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October 3, 2002


Media bias at the eleventh hour


The Media Research Center of Alaska, a 501 (c) 3 non-profit, generally reviews news articles for bias.  However, bias by the media also occurs when, at the eleventh hour, one side of an issue is presented without presenting the other.

The MRCA found this to be the case when the Peninsula Clarion ran an op-ed at the eleventh hour, September 29th, by Gary Superman, a representative on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly, “Proposition 4 wrong road to tax relief,” while refusing to run ANY article by the proposition’s proponents, regardless of the calls and faxes made to Publisher, Stan Pitlo and Executive Editor, Lori Evans.

This particular media bias determination may seem irrelevant to most Alaskans because it deals with a local issue.  However, media bias at the eleventh hour is probably the most insidious type because it sways public opinion and it’s irreparable.  Proposition 4 is now history, having failed on October 1st.

But, citizens are at risk of further eleventh hour media bias with the coming general election.  Prepare yourself to combat news that instructs you how to vote by recognizing one-sided news during the week leading up to the election. 

Also of importance, the Peninsula Clarion was paid by the Peninsula Citizens Against the Grocery Tax to distribute flyers in its newspaper on the 28th and 29th.  However, flyers missed insertion, especially in Soldotna, where the opposition fought Proposition 4 the hardest.  “It may be a coincidence entirely, but it raises questions when paid political materials that oppose the bias presented in the newspaper are not delivered," commented James Price, Chairman.  



September  30, 2002

The Media Research Center of Alaska weighs in on claims of media bias

The Media Research Center of Alaska, a 501 (c) 3 non-profit, educates the public about media bias without endorsing or opposing any political candidate or legislative matter.  The MRCA is not a "conservative" organization, as claimed in a recent news article, "GOP ad makes the medium the message," by KTUU, Channel 2, apparently to strengthen a supposition that Republicans are collectively charging the media with bias.  The MRCA's goal is to approach media content from a scholarly perspective, measuring it against ethical standards espoused by the press.  As a result, the Media Research Center of Alaska DOES NOT identify the cause of bias or prescribe a penalty.  Additionally, the study of media bias extends far beyond political topics and includes ANY news story.

Recently, accusations of media bias have surfaced regarding the Anchorage Daily News' election coverage and the "Running" program on KAKM.  Following are the MRCA's findings:

The Anchorage Daily News has framed articles about Ulmer in a more positive light than those done about Murkowski.  The Media Research Center of Alaska reviewed the article, "Murkowski gets tough," August 8th, 2002, finding that the Anchorage Daily News and reporter Ben Spiess used the content of the speech to insert degrading remarks by Ulmer and candidate Wayne Anthony Ross, neither of whom were present at the event, about Murkowski. This speech was also covered by the Associated Press and in the MRCA's view, that coverage was fair and balanced.  

Selected examples of the ADN bias claim can be found by visiting the Archives section of the Media Research Center of Alaska's Web site.  To be fair in reporting, each candidate should be able to supply his/her views on the issues without a "spin" that steers a reader to conclude a negative view about one candidate and a positive view about another.  Since the MRCA notified the ADN of its findings in early August, the ADN improved its coverage and even more so since the TV ads ran claiming that it loves Ulmer.

With the recent accusations of media bias involving the "Running" program on KAKM and subsequent departure and return of moderator Rhonda McBride, the MRCA undertook review of the program for fairness.  The MRCA did not find the questions themselves to be biased when comparing those given to the various candidates nor did it find that Republicans were treated differently than Democrats.  Also, candidates were pressed for answers to the moderator’s questions equally.

However, when comparing and contrasting the entire program on Thursday evening, August 22, there is a difference between how Dave Donley was interviewed compared to the interviews of the other candidates.  This difference refers to the framing of the questions, the tone/words, and the style.

During the program, McBride asked Donley why it is that people either love him or hate him.  Each candidate was asked about their personal lives so that he/she could convey elements that viewers could relate to.  But, Donley's question was framed in a negative way – “labeling” him as a controversial figure. 

Additionally, McBride departed from a question/answer format that she used with all of the other candidates.  As a result, Donley was interrupted a number of times before he finished making his point.

