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December 14, 2004
Missing The Point

Media Matters for America will announce its intention to protest the Sinclair Broadcasting Group, the Los Angeles Times reports today. Elizabeth Jensen writes that MMA will launch a new website and encourage a letter-writing campaign to highlight Sinclair's supposed political bias, stopping short of an advertiser boycott for the moment:

A coalition of liberal political groups is launching a nationwide protest against Sinclair Broadcast Group, charging that the 62-station TV broadcaster, which was also the target of intense criticism during the presidential campaign, is misusing public airwaves with partisan news programming.

The groups, led by Media Matters for America, today will announce a campaign to pressure Sinclair's advertisers with letters. The groups, however, are stopping short of demanding an advertiser boycott. ...

The main focus of the protest is the nightly "The Point" commentary by Mark Hyman, who is Sinclair's spokesman and also oversees the company's Washington lobbying.

A recent Media Matters analysis of "The Point" editions from Nov. 2 to Dec. 1 found that the commentaries repeatedly attacked former Democratic candidate John F. Kerry, former President Clinton and other Democratic politicians. Hyman has referred to Democrats as the "Angry Left," charged that there is a liberal bias in the media and expressed support for Bush administration policies.

The commentary airs on about 40 of the 62 stations that Sinclair owns, programs or manages, reaching about one-fourth of U.S. homes with televisions.

The Sinclair Group has had a target painted on their backside ever since they announced that Sinclair affiliates would air a documentary by the Swift Boat Veterans for the Truth, "Stolen Honor". A threatened boycott forced Sinclair to retreat and instead air a special one-hour news overview of the Swiftvet challenge, which people generally regarded as fair and balanced. Despite this victory, MMA and affiliated liberal groups intend on hoisting Sinclair on a gibbet to prove their allegations of pervasive conservative bias in today's news media.

However, MMA and the rest of the lunatics seem to have overlooked one thing: The Point is a commentary, an editorial that does not pretend to be news reporting. Sinclair advertises it as such. In effect, MMA seeks to condemn Sinclair for doing exactly what newspapers and broadcast stations have done for decades -- editorialize as owners see fit.

Pervasive media bias has nothing to do with op-eds and editorials, although they certainly indicate where an organization stands. When Minnesotans debate bias in the Star-Tribune, we focus on reporting, not editorials. (When we do focus on editorials, we most often highlight the logical and factual deficiencies, but that's not the same thing.) MMA is no babe in these woods, and they understand the difference perfectly. They just want to intimidate Sinclair into silence.

If MMA wants to see bias in the media, they need look no further than CBS, which violated its own internal checks, disregarded its own experts, and aired a story based on forged and fraudulent documents in order to affect an American election. Mary Mapes had been vainly flailing away at George Bush's National Guard service for five years, as if that issue was a vital national interest. Mapes also coordinated her attack with the John Kerry campaign, getting her source an entre to Kerry's high-level advisors. CBS still can't bring themselves to admit that Mapes screwed them for her own political interests.

Or how about CNN? Remember when CNN's managing editor Eason Jordan revealed that the news network deliberately covered up stories about Saddam's atrocities in Iraq just so it could keep its Baghdad bureau operating? CNN had no problem reporting on stories coming out of Iraq that made the genocidal dictator look good, enabling Saddam to keep his grip on power even longer. Why do you think CNN would be so eager to placate Saddam?

Or one could turn to NBC instead. Tom Brokaw deliberately edited a passage from his interview with John Kerry in order to remove a damaging admission from Kerry that he had not released all of his Navy records as he claimed. Or ABC, where political news director Mark Halperin instructed reporters to support John Kerry in their reporting. And so on, and so on. These demonstrate an actual bias in news reporting, not an adversarial editorial position.

MMA and its allies want to protect the support that the mainstream media has given the American left for decades by creating a mythology of conservative bias, and they deliberately misrepresent editorial positions for news reporting to do so. It's a pathetic and dishonest attempt by David Brock and his staff, neither of which should surprise anyone unfortunate enough to read their product.

Correction: David Brock, not David Brooks. I had also just read Brooks' column. Mea culpa.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 14, 2004 12:02 PM

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