Media bias can be easily noticed in what the media say, but sometimes the worst cases of bias involve what the media do not say.
A perfect example of this is the current media coverage—or non-coverage, if you will—of the recent gas price crisis nationwide. When President Obama first took office, prices were $1.86 per gallon. On 25 April 2011, the average price of fuel in America was $3.789. Yet where is the media outcry about gas prices?
Yesterday we at AIM covered CNN’s bias in the coverage of gas prices: it’s clear that the media are working overtime to shield President Obama’s reputation when it comes to his oil and energy policies. The Media Research Center points out that the media linked President Bush to high gas prices 15 times more often in 2008 than they have linked President Obama to high gas prices now. But that’s just part of the story. The MRC also points out that news networks had 2.5 times as many stories on gas prices during the Bush years as they have featured lately. This leads to an important question: why were gas prices 2.5 times as newsworthy then as they are now?
What other important stories were being ignored in favor of Bush-slamming gas price stories back then?
What other stories are being covered in the place of gas price stories today?
The media control the national conversation, not just through their use of strategic word choice or body language on TV, but also through their choice of story. Whenever the media decide to cover one story over another, they rank national priorities. It can be hard to spot the bias in this because most people aren’t even aware that they’re missing out on a bigger story—because most people rely on news outlets for all or most of their news. If those news outlets don’t cover a story, people never know what information they missed out on. Because of this, media consumers often don’t even know what they don’t know.
Media consumers should always think critically about the news, both as far as how news is presented, and in terms of what is chosen to be featured on the news. Every news consumer should ask him- or herself: why is this story important? Is there any event out there happening now that could be more important to cover at this time?
The media have a responsibility to be thorough, accurate, and fair in their reporting. It is not enough for reporters to present individual stories in an unbiased way; at the same time, the stories featured must be chosen in an unbiased way.
When the media ignore or gloss over the role of President Obama and his energy policies regarding high gas prices, they are doing America a disservice. The lack of coverage of this issue is an example of media bias.