Friday, November 02, 2012

Why Mediaite Sucks

In a previous post, I bashed Mediaite without explaining why.  Let me elaborate.

Most of the posts there are simply recaps of cable news video clips, work a trained monkey could teach Dan Abrams to perform.  However, when one of their unpaid interns/columnists has to summarize something more complex than longer than a two-minute sesgment of Fox & Friends, failure is guaranteed.

An example.  Mediaite "reports":
A new survey released by Pew examined the negative coverage both President Barack Obamaand Mitt Romney have received in the mainstream news as well as in social media. While MSNBC and Fox News are often seen as two sides of the same partisan coin, the survey found one network to be notably more negative toward a candidate.
Seventy-one percent of MSNBC’s coverage of Romney, from August 27 to October 21 of this year, was negative (with three percent being positive). By contrast, Fox News’ negative coverage of Obama during the same period came in at 46 percent (with six percent being positive).
Not even close. 

Executive summary of survey says:
On [MSNBC], 71% of the segments studied about Romney were negative in nature, compared with just 3% that were positive-a ratio of roughly 23-to-1. On Fox, 46% of the segments about Obama were negative, compared with 6% that were positive-a ratio of about 8-to-1 negative. These made them unusual among channels or outlets that identified themselves as news organizations.
So we don't have a percentage of coverage, we have a percentage of "segments studied."  

Here's where a bright junior high school student would realize that Mediaite was just plain wrong in its summary.  And where a bright middle schooler would ask "what segments were covered?"  These:

Daytime (2:00 to 2:30 pm) coded two out of three every weekdayCNN
Fox News
Nighttime CNN - coded one or two out of the four every daySituation Room (5 pm)
Situation Room (6 pm)
Erin Burnett OutFront
Anderson Cooper 360
Nighttime Fox News - coded two out of the four every day
Special Report w/ Bret Baier
Fox Report w/ Shepard Smith
O'Reilly Factor
Nighttime MSNBC - coded one or two out of the four every day PoliticsNation
Hardball (7 pm)
The Rachel Maddow Show
The Ed Show

So pesons working for Pew watched 1.0 to 2.5 hours of a cable net every weekday, with different amounts for each net. Unless, as this page suggests, Pew only "codes the first half of an hour long show ("For all television programs, we code the first 30 minutes of the broadcast (with the exception of PBS Newshour), regardless of how long the program lasts," which would bring it down to .5 to 1.5 hours per net per day). And "When a show is pre-empted for a special live event, such as a presidential campaign debate or the State of the Union address, we do not include that period as part of our sample." (Both political conventions occurred during the subject time period.)

So we're not taking about "the coverage" of the two networks. At most, we're talking about approximately 4 to 10.5 percent of the weekday, non-special event coverage. 

It can be argued that the specific 1.5 to 2.5 hours of programming chosen aren't representative of the total output of the channels (because they aren't).  For some reason, Pew also chose a ifferent block of programming hours for its nighttime CNN sample than for the other two nets.  

It can be argued that Pew's vague definitions of "tone" and positive and negative coverage are worthless (apparently pointing out that someone is trailing in the polls is considered negative, and true and false allegations accusing someone of lying are treated equally as negative. Is showing a clip of one pol criticizing another positive coverage of the first and negative of the second, or vice-versa? Pew knows?).  

But the point here is that Mediaite, which claims to be "the site for news, information and smart opinions about print, online and broadcast media" can't be bothered to understand basic facts about the press releases it attempts to paraphrase.

And that's one reason Mediaite sucks.

1 comment:

bob_is_boring said...

" a trained monkey could teach Dan Abrams to perform."

I may have to use this, or an iteration thereof. Full credit will be given; sadly, this will likely be unaccompanied by any fiduciary benefit.