I wanted to do a quick (hah!) analysis of news stories about President Obama, because I was going on my assumption that the news about him was particularly skewed towards the negative.

I tried that on Huffington Post, but even though they keep all stories and blogs about Obama on the site, it is badly organized for my purposes. So I went to Google News.

Methodology—such as it is:

I entered “Obama year in review” as my search term and Google produced a monthly chart—January 2009 through December 2009. By clicking the January cell, I got the several dozens of pages of separate stories about Obama in January. Same for each month throughout the year. As you know, Google lists each headline and its news source followed by the several other news sources that have the same or very similar headline. I only used the first source of each headline in my tallies. And although there are literally hundreds of headlines per month for my search terms, and often at least 100 pages , I only went to about page 25 for each month, as they started to become less relevant and more repetitive.

Once I had copied and pasted all the various headlines for January, I went to the next month—February–and so on through December. I had to sort them into rough topics. I found, based on the headlines, that these were the topics that made it easiest to categorize:

Cabinet and Appointees
National news stories
International news stories
Environment/climate change/energy policy
Iraq/Afghanistan/Pakistan
Terrorism/secrecy/detainees/CIA/Bush-era
Economy/Stimulus/Re-regulation/TARP
Federal budget/taxes/spending/deficit
Health care reform
And finally, a topic I call Obama leadership style. I’ll describe the topic categories more fully in a bit.

First, though, I want to say a few words about Google News. The first thing I noticed is how very different the news is covered by Google—different that is, from HP or MBNBC, which are my usual news sources. For example, I would have expected many stories during the summer about the Town Halls and the Tea Parties. There were few or none.

That made me wonder how Google chooses its headlines. Well, in short, they don’t—they have a “robot” do it based on some kind of algorithm . Here’s how Google describes itself:

Google News is a computer-generated news site that aggregates headlines from news sources worldwide, groups similar stories together and displays them according to each reader’s personalized interests.[In my case, it was “Obama news.”] The Google News homepage shows the top stories being published by editors on different news sites. Traditionally, news readers first pick a publication and then look for headlines that interest them. …On Google News we offer links to several articles on every story, so you can first decide what subject interests you and then select which publishers’ accounts of each story you’d like to read.

Our articles are selected and ranked by computers that evaluate, among other things, how often and on what sites a story appears online. As a result, stories are sorted without regard to political viewpoint or ideology and you can choose from a wide variety of perspectives on any given story. Our headlines are selected entirely by computer algorithms, based on factors like how often and where a story appears online. Google News has no human editors selecting stories or deciding which ones deserve top placement. This is very much in the tradition of Google Web Search, which relies on the collective judgment of online publishers to determine which sites offer the most valuable and relevant information. Similarly, Google News relies on the collective judgment of online news organizations to determine which stories are most deserving of prominence on the News homepage.

(Emphasis is mine.) This is not Google Zeitgeist—which lists the most searched stories on the internet.

How many eyes does Google News get? In October 2009, the number of folks using a news search engine was 10.2 billion. And 66% of all those were Google searches. So that’s a lot of eyes! Landing high on the Google search-results page is the holy grail of any organization with a website. An entire industry, known as search-engine optimization (SEO), has grown up around getting prominent placement on Google, Yahoo!, Bing or one of the other search engines. And here’s something that disturbed me: I noticed that Fox News was often the first source on Google News. It wasn’t as bad as I thought though—I counted and Fox News appeared first at a rate of 5%. Still, that’s too high considering there are about 6,000 news sources Google robots search.

(As an interesting aside, the Google News search engine was developed by Krishna Bharat, a principal scientist at Google, created in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks to keep him abreast of developments.)

