Last year, in the wake of the 2011 election, I ran a project to measure whose voices got amplified in the major newspapers’ op-ed pages, called the Media Bias Project. The result was a conclusion that Conservative voices outnumbered Liberal and NDP ones (but only by 11% to 8%), and more importantly, that business groups (32%) dominated over progressive and union groups (3%) and social conservative ones (4%), even in so-called leftist bastions like the Toronto Star.
Recently a commentor has challenged me to redo the project, accusing me of bias because I excluded the Sun chain and because of various other reasons. As part of the challenge between him and I, I’m opening up the Media Bias project again to see how things have changed over the last year as well as to make a couple of changes to the approach. So here we go again.
This was left out in the first project because I didn’t think anyone seriously thought the Sun chain was politically neutral, and so I was trying to rig the game in favour of the right, as it were, in order that my results would show up the right wing when I demonstrated that business and Conservative contributors still dominated anyways. Instead, I’m accused of bias. Fair enough. The Sun’s back in.
My challenger also felt, I should point out, that my list didn’t adequately capture left versus right versus centre politics. There’s a reason for that: I don’t like the idea of left versus right politics. It doesn’t work. He feels that the Conservatives are basically neo-liberal centrists. Maybe. I personally don’t think our old idea of the political spectrum is very useful for capturing political parties whose hodgepodge beliefs include that basic science is bogus (neither liberal nor conservative), Crown corporations and monopolies should be shut down (a 19th-century liberal idea, but a 21st-century conservative one), that the military is the central symbol of our patriotism (a 19th-century and 21st-century conservative one), and that government should be snooping on everyone’s email, Web traffic, and cell phones (neither liberal nor conservative).
So instead, my list is based on a more simple question: who is getting represented on the op-ed pages? This approach avoids meddling in the debate about which parties are really conservative, or really left. If you want to claim that the Conservatives are centrists and that business lobby groups are really as socialist as George Soros, fine. All I’m going to do is tell you whether they make the op-ed pages. And here’s how the first few days of the renewed study stack up:
Business Groups: 29%
Social Conservative Groups: 3%
Interestingly, there are fewer Conservatives, fewer NDP, and more Liberals in the papers than there were a year ago. Once again, the leading contributor are business groups. No, academics does not equal “leftists.” That number includes people like Jack Mintz, Wesley Wark, Arthur Sweetman, and Herbert Grubel.
Numbers can add up to more than 100% because some contributors fall into multiple categories. At the end of the month I will upload the Excel datafile and update the Media Bias project website with the new data. I plan to do this on a regular basis going forward.
Again, these are the sources for the Media Bias Project:
- Calgary Herald
- Charlottetown Guardian
- Edmonton Journal
- Globe & Mail: Op-Ed Page and Business Commentary
- Halifax Chronicle Herald
- Hamilton Spectator
- Kitchener Record
- London Free Press
- Montreal Gazette
- National Post, including Financial Post
- Ottawa Citizen
- Regina Leader-Post
- Saskatoon Star-Phoenix
- St. John’s Telegram
- Toronto Star
- Toronto Sun
- Vancouver Sun
- Winnipeg Free Press