By admin | August 23rd, 2013
Al Jazeera America finally made its debut Tuesday night after months of anticipation, promising “unbiased, fact-based and in-depth” news. However, before the network had even broadcast one segment, it had charges of bias leveled against it – Glenn Beck even called it the “Voice of the Enemy.”
While it is far too soon to make generalizations about the network’s bias or its impact on the cable news universe, we thought it would be interesting to see what sort of stories Al Jazeera would cover in its first three days relative to its new competitors CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC. If Fox News is the “conservative” network, MSNBC is the “liberal” network, and CNN is the “infotainment” network as many in the US see it, what will Al Jazeera be?
Our media analysis team here at Universal developed a search and analyzed the biggest stories of the last two days – the continuing crisis in Egypt, the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria, the NSA leaks and the continuing sagas of Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning, the murder of Australian minor-league baseball player Christopher Lane, backlash against Russia’s anti-gay legislation, the upcoming football season, and celebrity news.
The deepening crisis in Egypt was the biggest story of the last two days across all networks, though Al Jazeera appears to have covered it the most – 72 broadcast segments on the network mentioned Egypt, followed by MSNBC with 69, Fox News with 61 and CNN with 59. Al Jazeera had very little coverage of the NSA leaks stories compared to the other networks: 12 vs. 46 for CNN, 40 for MSNBC and 58 for Fox News. It becomes even more interesting when we look at what constituted Al Jazeera’s coverage as a whole:
Fifty percent of Al Jazeera’s “Top Story” coverage discussed Egypt, and 24% discussed the conflict in Syria – nearly three quarters of Al Jazeera’s top stories focused on conflict in the Middle East. Eight percent of Al Jazeera’s hits mentioned the NSA leaks, a much smaller slice in comparison to the other networks.
Our analysis team was surprised to see so much football coverage across all networks. Al Jazeera mentioned football the least but did have some coverage – the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins team visited the White House and met with President Obama on Tuesday, driving up coverage of football for all networks.
CNN carried the most top stories discussing football and celebrities. Five percent of CNN’s coverage was about celebrities, with 1% for Fox, 2% for Al Jazeera and 0% for MSNBC. Taken together, football and celebrity news constituted 27% of CNN’s top stories. CNN also covered the story of Christopher Lane, an Australian minor league baseball player killed by “bored” teens in Duncan, Oklahoma, far more than the other networks.
Fox News seems more concerned about the NSA leak story than the other networks – over a quarter of its top story coverage focused on the NSA, Edward Snowden or Bradley Manning. Fox covered Egypt more than CNN but covered Syria less. Interestingly, Fox News did not cover the Russian anti-gay legislation backlash. The only other network not to cover this top story: Al Jazeera America.
MSNBC was the only network to give significant attention to the backlash surrounding Russia’s anti-gay legislation, and except for Al Jazeera had the highest percentage of top story coverage devoted to the Middle East (59% vs. 44% for CNN and 45% for Fox News).
So what conclusions can we draw from this? After three days, it would seem Al Jazeera is the destination for more international, or at least Middle East, news coverage, CNN for sports and entertainment, Fox News for national security issues, and MSNBC for gay rights advocates. This would seem to confirm certain perceived biases Americans have about the networks – Al Jazeera is biased towards the Middle East, CNN provides infotainment, Fox News is bellicose, and MSNBC covers more liberal stories.
The other reasonable conclusion we can make: America is ready for some football.