Lastly, phrases used by McBride included "aren't you afraid that it will come back and bite you," and "haunted by that," are strong words that set Donley in the viewer's mind as a candidate who is beset by many obstacles. 

The other candidates were not asked a personal question suggesting a negative view; were not interrupted regardless of the length of their reply; and not asked questions with strong, negative words that would compel a defensive response.  As a result, the MRCA did find Dave Donley’s interview to be biased, by comparison.

Again, it is not the responsibility of the MRCA to determine the “cause” of bias, nor recommend a penalty.  The MRCA stands for fairness in reporting asking that each candidate be treated fairly so that the viewer is not unduly influenced. The purpose of these interviews is to reveal the personality and views of the candidate in an open and fair manner so that each concerned citizen can independently compare and contrast each for their merit in regard to the issues and for the person they are.

The criteria the Media Research Center of Alaska utilizes to measure bias in the media can be found at its Web site:    http://mediaresearchak.org/ethics.htm.




August 30, 2002

Publishers:     Peninsula Clarion


  Articles:          Murkowski says cooperation key to 

                          improved care

                      Ulmer says state must address 

                          nursing shortage 

These articles in the Peninsula Clarion present healthcare related views by Democratic and Republican candidates for Governor without any similar coverage for other party candidates.  It is plausible that candidates from the Republican Moderate, Alaska Libertarian, Green and AIP parties will be covered by future articles on the same subject but the appearance at this date is one of discriminate reporting for “major party” candidates.  The Media Research Center of Alaska finds that publishing articles in this manner is unfair to the political parties mentioned as well as to its readership.   

Considering we are now on the home stretch to the general election, it is imperative that all candidates be covered equally and fairly so that citizens can make informed decisions.  Also, equitable coverage will motivate voter turn-out.  Let’s all ask each of our state’s papers to do their best to give us thorough and fair coverage of all parties and candidates.

Candidates for Governor NOT covered:

Diane Benson (G)

Billy Toien  (L)

Don Wright (AI)

Key to Alaska's Recognized Political Parties:
AI = Alaskan Independence Party
D = Alaska Democratic Party
G = Green Party of Alaska
L = Alaska Libertarian Party
R = Republican Party of Alaska
RM = Republican Moderate Party 



August 8, 2002

Scrutiny of candidates is a good thing during an election to help voters understand the issues and the candidates.  However, scrutiny of one candidate and a lack of scrutiny of his/her opponent, is unfair.  Also, quoting one with negative comments without providing an EQUAL comment from another, slants the story.  Following is a GOOD example of proper distribution of remarks - they are equal (different topic used as an example only):

"The suit smacks of desperation," EMC spokesman Mark Fredrickson said after HP's first salvo, which he said came without warning.

"EMC is stabbing in the dark," returned HP spokesman Mark Stouse, after EMC counter-sued. He said some of the issues HP was pursuing were a year or more old.

The examples provided in the following review demonstrate a LACK of equal weight given to both candidates, producing  biased news stories.


Publishers:     Anchorage Daily News

                          Juneau Empire 

                     Peninsula Clarion 

Reporters:      Ben Spiess  for ADN and 

                     Associated Press for Juneau Empire

                         & Peninsula Clarion

Articles:           Murkowski gets tough  (ADN)

                     Murkowski: Overhaul public safety  

                          system  (AP)

U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski, candidate for Governor, gave a campaign speech at the Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Wednesday, July 7th.  Both the Associated Press and the Anchorage Daily News were present to cover it.  However, the tone of the coverage was considerably different when comparing and contrasting the resulting articles. 

The AP article (published in the Juneau Empire and Peninsula Clarion) was well done, covering the facts; not analyzing them nor exposing inadequacies or presenting other candidate’s views to degrade Murkowski.  Truly this article was written to inform, not influence.

