A new study released on Wednesday found that much of the coverage of the National Security Agency spying controversy has been weighted in favor of the surveillance agencies.
The Columbia Journalism Review study examined stories from USA Today, the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times over a two-month period. The results were consistent:
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.
USA Today led the pack, using pro-surveillance terms 36 percent more frequently than anti-surveillance terms. The LA Times followed at 24 percent, while The New York Times was at 14.1 percent. Even the Washington Post, where Barton Gellman was the first US journalist to break the news of the NSA's surveillance, 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 study also noted that the coverage flew in the face of the American public's consistent opposition to many NSA spying programs. Other recent studies have shown similar gaps; a survey of cable news coverage of the conflict in Syria, for instance, found that news networks were far more hawkish on the issue than the public at large.
Read the full findings here.