category."

    All this involved was shifting two people — David Broder and Tom Friedman — out of the "Progressive" camp. No big deal, except it was in the context of considering only the top ten syndicated columnists, so that’s a 20-percent shift.

    Basically, if you don’t split the left and left-leaning into two categories the way they did, The State ends up as 50-50. Or 50-40 if you just look at the top ten overall, since we only run 9 out of the ten. But if you continue to the lesser conservatives and "progressives" in the study, we go back up to 50-50, because we DO run Bob Herbert, but we DON’T run any of the other conservatives on their list — just the ones in the overall top ten.

    Now how they came up with "17 percent progressive" for us, I don’t know. Even using their assumptions without question, we should have been at LEAST 20 percent, and possibly 30.

    Oh, wait, I see: They recalculated, throwing out Friedman, with regard to S.C. But in that case, how did we get an even 50 on "conservative?" Oh, I don’t know.

  4. Karen McLeod

    How did Dave Broder become ‘centrist’? I’ve considered him conservative for a long time. And yet, who’s defining the middle? From my point of view, printing Buchanan’s (don’t ask me for an opinion) column, without printing a balancing so-far-left-I-can’t-see-him column, leads me to believe that you are rather conservative. But then, you may think Buchanan’s centrist. Where is your ‘middle’?

  5. weldon VII

    Oh, come on, Brad. I told you way back when you were just right of center. Don’t worry. Be happy. If you find the exact middle of the road, they can hit you from both ways. Just keep going, and make sure nobody’s gaining on ya.

  6. bud

    Karen’s right, Broder nor Friedman are centrist. Both continue to support the Iraq occupation in some fashion. That’s a policy oppossed by 60% of the American people. I’m sure the pro-occupation articles outnumber those oppossed by at least 2 to 1. The breakdown should be exactly the opposite if the paper wanted to claim a centrist position.

  7. Brad Warthen

    Great. I was going to patiently and kindly answer Karen, but then bud had to weigh in and set me off. But… with great effort… I’ll dial back to patient.

    Karen, David Broder is probably the most centrist, neutral, objective person you will find on an op-ed page with any regularity — partly because he never got over being a reporter (and one of the best, in the political sphere). I have enormous respect for the man, even though I don’t think I could ever write with the sort of moderation of which he is master. I’m a little too, uh .. mercurial. Anyway, read several of his recent columns to get the flavor I’m trying to describe.

    He comes closest to being fair to all of almost anyone I can think of. But when he does reveal his own leanings — and he does it gently — he is a liberal Democrat. Of the old school mind you, back when liberals and conservatives were sensible, moderate citizens and the left the screaming to the "radicals" — but that would be his category. I hesitate even to speak of him in a category, since I believe he transcends all that, but the subject of this post is which category people can be crammed into, and bottom line, you can safely bet that he didn’t, for instance, vote for George W. Bush either time.

    He hasn’t really gotten partisan, even in his own gentle way, in a while, but if you look at a column like "Following Bush Over a Cliff" from last week, you see where his heart lies — with the poor and unempowered. You might say that he holds dear the very best values of the Democratic Party, and leaves the rest alone.

    And Tom Friedman? The man can hardly say "Bush" without spitting on the ground. Because he, too, is a consummate professional (unlike such foam-at-the-mouth ranters as Paul Krugman), this tendency is not usually in evidence. He generally voices his distaste in moderate tones. It was most on display right after both the 2000 and 2004 elections, which seemed to leave him bitter. But he pushed it to the background each time, and returned to the subjects he knows best. You have to know all this stuff to understand why it’s such a powerful thing when he says that "some things are true even if George Bush believes them." For him, that’s just a bit short of saying "…even if the Devil’s idiot nephew believes them."

    With both Broder and Friedman, you have to read them day in and day out over the course of years to see this, because the pieces in which they reveal these things are few and far between.

    Finally, Karen, to whom do you mean to refer when you say "Buchanan?" We don’t run any Buchanan.

    As for bud — I don’t know what to say to someone who defines "liberal" as "anti-war" and "conservative" as the opposite. There is NOTHING conservative about war, unless it is a defensive war. Anyone who has any respect for the English language should understand this.

    Anyone who acts, for good or ill, in the real world, will sometimes pursue liberal policies, and at other times pursue conservative ones. Even George W. Bush can sometimes pursue a liberal policy, and Iraq is one of them.

    Besides, when did you get the impression that Broder was pro-war?

  8. bud

    Here’s why the occupation of Iraq is very much NOT a liberal policy. The reasons given for invading Iraq had to do with security, not nation building. Security is both a conservative and liberal value but conservatives tend to believe military solutions are more effective than would liberals. Liberals were more willing to pursue other means to achieve security with Iraq rather than using the militiary. Nation building if you will.
    Of course there is ample evidence to suggest that the actual reasons have much more to do with exploitation of oil than security or nation building (Allan Greenspan’s book suggests this is the case). There has been a bit of lip service given to improving the lives of the Iraq people, which would fit in with liberal philosophy, but that has never been anything more than just a side issue in the whole Iraq debacle/quagmire.
    True liberals recognize that people are best able to cope with the issues of the world when they are free to seek solutions on their own terms. Liberals are willing to spend time and resources to help people accomplish those goals but we never want to impose our beliefs and lifestyle choices on others. That’s something of a conservative mantra that can be viewed in a number of policy areas (abortion, prayer in school, marriage between a man and a woman only legislation, etc).
    Our invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq can most accurately be viewed as an effort to foist our way of life on another group of people against their will in order to make the region more secure for the future exploitation of oil resources. That cannot be misinterpreted as a liberal policy of helping people find their own way.

  9. Brad Warthen

    1. There’s no occupation. If there were an occupation, there’d be a LOT more troops, and a LOT less violence.
    2. Sorry, but I was for this thing all along, and the reason why was that I kept hearing about nation-building and draining the swamps, etc.
    3. Alan Greenspan was also a devoted disciple of Ayn Rand, so consider the source. (I’ve been meaning to write about that; I guess I just did.)
    4. “Foist?” Who’s “foisting?” If we were “foisting,” we wouldn’t be waiting around for the Iraqis to come up with a political settlement in their own sweet time — we’d be running the place. But to do that, we’d have to have enough troops for an “occupation,” and well… here we go again.

  10. weldon VII

    “Liberals … we never want to impose our beliefs and lifestyle choices on others.”
    No, of course not. You want the government to do that for you.
    And for the past half century, it has, until we’re somewhere between “Brazil” and “Harrison Bergeron” — dumbed down and still backing up, so bogged down in constipating government no one knows where the red tape actually ends or even what all the rules are.
    But that’s OK. My friend the farmer can still snow the IRS by wearing blue jeans with holes in them and a ragged flannel shirt to an IRS audit, so there’s still hope that Michael Moore may not catch us all the way up to the standard of living in Cuba.
    Sometimes, that liberal look comes in handy.


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