Dr. Cathy Hanks
17 April 2013
Media Bias Essay
After viewing multiple segments from the television show Hardball with Chris Matthews from the MSNBC website and I was able to detect a certain bias and strategies that are implemented in the show such as agenda setting, priming and framing. After viewing over an hour worth of segments I had an overall interpretation that show contained a liberal bias. Matthews often used negative connotations when talking about far right extremists and the others disapproving of liberal policies or issues. Although the show did contain bias, Chris Matthews was efficient in interviewing each of his guests equally; being that he is tough on each interviewee regardless of party affiliation or political ideology. I also noticed that the segments of the show that covered reporting the bombs in Boston did not relatively have any bias and were chiefly reported as breaking news rather than political commentary, most likely to show respect in times of tragedy. One of the first clips I viewed was about the vote that was soon due in the Senate for the gun bill debate. When addressing the upcoming vote in the Senate Matthews stated "lets find out if our democracy has a chance of working." This statement does reflect negative views towards the effectiveness of our government which in turn conveys a negative image of our government to all the viewers. Matthews also states that "92% of the country want background checks" on all commercial gun sales so therefore "at least 92 of Senators…should at least be ready to vote on the matter." By stating this he is also to referring to lack of effectiveness that resides in our democracy and the disconnect between the people and their Senators. While interviewing Erica Lafferty, the daughter of the principal at Sandy Hook Elementary School, about her trying to reach the Senators threatening to filibuster a vote of a gun bill in the Senate, Matthews stated that Senator Cruz is "too hard right for me to figure out." He also asked Lafferty if she could have said anything that would have changed his mind, being a rhetorical question indicating the extremist tendencies of the Senator. By Matthews clearly stating he was "not a fan" of Senator Cruz and showing disagreement with his far-right views on the ongoing gun control debate clearly again displays the bias against conservatives. For the most part anytime Matthews brought up President Barack Obama, whether discussing policy or evaluating his performance, he spoke of him in a fairly positive matter especially in contrast with some of the politicians he criticizes over the course of the show. By highlighting the progress and "historic things" Obama has accomplished and mentioning that if he continues with the momentum of his first-term success that he has the potential to become the "transformational president", Matthews is priming his audience. The priming in this instance is used by preparing the viewers to take a hopeful or faithful view in President Obama and his initiatives.
Framing is also used in Hardball when reporting certain issues such as gun control and health care reform. Due to the recent tragedies in Connecticut, gun control has become a very controversial topic amongst citizens and Congress. As Matthews reports on this gun control issue he tends to hint that no progress has been made to even come to a vote because of "the usual suspects of the rejectionist front". Matthews is referring to the 31 right-wing Senators refusing to vote and "don't want to be bothered by having to get up there and stay where they stand." Matthews clearly is negatively criticizing the actions of these 31 Senators, even calling some out by name. By