The same cannot be said for the Anchorage Daily News.  In reviewing this article for balance and fair reporting, the Media Research Center of Alaska finds that the Anchorage Daily News and reporter Ben Spiess used the content of the speech to insert degrading remarks by Ulmer and Ross to undermine and double-team him.  Using statements such as, "It's an absolute plagiarism," Ross said, referring to Murkowski's statements on enhancing public safety in the Bush,” and "More support for rural Alaska has been a constant goal of our administration. If he wants to criticize, he needs to criticize his Republican colleagues," Ulmer said, are statements to influence the reader.  The AP cited the same comment from Ulmer but did not personalize it:  “Ulmer said the Knowles administration has long sought to boost the VPSO system, increase law enforcement officers and expand the prison system - only to be thwarted by a Republican-led Legislature.”   Ross wasn't quoted at all by the Associated Press.

Also, there seems to be an underlying reason why the ADN and the reporter choose to slight Murkowski whether it’s an article about him and his campaign or whether it’s an article about Ulmer and her campaign.  Selected examples of this claim can be found by clicking on this link.  To be fair in reporting on candidates in the Governor’s race (or any race for that matter) each candidate should be able to supply their views on the issues without a “spin” that directs a reader to conclude a negative view about one candidate and a positive view about another.  This is slanted reporting and unfair.

If one reviews the articles in the ADN about candidates for Governor over the past month, one can easily deduce that there is a bias for Fran Ulmer and an equal bias against Frank Murkowski.  Today’s article now pulls in Wayne Anthony Ross, suggesting that he and Ulmer are somehow together in opposing Murkowski.  When one considers that Ross is a Republican as well as Murkowski, one has to wonder if there is some agenda here to split the party and increase the strength of Ulmer’s position.

ADN articles by various reporters over the past month supporting Ulmer and articles slighting Murkowski, leads the MRCA to conclude that the ADN is biased toward Ulmer as a candidate for Governor.  The people want coverage of all candidates not just their favored one; not just the only possible winners; and not the ones with the most money.  Alaska is faced with critical issues that must be resolved and the only way this will happen is if people involve themselves in the election process.  But to participate, citizens must be informed.  It is the press that can aid the discovery process.   Considering the ADN has the largest circulation in the state, one would think that its newsroom would take its mission more seriously.  




August 4, 2002


Publisher:      Anchorage Daily News (Opinions         



Author:          Unknown


Article:           Ulmer on economy


(Start with article below for context).  Still counting stories on Fran Ulmer, one of the candidates for Governor.  This article appears in the Opinions section of the ADN and basically rehashes the article written by Ms. Ulmer and published yesterday - no new news.  The ADN however, took the opportunity to ding Murkowski with a few lines.  Again, Alaska citizens would like to hear from all of the candidates.





August 3, 2002


Publisher:      Anchorage Daily News (Opinions         



Author:          Fran Ulmer


Article:           Plan designed to build prosperity


Another Ulmer article in the ADN, this time her own.  This article was run gratis by the ADN newsroom as a Compass Opinion Essay.  Upon investigation of ADN's publishing policies, asking Steve Lindbeck, Associate Editor, if the ADN would run an article by any of the gubernatorial candidates, he said, "their chances would be excellent if they submitted something under the normal guidelines. That statement is qualified only because we never guarantee to publish something we haven't even seen. But as a general rule we would be delighted to publish something from any legitimate gubernatorial candidate."  So, candidates, send in your articles to get published!  



August 1, 2002

Publisher:      Anchorage Daily News  

Reporter:       Ben Spiess


Article:           Ulmer lays out ideas on economy


We need articles about OTHER candidates for Governor!  For some reason, ONLY Ulmer is getting coverage in the Anchorage Daily News.  When only one candidate is covered there is no way for the news consumer to compare and contrast the candidates.  Enough on Ulmer.





July 22 & 23, 2002

Publisher:      Anchorage Daily News   

Reporters:     Don Hunter & Ben Spiess

Articles:          Chasing bush votes  

                    Ulmer’s gun hard to hide 

One of the ways that news is measured for bias (and there are many) is to count the number of stories that cover one side of an issue – the issue being reviewed here: political campaign for Governor.  Now that we are heading into the final month before the primary, coverage of Ulmer is expanding, leading the MRCA to find ADN’s hard news coverage of a political campaign leaning heavily toward one candidate: Fran Ulmer.

