Left Behind

June 07, 2007

There has been a lot of discussion about a report put out last week by Media Matters that is entitled "Left Behind: The Skewed Representation of Religion in Major News Media." It demonstrates that the media quotes and mentions religious conservatives much more frequently than religious liberals. Here are a few highlights from the summary:

Combining newspapers and television, conservative religious leaders were quoted, mentioned, or interviewed in news stories 2.8 times as often as were progressive religious leaders.

On television news -- the three major television networks, the three major cable new channels, and PBS -- conservative religious leaders were quoted, mentioned, or interviewed almost 3.8 times as often as progressive leaders.

In major newspapers, conservative religious leaders were quoted, mentioned, or interviewed 2.7 times as often as progressive leaders.
The whole report is quite interesting. And while it would have been nice for them to look at more than just 10 conservatives and 10 liberals, it is still an important finding that likely accurately captures the media's coverage. The results match findings of some of my own research for my doctorate in communication. For instance, in one study on major newspaper coverage of the Terri Schiavo case I found that Christians opposed to removing her tubes were much more likely to be quoted than those who supported the action. However, most Christians actually supported the removal of her tubes and thus the media coverage did not accurately reflect the Christian community. Ironically, some conservative Christians claim that the media is biased against them. Yet, being given a voice is better than being ignored.

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