August 28, 2005

Quotes of the Evening (082805)

There is a bumper crop of quotes tonight. Maybe I should spread them out so I can do less original blogging (comments and e-mails agreeing with that sentiment are not welcome).

(Click “more” to read the delicious collection of prosaic punditry assembled for you)
(more…)

Cindy Sheehan, Through the Google News Goggles

Filed under: Business Moves,Corporate Outrage,MSM Biz/Other Bias — Tom @ 5:55 am

The pros and cons of Cindy Sheehan’s protest, her views, and the people she has chosen to associate herself with have been chronicled and debated ad nauseam, and I’m not going to cover any of that ground again.

But I do want to take a fresh look at a complaint from conservatives and center-right bloggers that has been building for some time, and the Sheehan story seems like the best opportunity for doing it.

Part of the conservative and center-right blogger objection has to do with the sheer volume of coverage Ms. Sheehan and her cohort have received and continue to receive, as Sister Toldjah noted back on Tuesday.

But it goes way beyond the number of stories. The concern is that the primary Internet news filters (Google, Yahoo, and MSN, but especially Google) are attempting to, and are largely succeeding at, imposing the same loathesome liberal biases and filters onto Internet news stories, news source selection, and news source exclusion that have been so apparent in The Mainstream Media for so many years.

So the Sheehan story is a good test case to see whether loopy and far-left sources, stories, and opinions with no new information or analysis are seen as legitimate news, while newsworthy and/or thoughtful pieces that advance the discussion coming from the conservative and center-right side of the spectrum are ignored.

Google was the news search engine I tested, as it’s the most widely read (though not by much, according to MSN and Yahoo).

Various Google news searches on “Cindy Sheehan” (in quotes) and “‘Cindy Sheehan’ hero” (“Cindy Sheehan” in quotes) on August 21 revealed many “interesting” articles published by Google-sanctioned sources. Search results change constantly, so you won’t be able to replicate the results of a week ago, or necessarily succeed in finding the items in your own news search; also, all links won’t necessarily work at all times.

Here is just some of what I found:

To be fair, I noticed a precious few independent and center-right sources: WorldNetDaily (a few times), ChronWatch.com, RedState.org, BlogCritics.org and PowerlineBlog’s scary-good news site.

But in relation to the Sheehan story, two newsbreakers were notably absent from Google News, even as sources for anything (meaning that a search on the source with “Sheehan” as the search topic yielded a message “source ‘________’ not found):

  • Matt Drudge (“not found” proof here-look right under the search entry), who revealed that a mainstream newspaper covered Sheehan’s meeting with George Bush shortly after her son died and had had kind things to say about the President.
  • Michelle Malkin (“not found” proof here), who with the help of blogger Dang If I Know, broke the story that Sheehan’s husband had filed for divorce well before any other mainstream media outlet.

If Drudge’s and Malkin’s items aren’t “news,” what is? Based on my blog rounds during the past two weeks, I am quite sure that a number of other center-right bloggers have had news worth noting on the Sheehan saga and have been similarly excluded.

Here’s another gem: David Brock’s Media Matters for America is a Google-sanctioned news source; Brent Bozell’s Media Research Center is not.

So this much was obvious last week about the summer saga of Cindy Sheehan:
— One mother, out of more than a thousand who have lost her sons in the war in Iraq, has been getting an astoundingly disproportionate level of media coverage.
— Far-left sources, almost all of which have had nothing new to report, have been allowed into Google News as sources with legitimacy equal to that of published newspapers and licensed broadcasters.
— Many center-right blogs and reporters with real news and analysis have been shut out, not just from the Sheehan story but from having their content considered newsworthy at all.
— The number and shrillness of the far-left and conspiracy sites that Google has sanctioned, combined with the sources of valid conservative and center-right news and information that it has excluded, has influenced the national discussion about her. The only debate is how much. There can be no doubt that Google News’s biased selection and exclusion process has to some degree assisted the pro-Sheehan forces.

Past experiences reported by center-right bloggers who have attempted to become Google-sanctioned sources, including Charles at Little Green Footballs (LGF), indicate that the exclusion of conservative and center-right voices by Google is no accident. Charles at LGF was the first person to definitively demonstrate that the documents used by CBS in a story about George Bush’s Air National Guard service were forgeries, but was rejected as a sanctioned source by Google News.

The obvious conclusion that comes out of what I have found in the Sheehan situation with Google News is this: Conservative and center-right news sources and views are being marginalized out of at least one leading Internet news source in much the same way they have been shut out of or ignored in Mainstream Media coverage for decades.

This may also be occurring at MSN and Yahoo (LGF notes that there is good reason to be concerned about Yahoo). Though there are more ways to fight back in cyberspace, this is still is not a pleasant prospect.

To borrow from Roger Daltrey (“Meet the new boss, same as the old boss”):

Meet the new filters, same as the old filters.

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TO BE CLEAR: I am NOT suggesting that most of the above cited sources should be excluded from Internet news searches (but Mumia, who should long ago have forfeited his free-speech rights, has got to go). Though I am sure it has the potential to become unwieldy, I’m suggesting MORE inclusiveness across the board. The folks at Google, MSN, and Yahoo should be able to handle the extra load, and the public deserves viewpoint diversity.
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A (sort of) Backup Source: This list, which purports to show all US Google News sources that had entries since March 22 of this year, supports what I have noted about the exclusion of Drudge, Malkin, and Media Research (i.e., they’re not on the list), and the inclusion of Media Matters for America. It may not be complete, however, since many of the far-left sources that had real Sheehan-related entries aren’t on this list either, even though most of them seem to be US-based.
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UPDATE: Sent this message at the Google News suggestion page re Media Research Center: “Folks, this is a source that does on the conservative side exactly what Media Matters for America (which you have allowed as a source) does on the liberal side. They both critique current news coverage and comment on errors, omissions, and slants in reported news stories. MRC has been doing this for over 20 years; Media Matters has been at it for about three. I would suggest, now that you know, that you would be unfair to Google News readers if you continue to exclude MRC. I expect a response to this e-mail as to whether you have chosen to add MRC or have rejected them.” Update to Update, Sept. 1: Got an e-mail from Google News, indicating that MRC had been approved. This of course leads me to wonder whether they have tried to get in previously. I have e-mailed MRC informing them of my e-mail and asking whether they applied earlier and got rejected.

UPDATE 2 (file under “shameless self-promotion”): Whoever developed the sophisticated search engine algorithm that yielded this result on “Bob Taft, impeachment” is a genius. Look at who is at number 6 as of 3PM on August 28 (down from #1 a week ago, darn it). It seems that Yahoo may have customized its news search for Fox, as I can’t replicate the result at Yahoo’s main news search. In fact, BizzyBlog can’t be found at all in a regular Yahoo.com news search (oh the humanity).