Liberal media bias in New York City is so pervasive that even liberals cant help noticing it. That, at least, is the lesson of a recent study by the liberal Drum Major Institute, which found that press coverage of the citys post-9/11 budget crisis tilted way to the left.
Released this spring but ignored by the press (for obvious reasons), the report contended that the citys four biggest newspapersthe Times, the New York Post, the Daily News, and Newsdaydid a lousy job covering the citys budget woes, focusing too much on political inside baseball and not enough on the budgets impact on ordinary New Yorkers. But the study, authored by North Carolina State University professor Robert Entman, also turned up, in the 1,111 articles it surveyed, a heavy bias toward big-government, high-tax solutions to the budget crisis, at the expense of solutions that would require shrinking city government. Taken as a whole, Entman writes, the newspapers portrayal of the budget crisis suggests a widespread desire to protect the city governments programs.
Budget stories, the report discovered, quoted on average five people favoring proposals for more taxes and spending for every one person who rejected such measures. News stories on the possibility of re-imposing the citys commuter tax, for example, presented 22 people advocating the hike and only seven against it. Articles on proposals that the state boost spending on New York City had 27 opinions for, zero against.
These patterns arent surprising, given the newspapers sources. City officials offered the majority of comments, and they overwhelmingly gave thumbs-up to higher taxes. But the papers also turned disproportionately to others likely to favor taxing and spending over cutsquoting 45 city workers and union officials and 33 representatives of liberal advocacy groups, for example, but just five business people.
The study shows that the New York Postoften accused by other journalists in the city of trumpeting a conservative agenda in its news pageshad the most balanced coverage. Yet even the Post articles had more quotes supporting than opposing the idea of protecting city programs from budget cuts.
In a note appended to the report, Drum Major Institute president and former mayoral candidate Fernando Ferrer urged papers to humanize their budgetary coverage, making it less narrowly political. Well add that the press might want to make its budget coverage less narrowly ideological, too.