Posts Tagged ‘media accuracy’
Representative Ron Paul, one of the Republican Presidential nominee hopefuls, continues to receive strange treatment by the media. Despite polling results consistently in the top three or four candidates, and often polling ahead of President Obama in hypothetical match ups with the President, Dr Paul is often but a footnote, at best, in mainstream media coverage of the nomination race, and more commonly simply not mentioned. We examined this in some detail in our article “Is Ron Paul Getting a Fair Shake in the Media? Watching the Watchers“, following Ron Paul’s narrow loss to Michele Backmann in the Iowa straw poll. Today, the New York Times got into the act, in a particularly odd way: the paper’s RSS feed pushed out a story with the title, “Romney, Perry and Cain Open Wide Financial Lead Over Field”.
The problem? The article’s title indicates a story about the recently released campaign fundraising figures for the past quarter, and states Herman Cain, along with Mitt Romney and Rick Perry, are far ahead of the other candidates. Except the title is flat out wrong: Mitt Romney and Rick Perry certainly raised considerable sums in the most recent quarter: $14 million and $17 million respectively. Herman Cain, however, raised just $2.8 million, $675,000 of which he personally loaned his campaign, meaning he actually raised $2.125 million. Ron Paul, on the other hand, raised four times more in campaign contributions: $8.2 million, and finished in third place among GOP Presidential hopefuls. In fact, Michele Backmann also raised more than Cain: her total for the reporting period was $3.9 million, or double Cain’s and half Paul’s. A factually correct title would read, “Romney, Perry and Paul Open Wide Financial Lead Over Field”.
What’s even stranger is that the linked article (the title of which is actually “Romney Beating Obama in a Fight for Wall St. Cash”) is not even really about what the RSS title and original headline purport it to be about: instead, the article is about the shift in donations by Wall Street firms, from previously strongly supporting Obama (who dominated by a country mile campaign contributions from these firms in 2008) to now supporting Romney, and makes no mention of Ron Paul at all, except for one sentence in the fourth final paragraph. The article spends 19 paragraphs discussing Wall Street political contributions before closing with nine paragraphs reporting the campaign contributions for the latest quarter (Herman Cain gets half a sentence).
Here are some interesting screen shots, starting with the RSS feed’s title:
And here’s the URL for the article, as seen in a browser address bar:
Here’s the actual article. Note the different title, versus the RSS feed’s title, as well as the title contained in the address bar:
Of course, the false title was picked up by innumerable other publications, blogs and web sites:
It seems the anti-Paul media bias has gone from largely ignoring Mr Paul to flat out mis-stating facts. Very strange indeed.
Further to our article examining the media’s treatment of Ron Paul, there’s an amusing article in US News & World Report today: a person who they identify as a Ron Paul “supporter” has “announced” he will be placing an ad asking people (“Are you a stripper, an escort or just a ‘young hottie'”) to come forward who have had sex with Texas Governor and Presidential hopeful Rick Perry. The article is titled “Sex Ad Hurts Ron Paul More Than Rick Perry” and is written by Peter Roff.
Let’s examine this a bit further:
- No ad has yet been placed – the person has simply “announced” the intention to place such an ad. I am announcing that I am twenty-three feet tall and excel at badminton (neither statements is true, but I am “announcing” them nonetheless);
- The person (Robert Morrow) is described as a Ron Paul “supporter”. Note that this differs significantly and materially from a Ron Paul “representative” or “agent”. Are there people who voted for Obama (ie “supporters”) who have subsequently raped children? I suppose there could well be; that does not make such a person a “spokesman” for, or a “representative” of, Obama. Same applies here;
- The article goes on to state: “The Paul supporters are known to be a dedicated bunch—some might even call them fanatics”. US News and World Report is known to be a fringe media source. Some might even call them flat out paid shills. See what we did there?
- Have a look at the title of the article: “Sex Ad Hurts Ron Paul More Than Rick Perry”. There is no sex ad, Ron Paul’s campaign has nothing to do with the supposed ad, and even if the ad existed, we do not know if it would hurt Mr Paul more than Mr Perry, or Mr Perry more than Mr Paul, or both equally or not at all.
The article is, in short, a public relations piece – in this case, an anti-Ron Paul bit of PR.
By way of background, US News & World Report is a declining media property (they reduced their print publications repeatedly, before abandoning regular print runs entirely as of December 2010), whose Editor-In-Chief, Mortimer B. Zuckerman (real estate tycoon worth an estimate $2.1bn USD and noted supporter of Jewish causes), is a significant contributor to Democrats (of a reported $63,000 in campaign contributions, Mr Zuckerman gave $42,700 to Democrats and most of the balance to independents. He also contributed to Senator Al Franken’s (D – Minnesota) recount fund, Gary Hart’s (D) Presidential campaign and contributed at least once to Senator Edward Kennedy’s (D) Presidential run (as well as at least three other contributions to Senator Kennedy’s runs for the Senate)). Mr Zuckerman once claimed to have helped write an Obama speech, before backtracking. Some might say he is a mouthpiece of the Democratic Party.
An article posted on USA Today’s website today shows some surprising poll results. Among them: those people polled who were likely to cast a ballot in November were more likely to vote for Mr. McCain, by a 49% to 45% margin. Among registered voters, however, it was Mr. Obama in the lead, enjoying the support of 47% of respondents vs. Mr. McCain’s 44%.
The same article shows graphs illustrating the poll’s results on various topics surveyed. The following topics appear under the heading, “Who would do a better job?:
Dealing with foreign leaders
The graph shows respondents picked Mr. McCain by a 52% to 37% margin (with a footnote indicating Mr. Obama’s result was “Based on a half sample, which has a margin of error of +/- 5 percentage points.” (No reason is given as to why a “half sample” was used in Mr. Obama’s case).
Again, the graph for Mr. McCain shows a majority support him in this context, this time by a 47% to 39% margin (once again with the “half sample” footnote for Mr. Obama).
The accompanying article, however, has this to say:
Majorities in the new poll said Obama would do a better job than McCain in dealing with foreign leaders and handling relations with other countries.
So which is it?
We’ve advised the editors of USA Today of the gaffe and await their reply. However in all likelihood, it’s the graphs which are incorrect. Here’s why: under the same heading, there’s the following topic:
The graphs for this one show Mr. Obama trouncing Mr. McCain 48% to 32%, which doesn’t seem right on the face of it – Mr. McCain, after all, long ago adopted the persona of “War Hero” and “Military Man”, and Mr. Obama is hardly seen as the “Anti-Terrorism Candidate”.
Stay tuned – we’ll update this post upon USA Today’s reply to our email or their correction of the article.
***UPDATE July 30***
USA Today finally updated the incorrect graphs: