There is a Right-Wing American Lad in Xiamen. He told me last night that during the Clinton presidency, there was no news on the homeless, that issues of homelessness disappeared from the media radar. That Clinton had ‘solved’ the homeless problem, only for it to surface ‘again’ during Bush’s term. (Here is a story alleging exactly that.) I expressed scepticism, and said I’d have to do some research before saying anything too specific on the topic.
His response? “You don’t have to. It’s on Lexis-Nexis. You can trust me.”
Erm. I don’t think so.
- CNN (24 December 1997): Clinton Wants More Aid For Homeless People
- CNN (23 December 1998): Clinton suggests record funding for homeless
- Media Reality Check (16 December 1999): The Homeless Resurface As A Liberal Prop
- SpeakOut.com (15 June 2000): Is the Democratic Party Ignoring the Homeless?
Okay. So what I’m reading is that the number of news stories on the problems of homelessness fell dramatically during the Bill Clinton presidency. Right-Wing Lad claimed it’s because there is an inexcusable liberal bias.
Sure, the media is biased, they can’t not be. No argument from me there. What I’m thinking is, why are they biased in favour of whoever Right-Wing Lad isn’t?
(Note to Right-Wing Lad: watching Fox News will probably make you feel better. Although it’s All Fear All The Time, you won’t need to worry about cruel bias against your current President.)
If the media was ignoring the homeless problem, why did they report on Clinton’s plans for increasing aid to the homeless? If there wasn’t a problem, why did he need to increase aid at all?
What stories were big news during the Clinton presidency? What issues were reported on extensively? The stories I’ve found say media attention on the homeless all but disappeared — but what took its place? It can’t have been all cheering for Clinton, even I (who was in Australia for much of those years) remember the media’s saturation coverage of the Starr report, Monica Lewinsky, and the impeachment. I wouldn’t say they were particularly in love with Bill Clinton.
I stand by my response to Right-Wing Lad. News programmes and papers will focus on topics that they think will sell. That is surely the bias they suffer from — a bias in favour of dollars. That may sometimes mean positive coverage (or not, as the case may be) of a Democratic president, or negative coverage of a Democratic president (and talking a whole lot about blue dresses and cigars).
The US could elect a piece of cheese as President, they could elect the world’s most perfect person, and someone somewhere will still criticise whatever media coverage there is as biased.