Re Ms Annamaria Sauer’s letter in the 26dec15 Union responding to the charge that the NC Republican Women Federated are wasting their time deriving a biased, therefore worthless, audit of the newspaper’s count of publishing politically slanted op-ed content. The local hard Left has long criticized The Union as being tilted toward the Right in its editorial stance. Some have even labeled the paper as the ‘Tea Party Gazette’, and taken to task every piece that does not support their own ideology on the accusation that the paper’s management willfully rejects presenting a “balanced” outlook that reflects the view of our “purple county”.
Of course, unsurprisingly none of this is backed up by a shred of evidence – it is simply a naked assertion that gains traction mainly with the community’s light thinkers. So it is strange, but still unsurprising given their proclivities, that they dun the effort by the NCRWF to actually individually assess and count the pieces into primarily ‘liberal’, ‘neutral’, and ‘conservative’ categories. The Left further charges that such efforts are worthless because the NCRWF is intrinsically a conservetarian organization. But as someone long ago said, ‘Let him among you who is unbiased perform the first such audit.’
(The actual scope of the NCRWF audit extended to discovering inconsistencies in The Union’s published policy about what submittals from which authors at what frequencies and lengths were in fact printed. The results, which he failed to mention in his article, surprised publisher Jim Hemig. Nevertheless Mr Hemig was happy to receive the audit and has since then issued to its readership the “January Challenge” to replicate the ideological assessment introduced by the NCRWF.)
But the original criticism that such an audit of our newspaper was/is a waste of time is both gratuitous and totally unwarranted because 1) it does provide a documented datapoint of The Union’s existential perspective, 2) it is by far not the only community service that the NCRWF performs as outlined by Ms Sauer, and 3) neither the critic nor the community were harmed by Mr Hemig’s report of his receipt of the NCRWF audit. The only ones left with egg on their faces are those of the loudly ignorant Left whose unfounded assertions were exposed.
[29dec15 update] The NCRWF audit continues to draw interest from the local Left that seems to be a bit put off that their ad hoc assessment of our newspaper’s political leaning was shown to be not only unfounded, but diametrically wrong. The latest effort to diminish the audit takes the cloak of scientific scrutiny – did the audit succumb to “scientific method”?
The NCRWF made no such claim when the audit’s data was presented and discussed with Union’s management which by all accounts accepted it as is. In my extensive readings on such audits, there is no claim by anyone that assessments of ideology are scientific in the rigorous sense. They may adhere to some principles of scientific enquiry and reporting, but are such polls true science? Not at all. What the Left chooses to ignore is that the NCRWF did communicate its methodology, presented a complete database of its assessments, and provided summary statistics on both ideological leaning and policy infractions. All of this invites both critical examination and replication as part of the scientific method.
But what is going on here for the light thinking audience is the floated innuendo that the audit claimed something other than what was reported, and that the audit was not 'scientific' therefore at least of no consequence, and possibly even launched to promote a political agenda. I invite this audit to be compared to any other much published assessments of media bias which repeatedly conclude that, say, the NYT and Wash Post are editorially liberal. No one on those newspapers or of the progressive persuasion will admit to that; both cohorts will claim that their products survey the world through unbiased eyes and report it with what they consider commendable balance.
Since (as a NCRWF Associate Member) I am familiar with how the audit was conducted, I can report to you that among the criteria used in the assessment included those reported in the 29dec15 WSJ by Gerald Seib – ‘Most Important Election 2016 Feature: Deep and Growing Ideological Divide'. (Emphasis mine) From the article the graphic above shows the parties’ divide on the characteristics used in the assessment process of the audit. From a Bayesian perspective these characteristics represent very reasonable criteria for categorizing the ideology of the Union’s or anyone else’s published op-ed items.