Crawl Across the Ocean

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Right Wing Media Bias, The Irony of it All

Great column (behind the subscriber wall) by Lawrence Martin in the Globe today.

He starts by contrasting the media reaction to the recent Missile Defense pullout to both the media reaction in the 1980's when Mulroney said no to Star Wars, and to popular opinion (which is against the Missile Defense plan).

"The media, to the tune of about 90 per cent, ripped the Martin government to pieces over its decision to reject Washington's missile-defence plan. The people went the other way; they favoured the decision in polls by a 20-per-cent margin, which, in political terms, is a landslide.

Flashback to the mid-1980s. Like today's Liberals, the Mulroney government said no to Ronald Reagan's Star Wars. The people applauded and, unlike today, there was no collective media hissy fit."

This leads him into a convincing argument that, while the Canadian population remains largely centre-left, our newsprint media has moved well to the right.

"The journalism culture underwent dramatic change in the mid-1990s when the country's biggest newspaper chain, centrist-leaning Southam, changed hands. The media empire is now owned by CanWest Global, which makes no secret of its pro-American, conservative tilt."


"Another big change from the days of liberal media came with the continuing expansion of the conservative tabloid Sun chain to become Canada's second-biggest newspaper group."


"National newspapers are major agenda-setters, both for print media and television. Canada has two. One, the National Post, is firmly on the right; the other, The Globe and Mail, is slenderly conservative.

The portsiders can always boast of having the Toronto Star. But even it pummelled the Martin government on missile defence, and some see the paper as moving to the centre. At Maclean's, a former editor of the National Post is now taking charge. At Policy Options, formerly a very liberal magazine, two former cronies of Mr. Mulroney run the show."

Martin really nails how the right-wing papers are out of touch with the population in their 'don't make dad angry or we'll all get grounded' coverage of Canada-U.S. affairs,

"On missile defence, the media tone was remarkably hostile. The issue was examined not so much on the basis of what Canadians think but on what the Bush administration would think. It was as if — after 138 years of existence — we were still strapped down to a client-state mentality wherein the driving imperative was approval from a higher authority."

So I'm wondering. Do people with centre-left views just prefer to read right wing papers? Or does a vastly higher percentage of right wing folks buy newspapers vs. centre-left folks?

Or maybe there's a market out there for more centre-left journalism (perhaps it's not so surprising the Star has the biggest circulation in the country) but the newspapers are willing to sacrifice the profits they could make by filling it because it doesn't suit their owner's agenda - which would be more than a little ironic since one of the main agendas they're pushing is that government shouldn't interfere in markets because pursuit of profit leads to the greatest good rather than pursuit of principle.

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  • The Globe IS NOT a conservative leaning paper - that guy's just off his rocker.

    And using Dithers' BMD decision to claim media bias? Most bloggers ripped into Dithers for how he handled the mess, no matter if they were for or against the program. If polls show that Canadians like how PM the PM dealt with the BMD issue than it goes to show you how out of touch people really are with current events.

    By Blogger Andrew, at 7:24 PM  

  • The National Post has never made a profit. It operates year after year at a 7 or 8 figure loss. It makes you wonder why the Aspers continue without making substantial changes, doesn't it? Or does it?

    By Blogger pogge, at 7:41 PM  

  • Ah, yes; wonderful to watch the free market in action, isn't it?

    By Blogger Jon Dursi, at 7:46 PM  

  • In the 80s, the Globe was considered a conservative paper. Now it is perceived as centrist. But I'm not sure the paper's viewpoint has changed substantially. I just think that Canadians have become more conservative.

    By Blogger dejour, at 8:29 PM  

  • I'm not sure the Globe is now considered centrist because Canadians views have changed. Polls consistently show strong support for increases social spending, the Kyoto accord, opposition to Missile Defense and so on.

    I think it's the rightward shifting of other print media that Martin describes in his article which has made the Globe seem more centrist.

    I imagine the Globe doesn't seem conservative to you Andrew, but that's coming from your perspective on the right wing - compared to the average Canadian I suspect they're a little right of centre (on average, not on all issues).

    By Blogger Declan, at 10:49 PM  

  • the globe is totally red tory, the post is right wing, and i never thought id ever read the star because im a knee-jerk anti-toronto westerner...

    ... and yet its pretty much my only option for a liberal perspective on anything.

    By Anonymous ainge, at 4:00 AM  

  • the globe is totally red tory, the post is right wing, and i never thought id ever read the star because im a knee-jerk anti-toronto westerner...

    ... and yet its pretty much my only option for a liberal perspective on anything.

    By Blogger angela, at 4:00 AM  

  • True enough I suppose

    By Blogger Andrew, at 4:12 AM  

  • I read the same article. I aggree with the genereal thrust of Martin's article. However, Andrew is right, in more ways than one. Most were highly critical off Martin's handling of the whole thing and with good reason.

    I live in Vancouver and do not really like the paper. Fraser institute and Canadian Federation of Tax papers are no more than bunch of ideologue hacks. However, I have to give credit were credit is do and say on various social issues (e.g., pot) they are comming around.

    By Anonymous koby, at 6:54 PM  

  • We need to distinguish between the handling of BMD, which pretty much everyone (including me) criticized and the decision itself which probably had majority support in Canada - a fact which wasn't reflected in the media coverage (IMO).

    Yeah, I live in Vancouver too, but I still read Toronto papers. Partly that's because I only read online and is perhaps the single worst corporate website I can think of and partly it's because from what little I do see of the Sun or Province, I'm not particularly impressed.

    Like Ainge says, red tory is probably a good description for the Globe but I think they do a reasonable job of trying to present things as fairly as possible.

    As for the Frasier Institute, I wish they'd put some of their resources and analytical power to work in more of an open minded way, rather than deciding what they want to show first and then doing the research to prove it. I do give them credit for at least being intellectualy consistent by supporting the legalization of marijuana.

    As for the taxpayers federation, the less said the better. The notion that all we are as citizens is just people who pay tax is one of the more destructive ideas out there in my opinion, and I think the 'federation' is given way more attention by the media than their membership warrants.

    By Blogger Declan, at 9:26 PM  

  • This is what happens when you post in hurry. One problem with the Sun is that allows itself to be used as forum by the Fraser institute and the Canadian Tax payers association. There is no reason why more articles, editorials from these two sources should be printed than articles from, say, BC's universities, but they are. The Fraser institute studies are not peer reviewed, many are poorly done and their has been cases where the Fraser institute has cooked the books (see for example Ian King on Tax freedom day).

    As for how the paper compares to say the Toronto Star or the Globe and Mail, I would say pretty poorly.

    By Anonymous koby, at 9:31 AM  

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