So what did I learn? What was most interesting to me was what was NOT in the Google News aggregate—Crazy Republicans. Now, I realize my search terms were for Obama, but that doesn’t mean there would necessarily be no stories about the Tea Parties or the ridiculous Town Halls, yet there were none. That tells me that, while it did make news, it wasn’t the news that reputable outlets covered much. That was surprising. I made charts for each month. The numbers under each moth represent the number of articles that month for that topic. Here’s a down and dirty summary of results for my topics:

Google stories about Obama’s CABINET and other APPOINTEES:

JAN        FEB         MAR      APR        MAY      JUN        JUL         AUG      SEP         OCT        NOV      DEC
2              5              11           4              9              2              5              1              1              0              0              4
TOTAL = 44 stories

About the cabinet and appointees picks, the biggest story was about Supreme Court nominee Judge Sotomayor, but only seven mentions, and only one about Timothy Geithner! Here is a story that caught my eye:  Alabama rural doctor is Obama’s surgeon general pick

Stories of NATIONAL interest, including scientific research, politics,
JAN            FEB         MAR      APR        MAY      JUN        JUL         AUG      SEP         OCT        NOV      DEC
3              6              17           6              4              10           28           20           27           27           9              31
TOTAL = 188

National news is a hodgepodge–the beer summit; DADT and gay rights; several about NASA funding; a couple of stories about ACORN; one or two about Joe Wilson “You lie!” education reform; the swine flu; Obama speaking to elementary school kids; Obama’s losing bid for the Olympics in Chicago; a couple about immigration reform; and even a few about how crazy and stupid the Republicans are—but no one story stood out. In all, it was fairly mundane news—especially in retrospect. Oh, and those asshole White House party crashers– they got a couple of stories. One of my favorites:  Medical pot advocates cheer new federal policy

INTERNATIONAL including: summits, trade, nuclear disarmament, Iran
JAN            FEB         MAR      APR        MAY      JUN        JUL         AUG      SEP         OCT        NOV      DEC
0              3              38           24           12           9              23           10           19           20           16           33
TOTAL = 207

International news was a huge category. It includes summits, trade policy, Iran, and many stories about nuclear disarmament—37 stories dealt with Obama’s efforts on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. Darfur=14.  Cuba= 6, Israel=11; trade= 21. I was pleased to see an emphasis on Dafur, something that I didn’t notice on the sites I normally visit. And I could more clearly see why the president won the Nobel Peace prize, once I saw all the nuclear disarmament headlines. Here’s a typical story:  Barack Obama opts for softer approach to Darfur crisis in Sudan

War
JAN JAN   FEB         MAR      APR        MAY      JUN        JUL         AUG      SEP         OCT        NOV      DEC
3              12           25           12           4              5              11           17           17           29           13           36
TOTAL = 184

Afghanistan had by far the most coverage, with 106 articles; Pakistan=31; Iraq =20. I guess Iraq is so 2008. Anyway, I still want to her about Iraq:

Military Offers Obama Longer Troop-withdrawal Plans for Iraq

TERROR/GITMO/SECRECY/BUSH-ERA/CIA
JAN JAN   FEB         MAR      APR        MAY      JUN        JUL         AUG      SEP         OCT        NOV      DEC
1              6              19           20           15           14           25           12           18           6              9              11
TOTAL = 156

There were so many issues in this topic that are sore spots. I want the Bush torturers punished, but I understand that for now, this is on the far back burner. Regardless, this was one story that made me glad:  US Senate to review CIA´s handling of terrorist suspects

BUDGET/DEFICIT/SPENDING/TAXES
JAN JAN   FEB         MAR      APR        MAY      JUN        JUL         AUG      SEP         OCT        NOV      DEC
3              5              21           6              8              4              12           10                           3                              5
TOTAL = 78

OK, something bad happened to my files for July and November, so there are fewer stories in this category—sorry!! The biggest story in this category was about deficits, and those accounted for 40 stories –almost half of all headlines. This was another reason for the deficit:  The Great Tax Drought Of 2009

