Vol. 3, Issue 5, February 15, 2005
Middle-Wing Media Conspiracy Threatens America's Interest in News
A growing "middle-wing media conspiracy" is causing millions of Americans to turn off the news, according to a study conducted at the Missouri School of Journalism, and could potentially alter the political landscape of the country in years to come.
"We were surprised and alarmed by the results," said Torrence Clare, professor of journalism and lead author of the study. "I think further study is urgently needed to see if some kind of intervention would be advisable."
American media outlets, like those in most countries, typically fall along political lines, either overtly or unofficially. The left-wing media, including Viacom-owned CBS, and the right-wing media, including the Fox network, have lambasted each other's coverage for years.
"When each side can accuse the other of inaccuracies and distortion, it generates interest," said Clare. "People look to news sources which affirm their own political stance. The middle-wing media, however, doesn't resonate with anyone, and it's turning people away in droves."
According to the study, key participants in the middle-wing media conspiracy include the Associated Press, National Public Radio, and the New York Times, which despite a long history of alleged liberal bias, sneaks in a disturbingly high percentage of more balanced reporting.
"This came as something of a surprise, because everyone knows that the Times is supposed to just be a liberal media outlet. And their op-ed page remains firmly in the hands of the left. But they are subtly incorporating a much higher percentage of balanced reporting than you'd think. They're a tricky, tricky bunch at the Times."
The danger in such middle-ground reporting lies in the fact that it interests virtually no one, presenting news events in a more complicated and nuanced context that requires critical thinking upon the part of the reader or listener.
"That is a disaster," said Clare. "When people are presented with articles and features which refer meaningfully to broader political and social contexts, which present multiple perspectives and which don't moralize, it's a serious dilemma for them. Most people would choose not to read or hear any kind of news over having to think."
The study notes that while there are no media outlets currently offering pure "middle-wing" material, many are polluted with at least some unbiased material. However, it appears that conservative audiences are more likely to remain loyal to their respective networks and newspapers, since right-wing media outlets are much less likely to slip balanced reporting into their lineup.
"Fox keeps people tuning in regularly," said Clare. "They make it easy for listeners, identifying good guys and bad guys, reducing complicated matters to sound bites and clever quips. If only everyone made it so simple."