The Pew Center, which has paid special to perception-of-the-media issues for many years, is out with a new survey of public perception of the presidential campaign coverage. Here’s the first paragraph of Pew chief Andy Kohut’s summary:
“There is no public consensus when it comes to how the presidential candidates are being covered by the news media. Nearly half (46%) say the coverage of Romney has been fair, while among those who see a bias as many say the press has been too easy on the GOP nominee (20%) as too tough on him (21%). The same percentage (46%) says coverage of Obama has also been fair. However, nearly twice as many say press coverage of the president has been too easy (28%) than too tough (15%).”
Kohut’s summary says that “45% of Republicans think the press has been too tough on Mitt Romney. By comparison, 26% of Democrats think the press is too tough on Obama. What stands out to Republicans even more is what they see as unfair treatment of Obama. Six-in-ten (60%) Republicans say the news coverage is too easy on Obama. Most Democrats say news organizations have been fair in their coverage of Mitt Romney, with only 29% saying they have been too easy on him.”
The partisan perceptions of the coverage, and also the partisan perception of the Pew findings, are fairly easy to predict. Republicans will say of course the media is too tough on Romney, because in general the media (with the exception of the fair and balanced conservative outlets) is biased on the liberal side. Democrats will say that Republicans have relied on the media bias trope for decades now to reject inconvenient truths and explain away why Republicans don’t win every argument or every election.
After 35 years of doing my scribbling within the confines of the “objective journalism” paradigm, including objective journalism about perceptions of journalistic bias, I’ve about had it. Journalists’ worries about being brought up on bias charges do more to get in the way of good reporting and analysis than any benefit it delivers.