ENVIRONMENT/CLIMATE CHANGE/ENERGY
JAN JAN   FEB         MAR      APR        MAY      JUN        JUL         AUG      SEP         OCT        NOV      DEC
0              2              13           4              8              6              11           2              12           10           3              12
TOTAL = 83

Environment was another surprise to me. I had no idea there was so much news, and I hereby nominate the EPA as the best Federal agency; they accounted for 18 separate stories, always about how they reversed Bush policies and protected the environment. Hooray for the EPA! This is a sample of their good work:

EPA warns of warming’s threats

Exxon, Valero Face New Curbs on Carcinogenic Gases Under Obama

EPA Withholds 79 Mountaintop Mining Permits for Extended Review

ECONOMY/TARP/STIM/REGULATION
JAN JAN   FEB         MAR      APR        MAY      JUN        JUL         AUG      SEP         OCT        NOV      DEC
2              17           28           22           15           15           35           15           27           30           17           36
TOTAL = 259

The economic crisis had more stories than any other topic, by a lot.

Bailouts=11; the Fed=16; executive compensation was a pretty popular story too—nothing unexpected, but the tone was surprising in its lack of criticism. Another surprise? No stories about joblessness! There were a few about Obama’s emphasis on job creation though. Here’s one of the better stories:

US Economy: Consumer Confidence, Home Prices Exceed Forecasts

HEALTH CARE REFORM
JAN JAN   FEB         MAR      APR        MAY      JUN        JUL         AUG      SEP         OCT        NOV      DEC
0              0              0              0              1              4              12           9              31           12           7              11
TOTAL = 87

While it seems that this was the story I was the most avidly following, it really didn’t get underway until June. Most of the news stories were like this one:

Health bill survives attacks _ vote by week’s end? But there were plenty that used the term “Obamacare.”  Never a good sign.

OBAMA STYLE
JAN JAN   FEB         MAR      APR        MAY      JUN        JUL         AUG      SEP         OCT        NOV      DEC
0              4              5              10           6              9              9              3              9              4              3              6
TOTAL = 68

This category is vague, but I mean it to describe stories about how Obama leads. Most of these are critical of him, but that was what I was originally looking to see. It wasn’t as harsh as I’d expected. There were several articles about Obama’s first 50 days, and more about his first 100 days. Here’s  a great Frank Rich column from this category: Op-Ed Columnist The Obama Haters’ Silent Enablers

*******

I guess I got carried away with my little project! Once I started I couldn’t stop. Anyway, here’s the bottom line that I want to share: The news isn’t as bad for Progressives as it seems if your only sources are cable and the Progressive sites—or the notorious Huffy. I was expecting many more negative stories about Obama and more stories giving the Republicans a voice. I was proven wrong, happily. The news from major outlets around the country and the world is not as petty, nor as sensational. (By the way, I saved all the Obama stories from Google News, if anyone wants to see them.)

A New Year’s resolution for me is to look for more news on Google. It reminds me of the news I used to know, when my family watched Walter Cronkite—less partisan, and pretty much like “Dragnet”—just the facts, Ma’am. Of course, I will still visit my other sources of news, like FireDog Lake, et al. I will still rely on Maddow to tell me what the wingers are up to—after all, without all that adrenaline I might not function. But there are so many more important stories than I get from only watching MSNBC, CNN and reading the blogs. I was relieved by The Google, and pleasantly surprised too. Going forward, I will do this each day, and will try to keep a better tally of Obama news—just to keep them honest.

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Khirad
Member

As long as we’re doing story’s we don’t know where to stick:

Strategic Leaking by Gary Sick – on the GOP attacks on Obama, and what he needs to do with his Iran policy. It is, quite simply, brilliant.

Edit: can an admin move this to the new OT thread, minus this request, if possible?

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bito
Member

Khirad, Good article, I just don’t know if I trust PM Netanyahu. He has never been a good for any reconciliation in my book. Not one of my faves.