If the ADN wants to back Ulmer, that’s fine, as long as it’s done in the opinion section and labeled so.  Constant readership bombardment of her name, activities and pictures in hard news is unfair and biased reporting and is more akin to a brand marketing tactic than anything else.

The above two articles are about Ulmer’s personal activities that surround her campaign.  Why is it that she is the only one getting this kind of coverage?  Is it that she is the only candidate for Governor that is doing something newsworthy - like packing a gun?  Is she the only candidate that's gone to the bush looking for votes?  There are sixteen other candidates!

There is just over a month to go until the primary.  This means that there is time left to run an article about EACH ONE of the candidates for Governor, every other day between now and then so that voters have ample opportunity to determine WHO will serve them best.   It is not enough to cover ONLY the ones that they expect to win.   We hope that the ADN moves toward REAL coverage of all campaign activities of all the candidates in a balanced and fair manner that will help their readers make informed decisions.

As a side note, the Media Research Center of Alaska acknowledges the Anchorage Daily News, as well as reporters Spiess and Hunter, for INCLUDING all the parties and candidate’s names in the more recent articles about campaign activities as we and others have suggested, whereas prior, they were completely excluded.  Thanks for that...now the next step - equal coverage.



Selected comments from ADN readership submitted to us regarding this topic:

"Stories about Fran Ulmer daily in the Anchorage Daily News - BIG stories with BIG pictures. Very little on the other candidates yet. Please check this out, it makes me sick that they so blatantly support one candidate."

"Keep it up!!!!!!  Exactly correct. Everyone out here sees it the same.  ADN is so blindly biased for Fran...also known in Western Gun Circles as Calamity Fran."


"What can we do to discourage ADN against bias reporting?  This has always been a problem and asking for both sides of a story to be told is not ADN's objective. Thank you for alerting the public."



June 30, 2002

Publisher:  Anchorage Daily News

Reporter:  Liz Ruskin

Article:  "Hut plan gets big lift from Stevens"

There is a fine line between reporting the news and promoting those in the news.  It is news that Ted Stevens is able to appropriate funds for special interests.  However, the MRCA believes the line was crossed with this article due to warm emotional quotes about Ted Stevens for his ability to bring home the pork without any quotes from the National Taxpayer’s Union, Citizens Against Government Waste, US Term Limits, or any general public interest group on how pork increases deficits, taxes, interest rates, and federal government power over individuals and states.

It is very easy for the media and its reporters to fall into the trap of becoming an advocate for a political figure or any subject of self-interest, rather than remaining an impartial observer reporting facts and presenting all reactions to the “news.”

It appears that this article is the result of an “access bargain” struck between Ms. Ruskin and the Senator, his office, and resources.  She receives information in exchange for positive reporting.  Without her “connection,” she would be cut off from her lifeline to news.  Reporting the complete story and reactions from all groups would have balanced the story but offended the Stevens' camp and brought into play his reputation for vindictiveness.

The Anchorage Daily News has a long history of using its space to promote Stevens’ candidacy.  During his last election, it increased favorable front page promotional articles on his behalf.  This article appears to be the beginning of a wave of promotion once again. Because this article appears so, it brings into question the ADN’s ability to promote a full and open debate between candidates.  This must stop – the pattern and practice of giving free promotional pieces to a favored candidate on the front page and declining the same for opponents, makes the playing field uneven.  We’ll start counting the front page articles to see if a balance of stories for each of the candidates for Senator are equally represented.

Lastly, this article also promotes the idea that greater deficits are good for the   country.  Articles like this, over time, brainwash the voting Alaska public to believe that pork is good for the nation and their state.  


June 21, 2002

Publisher:  Anchorage Daily News   

Reporter:  Lisa Demer

Article:  Ulmer says she’ll focus on families  

SPEECH:  Candidate rolls out first policy address


At first glance, this article seems to be coverage of Ulmer’s first official major policy speech.  But, reading beyond the first few paragraphs one quickly realizes that the article is really about Ulmer’s and Murkowski’s run for the Governor’s office.  


