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Keeping the press honest
Question of the Day
Six silent television screens are tuned to six different channels on the third-floor offices of the Media Research Center in Alexandria, producing a discordant TV tableau. On a recent afternoon, one screen shows a woman crying on the “Dr. Phil” show, while on another screen, director James Cameron is promoting a documentary that purports to show the tomb of Jesus.
It’s all in a day’s work for the center, whose red-bearded founder, L. Brent Bozell III, chuckles cheerfully as he guides a visitor on a tour.
In a nearby room, he points to row upon row of archived video recordings of news broadcasts, dating back to the founding of the conservative media-watchdog group two decades ago. In another room, banks of computers hum away, digitally recording the day’s news from every U.S. network.
“I think, in one sense, you could say we’ve exceeded all expectations,” says Mr. Bozell, whose organization will celebrate its 20th anniversary March 29 at its annual gala banquet.
“When we formally launched this in 1987, we had about seven staff. We had seven phones … two desks, a black-and-white TV and a rented computer, in an old brownstone town house in Alexandria. And without two nickels to rub against one another, we were proposing to confront a multibillion-dollar empire. I think you can say, 20 years later, we’ve been quite successful.”
Today, with an annual budget of $6 million the center’s offices on South Patrick Street are headquarters for more than 60 staffers running a high-tech operation that has more than 300,000 hours of video in its archives and continues to record and analyze TV news coverage at the rate of 560 hours per week.
And while liberal bias is still as problematic as ever, Mr. Bozell says, news consumers are more aware that reporters might not be getting the story straight.
“If you look at the surveys, we’ve accomplished our primary mission, which is to educate the American people about the bias that exists,” he says. “One survey in 1987 showed … that only 25 percent of the people believed there was such a thing as media bias. Today, according to a recent survey, that figure is 79 percent.”
The center’s primary mission of documenting distortions in coverage is carried on by its news-analysis division, headed by Brent H. Baker. It issues the daily e-mail CyberAlert, the weekly Media Reality Check and the fortnightly Notable Quotables, as well as special reports. That central mission is now augmented by other divisions of the organization:
The Business & Media Institute, headed by Dan Gainor, “is the only organization dedicated to correcting the media’s anti-free enterprise bias … and to promoting a fair portrayal of the business community in the news and entertainment media,” according to the center’s Web site (www.mrc.org).
Cybercast News Service (www.cnsnews.com), created in 1998 and under the editorship of David Thibault, is an online conservative “alternative news source” that specializes in “stories that are subject to the bias of omission and report on other news subject to bias by commission.”
The Newsbusters blog (www.newsbusters.org), created in 2005, provides a constant stream of updated reports about news coverage, while Times Watch (www.timeswatch.org) is devoted entirely to analyzing news coverage in the New York Times.
The newly created Culture and Media Institute, aims “to expose and counter the media’s corrosive effect on faith and traditional moral values,” says the institute’s director, Robert H. Knight.
An independent spinoff, the Parents Television Council, is based in Los Angeles and seeks “to ensure that children are not constantly assaulted by sex, violence and profanity on television and in other media.”
The idea for MRC was developed in a Texas rental-car parking lot at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport in 1982, says Mr. Bozell, 51.
Both parties recognize the Democrats' scam
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