April 13, 2010 8:32 AM   Subscribe

Is someone online keeping track of how partisan each newspaper is, on some kind of left-to-right spectrum?

I glanced at the cover of a USA TODAY today, it had a gigantic bleeding-red graphic of how the Obama budgets will sink the USA into a twenty-trillion-dollar deficit. I will admit I haven't been paying that much attention but surely this "cover story" is highly biased. I never thought of USA TODAY as so highly biased until today; where can I find a chart of major newspapers and their leanings? (OR:) Really!? What is going on out there? Is it true that the Bush administrations hid all the defense spending in "emergency wartime" and "supplemental" bills and did not include defense budget information with the regular budget? All that bank bailout money and such has to come from the future budgets, I guess... .... Is that USA TODAY cover story vicious slanderous tea-party rabble-rousing, or the unvarnished truth?
posted by shipbreaker to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Sourcewatch has been a good resource for me throughout the years for deriving the political bias of people behind seemingly non-partisan organizations. Just judging from the brevity of the articles and the reliance on pictures and charts implies that USA Today panders to Americans that want their news digested and hand fed to them.
posted by any major dude at 9:12 AM on April 13, 2010

These things change over time. Who is in the editorial room, who is running the paper, and who owns the paper are typically the three deciding factors. Most newspapers, despite the sound and fury, keep their actual newsroom pretty unbiased. (News Corp/Murdoch papers notwithstanding) Unfortunately, we've gotten so stupid as a culture that sometimes what appears to be bias is just general scare-mongering designed to sell papers. USA Today is written at a 5th grade level, covering topics a 5th grader could understand, so naturally they're going to repeat the various dreck that is floating around. So if they're biased, I think they're biased just toward "stupid." Could be wrong, though.
posted by Damn That Television at 9:21 AM on April 13, 2010

Thanks for that Sourcewatch link; I like the "Financial Crisis Tracker"!
posted by shipbreaker at 9:29 AM on April 13, 2010

Just as a sort of point of information... that's actually a pretty objective assessment of what will happen if current federal budget trends are not arrested. The CBO is projecting that another $8 trillion will be added to the federal debt by the end of 2020. A significant portion of this debt will result from policies of the Obama administration. What's telling to me here is that you automatically assumed that anyone saying something bad about President Obama must automatically be a teabagging wingnut. Now who's biased?

Either way, USA Today isn't a newpaper anyone important takes very seriously. The only reason that it's got the circulation that it does is because it's the default newspaper in most motels. That right there gets you hundreds of thousands of copies circulated every day.
posted by valkyryn at 9:55 AM on April 13, 2010 [4 favorites]

I've always considered USA Today "sensationalist." They're basically one or two practices different from the National Enquirer. As long as somebody's freaked out, they're good with whoever is in office. Still love their Pop Culture coverage, though.
posted by medea42 at 10:45 AM on April 13, 2010

Who is in the editorial room, who is running the paper, and who owns the paper are typically the three deciding factors. (Damn That Television)

This might not be true [1].

[1] Gentzkow, Matthew Aaron and Shapiro, Jesse M., What Drives Media Slant? Evidence from U.S. Daily Newspapers (November 13, 2006). Available at SSRN:
posted by d. z. wang at 8:08 PM on April 13, 2010

(Assuming US-centricity here)

Yeah, nth-ing that USA TODAY doesn't even fit on the political spectrum... it's like the Oprah of broadsheets (and as far as I know or remember, everybody from Coulter to Moore feels this way).

I don't think you'll find -- because it's not possible to have -- an objective measure of political bias in various media sources. Leaving to the side the general problem of objective measurement in the human sphere, there are specific confounding issues. One is the fact that newspapers and other media sources are usually geographically-rooted (even if they're national, they're usually based out of NYC or DC; that vaguely impressive snowstorm OMG SNOWCAPOLYPSE last winter is a prime example) and will tend to be biased in favor of local pols and issues (being a Michigander in Chicago, it's been fascinating to hear Michigan Public Radio and Chicago Public Radio covering the Asian-carp-into-Lake-Michigan story differently).

Plus there's an additional highbrow/lowbrow slant. I'm not talking that political compass libertarian/populist dimension, but rather that the class of the content-makers & the perceived/expected audience or readership will dictate what is presented and how it is presented. A rough, probably biased example spectrum: Chicago Public Radio --> Trib (broadsheet)--> Sun-Times (quality tabloid)--> Chicago Reader (free daily) --> RedEye (not even worth reading on a long bus ride).
posted by tivalasvegas at 5:17 AM on April 14, 2010

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