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US Newspapers Biased Towards NSA in Snowden Coverage – Study

RIA Novosti

21:18 24/10/2013

WASHINGTON, October 24 (RIA Novosti) – Top US newspapers have shown a "covert bias" in favor of the government in their coverage of National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance revelations leaked by fugitive contractor Edward Snowden, according to a new study.

The study, conducted by researchers with the respected Columbia Journalism Review, examined coverage of the Snowden revelations in the four highest-circulation US dailies – The New York Times, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post – and found it tilted in favor of the intelligence agencies doing the snooping.

"Of the 30 traditionally pro- or anti-surveillance terms we examined ... in all four newspapers, key words generally used to justify increased surveillance, such as security or terrorism, were used much more frequently than terms that tend to invoke opposition to mass surveillance, such as privacy or liberty," the Columbia Journalism Review researchers said.

The study analyzed coverage in the four powerhouse US newspapers in July, the first full calendar month after disclosures of the US government's sweeping, clandestine mass surveillance programs broke June 6.

USA Today was found to use pro-surveillance terms 36 percent more frequently than anti-surveillance terms, followed by the Los Angeles Times at 24 percent, The New York Times at 14.1 percent while the Washington Post, which was the first American paper to cover Snowden's revelations "exhibited a net pro-surveillance bias in its coverage of 11.1 percent."

"Although keyword frequency analysis on its own is not always conclusive, large, consistent discrepancies of the kind observed here strongly suggest a net media bias in favor of the US and UK governments' pro-surveillance position," the authors of the study stated Wednesday.

The study also noted that the US media is at odds with public attitudes, which polls suggest are more skeptical about the NSA programs.

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