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Bias-So what else is new?

Have you ever notice how biased the media is? Letís look at the press for the moment. The New York Times is thought to have a liberal bias. How do you go about checking it out to see if itís true? What you have to do is take a look at whatís being published thatís negatively based, and when is it being published.

Letís say Bill Clinton was in office, and something particularly bad happened, but the Times wanted to portray it in the best possible light. No, letís go one step further; letís say they had to portray it in a bad light. When would you publish? You would do it on the day of the week when you had the smallest print cycle. For the Times, thereís nothing like the Saturday edition.

Saturday is the day when nobody reads the paper. If you have to print something that you would rather not print, stick it in the Saturday edition. If you have to print something good about a guy you inherently dislike, stick that in the Saturday edition as well. I find it fascinating to take a red heavy duty pen, and just mark up the Saturday editions of the newspapers to see all the news thatís fit to print, but especially on Saturday.

You may be aware that the Wall Street Journal recently started printing on Saturday as well, so we have a new kid on the block, and they are part of the game as well. The print media is not only biased due to political orientation, but also financial orientation. Itís pretty tough to be very hard on corporate entities that are giving a fortune in advertising on a regular basis to the newspapers.

A perfect example of the ďhand that feeds the birdĒ concept of publishing is the car industry which spends a fortune on advertising. If you ever look at car magazines they are notoriously biased. If they do a nice write-up on a car, somehow the car company in question manages to have a nice big full page ad (sometimes several pages) very close to the favorable article that was written. Do you think this is coincidental? I donít think so.

The Wall Street Journal recently had a sweeping, long article on Fordís problems. How bad are Fordís problems? The are partially shutting down at least 10 plants that employ 20,000 plus people for the rest of the year. This will cut 21% of production between the US and Canada. Merry Christmas to those being laid off. They wonít have jobs the rest of the year. At the same time, Ford is expanding its operations in China. Ford blames the crisis on higher gasoline prices. What am I missing, isnít every car company in Japan also being effected by higher gasoline prices? Why is it that a management team in the United States can be asleep at the switch and thatís okay? They get to blame their problems on situations that they claim no control over. Why is this okay?

The Wall Street Journal was kind enough to write the story about Ford a major advertiser, and put it on page 1 where it belongs. They did Ford the favor however of printing it on a Saturday, when nobody is reading the Journal. Itís like this, if you can study whoís advertising with whom, you will be able to figure out whoís pushing whoís buttons. You need to know the real deal, if you are going to make real decisions, about anything.

Letís take Dan Rather the television news reporter. Whether you like Dan Rather or not, you have to respect anyone who has the staying power to last 40 years on television. The man is a survivor. When he did the story on President Bush during the campaign and questioned the Nation Guard Service of the President, I thought he was over the top. Too many years had passed for anyone to truly be able to prove the real deal on that one either way. Rather was attempting to influence a Presidential election because of his timing so close to the election. This is okay, because others have tried to do the same. What was not okay was the man having insufficient proof, or in this case fabricated evidence.

CBS decided to crucify Rather which they have effectively done by firing him (permitted to resign, SURE). If you want proof of how disgusted the suits at CBS were with Rather, think about this one. A special is being done about the career of Dan Rather, a one hour special. CBS is going to air it. When you ask? Itís goes like this, if CBS were the equivalent of a Saturday edition of the NY Times, or the Wall Street Journal, when would you air it. Of course you would air the Dan Rather special on Friday night, 9PM labor day weekend, when nobody is watching because they are traveling on a 3 day weekend. Thatís bias folks, and welcome to the world of objectivity.

By the way, what comes around goes around. Walter Cronkite was perhaps the finest reporter of his generation. He certainly was the most respected. He was the direct heir of Edward R. Murrow who made CBS the Tiffany network under William Paleyís leadership, the founder of CBS. Cronkite retired from the CBS anchor role in 1982. He was promised at the time that he would be brought back to do specials and other programs. Never once did this happen, thanks to Dan Rather who didnít want Cronkite in the limelight. Now itís Ratherís turn to know what isolation is, like I said, what comes around goes around, and thatís bias.

Goodbye and good luck

Richard Stoyeck
Value Investing

About the Author: Richard Stoyeckís background includes being a limited partner at Bear Stearns, Senior VP at Lehman Brothers, Kuhn Loeb, Arthur Andersen, and KPMG. Educated at Pace University, NYU, and Harvard University, today he runs Rockefeller Capital Partners and
Value Investing

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