There's a lot of talk that the media is liberally biased. I think this is true to some degree, but until lately I knew of no way to prove or disprove the allegation. Then, I discovered a simple, concrete, non-subjective way to at least gather a small amount of hard data.

Here's what you do:

  • Open your local newspaper to the editorial section (in particular, the place where editorial cartoons are displayed).
  • Next, eliminate any editorial cartoons that have nothing to do with politics. If it's about some local road project, a jab at a sports figure or some other non-political topic, ignore it.
  • Examine the editorial cartoons that do have obvious political messages and decide whether it's a liberal or conservative ox being gored. This is usually quite obvious. I've done this for a while and I've seen only a couple of syndicated political cartoons that poked fun at both sides.
  • Keep a running tally for ten days or a month or so.

I don't know about papers around the country (but would like to hear), but our paper here in Austin, Tx runs about 3 to 1 mocking conservative causes over liberal ones. Thus, by this small measure, it is liberally biased.

Why this methodology? Several reasons: it's easy (takes about two minutes a day), it's not very subjective (cartoons are much easier to assign to the D or R column than articles, which are sometimes balanced and fair), and it's something completely under the control of the local paper (they have access to dozens of cartoons each day and can publish whatever ones they like).

What's your experience with your paper?

ikeleib says: The editorial page reflects the opinions of the editors and is not necesarily meant to have evenhanded coverage.

Exactly! Where else but the editorial page would you find the actual bias of the staff exposed for all to see?

The idea that they're just giving the people what they want doesn't hold up under much scrutiny: they endorsed Bush for prez, and most Austinites voted for him (local boy and all), but now they now lambast him editorially much more than liberals or than they did Clinton, even in the depths of the Lewinsky scandal.

You have to wonder if they're not just a little touched by the heat.