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Posted by: Date: October 27, 2008 In: ,

When Anchormen Attack. A look at media bias.

Comments about whether Sen. Barack Obama is “black enough” or is just “an affirmative action candidate.” Remarks about Sen. Hillary Clinton’s “cleavage.” And finally political operatives chastising the mean-spirited media for harassing Gov. Sarah Palin with foreign policy questions. All these examples – and quite a few more – of how the media deals with race and gender in presidential elections will be the topic of a discussion at an Oct. 30 lecture led by Jennifer Pozner, executive director and founder of the Women In Media & News, an organization which tracks media bias and portrayals of women and minorities in newspaper and television stories. The lecture, titled “When Anchormen Attack!: Gender, Race and the Media in Election 2008,” will begin at 6 p.m. in the Regency Room of the UC. It is free and open to the public. A journalist and author herself, Pozner will look at how sexist backlash and racial prejudice have dominated and in many cases distorted coverage in this year’s presidential election, as well as past elections.

“Many, if not all of us, rely on the media for the information we need,” Pozner said. “We assume that broadcasts journalists have the public interest at heart and will present hard-hitting analysis that will help us decide how to vote.”

Not necessarily the case.

In fact, one study shows that the more television voters watch, the more misinformed and confused they become.

In her multi-media presentation, Pozner will show how often the television media in particular will seek out analysis from obviously partisan sources. After one of the presidential debates between Obama and Sen. John McCain, for example, one network cut to a known Republican strategist to see how he thought McCain had faired during the debate.

“I’d sooner expect a building to crumble on top of me, than to hear one word of criticism on a speech from a Republican,” she laughed.

She will out some code words commentators use as well. Although no one commentator has blatantly said “Obama shouldn’t be president because he’s black,” they have skirted the issue by using phrases such as “an affirmative action candidate,” or wondered out loud, as one CNN newsman did, whether Obama was so controlled in his delivery because he was black.

“They tread on that ground without actually saying it,” she said.

As for the attacks on Clinton, Pozner doesn’t know where to begin.

There were comments she was too emotional or not emotional enough. One Washington Post story dealt with whether she was showing too much cleavage. Then the B-word came up, quite often.

“The level of vitriol has been high for the last year and a half,” she said.

It isn’t a new phenomenon. When Geraldine Ferraro ran for vice president on the Democratic ticket in 1984 with Walter Mondale, she was introduced by Tom Brokaw as being a size six.

As for Palin – even when one puts aside her gaffes so expertly mocked by Tina Fey – the coverage has been sexist, but with plenty of sweetener added, Pozner noted.

Pozner will be showing part of an interview by a CNBC commentator, where the journalist said that Palin represents a new feminist ideal.

“He said that (Palin) is the ideal way to sell women in power,” Pozner said. “Men want to sleep with her, and women want to be her.”