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Fair and balanced vs. one-sided and ugly

Posted by Richard on January 22, 2010

Miami Herald TV critic Glenn Garvin undertook the unpleasant task of watching MSNBC's election-night coverage of the Massachusetts senate race, and what he found was "frothing lunacy":

If you watched CNN or Fox News last night, you got a balanced analysis of how Republican Scott Brown pulled off the political upset of the century (or, if you prefer, how Democrat Martha Coakley blew a dead solid electoral lock). Yes, I said Fox News, without irony. To be sure, Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity made it clear they were rooting for Brown. But their shows also included a steady parade of liberal-leaning guests — former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown, former Dukakis campaign manager Susan Estrich, Democratic party strategist Mary Anne Marsh, NPR commentator Juan Williams and radio host Alan Colmes. And pollster Frank Luntz interviewed a panel of two dozen or so Massachusetts voters, most of them Democrats, about how they voted and why. Practically every conceivable perspective on the election was represented.

And on MSNBC, you got practically every conceivable expression of venom against Brown and anybody who voted him. From Maddow's dark suspicions that the election was rigged — she cited complaints about a grand total of six ballots out of about 2.25 million cast — to Olbermann's suggestion in the video up above that the same Massachusets voters who went for Barack Obama by a 62-28 percent margin had suddenly realized they helped elect a black guy and went Republican in repentance, the network's coverage was idiotic, one-sided and downright ugly.

Read the rest for examples from the "two hours of nonstop bilious rage." (And see update below.)

Johnny Dollar pointed out a significant difference in coverage of the candidates' speeches:

During Tuesday night's coverage of the Massachusetts special election, CNN and MSNBC aired only a fraction of the Republican candidate's speech. Fox News Channel aired both candidates' speeches in their entirety.

MSNBC ran 100% of Coakley's speech, but just over a third of Brown's. CNN ran 80% of Coakley's, but only a quarter of Brown's. Yes, he spoke longer. But he'd just pulled off a stunning upset, and thus what he had to say was news. She was simply conceding defeat and then slinking back into obscurity.

So, do TV viewers have a clear preference for election coverage? You bet they do. Fox News won the ratings battle in a landslide (emphasis added): 

In the first of many elections night taking place in 2010, Fox News dominated the cable news networks, with its highest prime time viewership since Election Day 2008. FNC was the #1 news network by far, topping CNN, MSNBC and HLN combined in prime time and total day, total viewers and the A25-54 demographic. Sean Hannity has his best ratings ever in total viewers at 9pmET – the hour Bret Baier announced Scott Brown’s victory.

• FNC didn’t just clean up on cable. The network had more viewers during prime time than The Jay Leno Show, and Greta Van Susteren’s 10pmET show and Hannity’s 9pmET show topped all ABC prime time programs.

In the 25-54 demographic during the three hours after the polls closed, Fox News beat CNN 4-1 and MSNBC almost 5-1.

UPDATE: Olbermann's insane rants are too much even for John Stewart:

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2 Responses to “Fair and balanced vs. one-sided and ugly”

  1. Wuw4 said

    I have to agree. I was flipping back and forth through all the networks during the election and afterward. As a former journalist and P.R. “spin doctor,” I was appalled at MSNBC’s blatant “sour grapes” coverage. There was no effort whatsoever to even appear objective, but rather like a spoiled little school girl pouting in the playground corner.

  2. rgcombs said

    MSNBC gave up even the pretense of objectivity some time ago. Olbermann and Maddow aren’t journalists, they’re dogmatic partisans. Letting them pretend to cover news shows a complete disregard for … well, fairness and balance.

    I can’t speak to Maddow, whom I know almost nothing about except that she reportedly had one of the loonier shows on Air America.

    But I’ve seen enough of Olbermann to conclude that he’s not even good at what he’s trying to do. His studied outrage, pompous self-importance, and “channeling Edward R. Murrow” schtick is tiresome and annoying.

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