Yesterday, John Binder over at The Hayride wrote an article titled “Dear Louisiana Media, This Is Why Everyone Hates You.” In it, Binder, a regular writer for the conservative blog, lashes out at the Louisiana media for journalistic plagiarism, citing specific examples of when he and his colleagues at The Hayride have broken stories that were picked up by state media outlets without attributing the work done by writers at The Hayride.
Everyone who knows me knows I’m as conservative as (maybe even more than) anyone at The Hayride, and I agree with a number of things Binder wrote in the post. So I’ll begin there. What follows is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s a good sample of where Binder and I can agree.
- I agree the media has exhibited a long and well-documented liberal bias.
- I agree there is a noticeable double standard in the traditional media (a natural result, I presume, of their biases).
- I agree the mainstream media should give credit where it is due. If Binder and his colleagues break a story that another media outlet picks up and confirms, they should attribute the lead to The Hayride. In other words, plagiarism is unethical and unacceptable.
That said, none of these things surprise me. I can’t say I expect better from the liberal media.
But I must disagree with Binder’s all-encompassing statements: “Everyone Hates You” and “No one trusts the media.” I’ll give Binder the benefit of the doubt and assume he was being colloquial here, but I still must set the record straight. And fortunately, I have some very recent data that permits me to do so.
Not everyone hates Louisiana’s media, and a large plurality of Louisianans trust the Louisiana media for issues of state political import. As a part of a research project completely unrelated to media bias, trust in media, etc., I recently conducted an online survey of registered, likely voters. Although my sample size was small, I am confident in the results because my sample was random, and my initial ballot question about the Louisiana governor’s race yielded results statistically identical to contemporaneous polling in the race. Immediately following a news article about the governor’s race, I asked the question, “Which of the following news sources would give you the most confidence in the previous article if you knew the article was from that source?” Responses to this question are displayed in Table 1.
As Table 1 shows, when matters of state politics are in play, Louisiana voters implicitly trust the state traditional media. Sources Binder specifically mentioned in his article constitute 47.4% of the responses, more than doubling the combined confidence in national news media, political media, and political blogs. When you add to that the respondent who is most trusting of their local newspaper, that number climbs to 49.1% of respondents who place the most confidence in local and state traditional media.
Based on the tone of Binder’s article, he was clearly (and rightfully) upset that the media took his reporting and made it their own. But rather than rocketing off a blog post with generalized statements about a ubiquitous distrust of the media in the electorate, the politically savvy move would have been to engage the offending journalists in a conversation or to leverage his boss’ clout to bring about positive change to the way journalists work with bloggers. Instead, Binder’s approach is akin to an undergraduate student unhappy with a test grade shooting a profanity-laced e-mail to the professor. His article will likely be ignored and overlooked by the media while accomplishing nothing more than rousing the conservative base.