Still doesn't go both ways

Nate Silver has a post up on concerning the ineffectiveness of fact checking and accuracy. He illustrates his points through a few examples, most notably the Killian documents fiasco that CBS was party to back in 2004. One passage in particular, however, caught my eye.

"That CBS officials may have succumbed to Republican pressure is completely unsurprising; unsurprising that Republicans applied such pressure (Democrats would have done the same), but equally unsurprising that such a mainstream media institution lacked the backbone to admit to an honest mistake and own up to it. [the] problem is the arbitrary and largely ineffectual nature of the fact-checking process employed by the mainstream media."

I think Nate’s statement is accurate, but it’s somewhat incomplete.

Fair or not, the republicans have a far more efficient “noise machine” than the Democrats do. From the huge network of right-wing talk show hosts that are only too happy to parrot GOP talking points on a daily basis to right-wing special interest groups, consumers of this message bombard the MSM with calls/e-mails/general harassment to get more favorable coverage for the right.

I’ve often felt that the calculus that MSM outlets use to gauge right-wing outrage is badly overweighted (i.e. if a network receives 1,000 calls about an issue, they would assume that those calls would represent 500,000 people). Special interest groups and talk radio listeners have always struck me as being similar to the PUMAs – they’re very loud and boisterous, they get a lot of attention, but by and large they represent very few outside of themselves. But, it seems that networks usually err on the side of caution in this regard.

Nate’s statement also glosses over the idea that the MSM is constantly trying to fight the perception that there is some sort of liberal bias in their reporting. As such, they are willing to bend over backwards to placate the right in ways that they would never dream of to the left.

Take, for instance, the absolutely insulting Democratic primary debate that ABC hosted this past April, where the world was first introduced to William Ayers, and questions about actual policy positions were relegated to the second hour while innuendo and sensation took center stage. I think it’s fair to say that, had this been a republican debate, the outrage over the treatment of the candidates would have been so overwhelming that either George Stephanopoulos or Charlie Gibson would have been forced to resign, and ABC would never get to host another debate. But, when MSNBC’s coverage of both conventions was perceived to have skewed to the left, suddenly Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews were removed from the coverage team for election night (though somewhere along the way that seemed to have been quietly rescinded, but nothing was ever officially announced, and clearly the right had more pressing concerns that night).

Let’s not kid ourselves. While the efforts themselves may be similar in intent, the results of those efforts are far different, and any discussion of the equivalency of the former has to also include the lack of equivalency of the latter.

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