D'Alessio, Dave. Media Bias in Presidential Election Coverage, 1948-2008: Evaluation via Formal Measurement. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2012. x+ 144 pages. Cloth, $60.00.
Communications scientist Dave D'Alessio employs social scientific methods to examine media coverage across sixteen presidential elections from 1948 through 2008, evaluating potential bias based on party, ideology, type of medium, volume of coverage, tone or valence, and public or private ownership. He begins by reviewing definitions and derivation of media bias, noting that partisan and ideological biases are frequently mistaken for one another. Next, he explains that his focus on media bias in presidential election campaigns is driven by the simultaneous uniqueness and inclusiveness of this quadrennial event. He contends that "because complaints made by presidential candidates have brought the question of media bias to public prominence, the importance of the question has led to a research agenda that emphasizes examination of media coverage of presidential campaigns" (p. 16). Indeed, it is often the candidates themselves who charge media bias, making it a newsworthy issue in nearly every election.
In his analysis of the forces acting on the news, D'Alessio considers the role of journalists and finds a tendency toward liberalism among journalists and a prevalent type of campaign coverage concentrating on which candidate is where in public opinion polls. Second, he argues that the tension between journalists and those who own media outlets can likewise result in tilted coverage of persons and events. In this manner, media is regarded as an economic entity and as property, and its political role means that it alternately serves as critic of and conduit for public officials.
Chapters three and four deal with the ways in which researchers have approached the issue of bias. To confront the dilemma of subjectivity inherent in bias studies, D'Alessio taps meta-analysis, which entails an aggregation of large numbers of studies to reach a single conclusion. As he argues, this technique is amenable to statistical testing, has the potential to reduce sampling error, and can test for homogeneity. Further into the book he explores the details of the research involved and analyzes bias by type of medium, identifying ninety-nine media-based studies of presidential elections from 1948 through 2008 that met specific criteria and could be replicated. He evaluates various media forms by...