Once again the ADN is omitting important facts about everyone who is running in the primary.  The primary is not over.  This article is the second in 10 days that sets the stage for the run-off for Governor, suggesting that these two will face each other.  There was mention in this article today, however, that Republican Wayne Ross would have to be overcome by Murkowski for him to face Ulmer, but there is absolutely no mention of any other candidate.  This is unfair reporting.  Is it because the ADN believes that all the other candidates are non-contenders and therefore do not mention their names?  Well, no wonder they are “unknowns” – their major policy speeches aren’t covered by the ADN  – even if there are MORE than 100 attendees at a picnic (like this article on Ulmer’s speech).  Also, they aren’t mentioned in articles like today.  How much work is it to name the rest of the candidates?


To go on the record about who is running for Governor, headed for the August primary, please see the list below.  The Media Research Center of Alaska does hope that the ADN plans to cover ALL of the candidate’s major policy speeches – and if not, then stop coverage on any of them.  It’s a public disservice!


Race for Governor  (alphabetical listing)

Nels Anderson, Jr. (AI)

Michael Beasley (D)

Casey Cockerham (AI)

Samuel Acevedo Fevos, Sr. (AI)

John Wayne Glotfelty (AI)

Harold A. “Sandy” Haldane (AI)

Erica L. “Desa” Jacobsson (G)

Bruce J. Lemke (D)

Dawn M. Mendias (RM)

Frank H. Murkowski ( R )

Wayne A. Ross ( R)

Brad Snowden (R )

Billy Toien (L )

Fran Ulmer ( D)

Eric E. Wieler ( R)

Don Wright (AI)

Key to Alaska's Recognized Political Parties:
AI = Alaskan Independence Party
D = Alaska Democratic Party
G = Green Party of Alaska
L = Alaska Libertarian Party
R = Republican Party of Alaska
RM = Republican Moderate Party


June 21, 2002

Publisher:  Juneau Empire   

Reporter:  Bill McAllister

Article:  Ulmer says she'll put families first

Democratic candidate for governor attacks Murkowski's record


Same story - but stronger coverage of the struggle of words between the two candidates covered.  The Juneau Empire states that Ulmer and Murkowski are expected to face off in November, calling them the front-runner/heavy favorite for the Governor's office, excluding mention of any other candidates.


It would be more useful if reporters wrote about what a candidate has to say on the issues, without bringing in what the candidate's opponent has to say, has said, or has failed to say, even if the candidate is waving them in their face.  They are biased political remarks (of course, they want to win) and are not REAL news.


Additionally, an in-depth story on an issue, its background and effects on citizens, pros and cons, with quotes from ALL candidates responding to the same questions, would be the most beneficial.  


June 11, 2002

Publisher:  Anchorage Daily News    

Reporter:  Don Hunter

Article:  Murkowski, Ulmer camps at war over ads

This article appears to be an attempt to tip the political playing field in favor of Fran Ulmer by reporting on her complaints that Frank Murkowski is working soft money toward his advantage by instigating an ad campaign.  This ad campaign, paid for by the trade organization Americans for Job Security, a 501 (c)(6) that grew out of a Coalition of business groups, is alleged by Ulmer to be the handiwork of Murkowski.  There is no source quoted from that group verifying the truth or mistruth of the claims by Ulmer and the reporting by Hunter.

After the claims by Ulmer are stated, the rest of the article goes on to quote her defense against the ad campaign.  The “evidence” presented by the reporter that Ulmer’s claims are true, is based upon campaign spokesman, Dan Sadler's citing of the same Bureau of Economic Analysis study that the ads use.   Hunter also suggests that Saddler’s statement that Murkowski supports economic expansion for Alaska while Ulmer has presided over the state’s economic contraction, means that Murkowski is somehow behind the ads.  This isn’t proof.

This article is biased because it is presenting as news, unsubstantiated claims about one candidate by implying impropriety with soft money while at the same time presenting the other candidate in a positive light, defending her record of results. 

The sentences that end the article: “Both Ulmer and Murkowski face several opponents in their own party primaries on Aug. 27.  However, both are considered strong candidates who are likely to face off in November.” - present an opinion that doesn’t belong in a news article.  There is no place in a news article to pick candidates.  This leads to voter apathy that lowers voter turnout.  The purpose of the news is to present the issues that will inspire citizens to get their vote counted. The full list of candidates for Governor can be found at the Alaska Division of Elections' Website.

