The media has been accused of a liberal bias for years. The Pew Research Center studied the media's coverage of President Obama's healthcare reform bill. Pew found that a majority of the terms used were conservative frames, not liberal frames. The media also covered the health care reform process like a horserace or battle.
Pew looked at 5,500 health care stories from June 2009 through March 2010 when it was the top news story. This time period corresponds to higher public interest and the greatest political partisanship. Talk shows, especially liberal leaning shows, discussed health care reform more often than the mainstream media.
While the media covered the politics of the health care reform, they spent little time on other story angles. The media hardly covered how the health insurance industry works. Newspapers were the exception, and they used about 18 percent of their front page coverage on the current state of health insurance in the US and how health insurance works. So while the American public was confused (69% said debate was hard to understand in December 2009), the media did little to help.
We are left with several questions:
- Did the media do its job?
- Do you understand health care insurance and health care reform?
- Do you know how the health care reform bill reformed health care?
ReferencePew Research Center, Project for Excellence in Journalism. "Six Things to Know about Health Care Coverage" June 10, 2010. http://www.journalism.org/analysis_report/six_things_know_about_health_care_coverage (accessed June 20, 2012).
Science in the News
Scientific discoveries and theories are reported without providing the background to understand the results. Science is based on evidence, but how often do we hear the evidence (the measurements proving or disproving the hypothesis)?(1) How often are we told what to think about the results?(2)
Instead of reporting the evidence, reporters interview experts (doctors, other scientists) who give their opinion, which may have little to do with the scientific research. Expert opinion is irrelevant–what matters is the evidence.(1, 2)
“An obsession with including both sides of a story has often obscured the fact that the weight of scientific evidence lies firmly on one side...” (3)
The evidence may not be exciting enough, so reporters restate the numbers to make them sound more important. Essentially, we are not told the whole story.(1, 2) For example, consider a hypothetical example where the latest research determines that a newly developed test increases the chance of a cure by 10 percent compared to only 5 percent for the current test. That is an increase of 100 percent, but most people hearing that the new test increases the cure rate by 100 percent are being mislead about the actual cure rate for the disease.
Few reporters and editors have more scientific education than the regular population. They also misunderstand science and how scientific research works. Scientific ‘breakthroughs’ happen in increments, not suddenly.