Lastly, this article gives only one reference to “soft money,” and can leave the reader with only half the story – the spending of campaign funds.  There is the contribution end of soft money.  For an expanded definition, visit Common Cause.


May 16 , 2002

Publisher:   Anchorage Daily News   

Reporter:  Ben Spiess

Article:   Legislature still gridlocked

In the article, "Legislature still gridlocked," by Ben Spiess, Republicans are portrayed, and even quoted, as having "no idea" what's going on in the hold up of legislative business.   Johnny Ellis, D-Anchorage, is quoted as saying, "They are bungling this spectacularly."  Spiess goes on to outline in detail how Rick Halford, R-Chugiak, is ambling down the corridor in a calm manner, examining a garbage item for personal use, "as if" he's not even interested in dealing with the business at hand.  He was also shown to be taking his time in taking a good hard look at all the issues, suggesting that somehow he was personally dragging his feet.  Spiess did, however, get a little mileage out of Halford, adding that he doesn't want to remove the urban/rural link from the debt repayment bill.

There is mention of the budget package that must be passed and how votes must be cultivated to get it done by biting the bullet on what the Democrats want.  But little coverage is given to the enormous size and consequences of once again dipping into Constitutional Budget Reserve to fund the government and how much it will "cost" to buy Democratic votes. There is no mention what this budget will cost each taxpayer.  The focus is entirely on the lack of cooperation on the Republican side for not quickly passing a general-obligation bond package which is accompanied by a separate bill that would guarantee the state repay a large portion of school construction and maintenance bonds issued by towns and cities and provide additional money for rural school construction whenever Alaska's cities take advantage of the program in the future.

Supporters of the bill are presented in such a way that it appears that they have the "fix" for properly funding rural schools.  And Republicans are presented as discriminating against rural communities, in their resistance against funding school projects with a trigger mechanism.  The fact is, as Donley was quoted, "It's way, way more money than this state can afford."  

Then to cap the article, Ethan Berkowitz's, D-Anchorage, opinion is asserted - dismissing complaints from the Republican majority, saying that they (the Republicans) have been working to scuttle the Democrat agenda all session long.

Final paragraph, unrelated to the news of the day and the current issues before the legislature, Governor Knowles was mentioned along with his plan to take up the question of who has subsistence priority in the use of Alaska's fish and wildlife, and how he was going to put these on the special session agenda.


May 16 , 2002

Publisher:   Anchorage Daily News   

Reporter:  Tom Kizzia

Article:   School issue has stymied lawmakers for years

The article, " School issue has stymied lawmakers for years," by Tom Kizzia, states that the building and maintaining of schools has been a source of political friction between rural and urban Alaska for many years.  The truth is the debate is between the powers that be - liberals and conservatives with the former pushing its agenda to preferentially treat "rurals," while the latter backs the perpetuation of the Constitution's foundation - equality for all residents regardless of where they live in the state.  However, the article implies that most Republicans are the ones that are opposed to full-funding of rural schools.  Rick Halford, R-Chugiak, was quoted as supportive of full funding, stating that the package should be, "based on need and the things we ought to be doing."

There was mention of adding more rural schools to a bond package that will go before the voters next fall, but once again Republicans were brought into the spotlight with a statement that Republicans other than Halford turned down the idea.  No comment was given from the Democrats or why the Republicans didn't like the idea.

Again, this article is biased toward the liberal establishment that wants to preferentially treat rural residents, blaming the other camp for finding any excuse not to enjoin what they portray as a selfless, caring act.


May 16 , 2002

Publisher:   Anchorage Daily News   

Reporter:  Cathy Brown

Article:   Senate rejects wage bill

The article, " Senate rejects wage bill," injects speculation that Republicans want to keep the minimum wage issue off the ballot so Democratic voters won't be more highly motivated to go to the polls and vice versa for the Democrats.  This type of speculation doesn't belong in a news article.  No one is quoted - writer's opinion.


Articles of Interest


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