Hello, j’avaz!!

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javaz
Member

Thank you for the link, Khirad.
Excellent article.

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javaz
Member

Not sure where to put this one – but another ‘gift’ from our Republican friends –

“”GOP House candidate says defeating liberals is more important than defeating terrorists.””

http://thinkprogress.org/2010/01/04/gop-liberals-battle-terrorists/

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Emerald1943
Member

Hey javaz! Where do they find these guys? I just hope that the Democrat running against him will use this in campaign advertising! In fact, the DNC should be collecting these “tidbits” to use in the upcoming election!

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Scheherazade
Member

Wow Cher, you’ve put a ton of work into this! You’ve done an awesome job! Kudos! 🙂

It’s funny you should mention Google News because it’s something I consult a few dozen times a day. I also check the Associated Press website, and Routers several times a day too. 🙂 It helps give me a feel for how the news is being presented generally.

I find I feel less overwhelmed by the negative op-ed articles on FDL and Salon when I look at other news sources first.

It seems that PBS, NPR, BBC, and the New York Times tend to be the most accurate and don’t have much of an axe to grind. So that is encouraging. 🙂

The thing I pay careful attention to is whether sound bites and talking points that are developed on right wing radio or on FOX News get echoed in other places. Media Matters is good about keeping an eye on that too. 😉

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Emerald1943
Member

Hi Scheherazade! I’m glad to see you here!

I am embarrassed to admit that I had never looked at the Google News site before! (I just THOUGHT I was a news junkie!)
Thanks so much for turning me on to it! I always liked the BBC because their take seems to sometimes be quite different that what we are being fed on the MSM here in this country.

BTW, just a mention here of the excellent program that Christiane Amanpour did on radical Islam in Great Britain. If any of you didn’t see it, it’s certainly worth a look. There are some hard-core radicals there. Abby had mentioned it in a comment she made about their insistence on sharia law in the UK. Sorry I could not find the link to it, but I’m sure they will replay it on CNN.

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jan4insight
Guest

Hello, Chernynkaya et al. I’m new to this site – a former Hufffoxington Post devotee, now there only to stick my finger in the dike against AH’s apparent agenda of fracturing the left so badly we hand the country back to the Repug’s. I’m really glad I found this site, and hope to be a regular reader & contributor. I’d like to thank you for your diligent research on this topic and your clear posting of the results here.

One thing I’d like to contribute: It alarmed me to see how little attention is being given to the actual work of the various Cabinet heads and the departments under them. However, I’ve found a great antidote: The Daily Show! Yes, America’s most trusted newsman, Jon Stewart, has made a point of inviting each of the new Cabinet heads on the show to explain about what they’re doing to reclaim their department from the ravages of Bushco (my interpretation). Anyone who follows that series of interviews will find that there is A LOT OF GOOD STUFF GOING ON. This is something you sadly won’t see in the msm, and definitely not on HP.

Good work PlanetPOV – carry on 🙂

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jan4insight
Guest

TY to everyone, again 🙂 I’ve gotten such a warm welcome here, I can’t keep up with it all – so if I haven’t thanked you by name, my apologies. I’m sure I’ll be crossing paths (and maybe swords 😉 ) with you all on these threads in the day to come.

Cheers!

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choicelady
Member

Welcome Jan. I’m fairly new here and love it. I learn so much from the other inhabitants of the Planet. It’s a very good place for thought and reflection, and we do not ALL agree on every issue, but we all do talk wisely and well to one another. It’s very good information we all share. Rest and stay awhile; it’s also a very pleasant place to be a human being.

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Emerald1943
Member

Hey Jan, a most hearty welcome to you! I have a feeling that you are going to be a great asset to the Planet!

If you can bring like-minded friends to the site, please do so! The more, the merrier! I look forward to your writing for us! 🙂

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KQµårk 死神
Member

Welcome jan most of us left for the same reason. But many of us stay because we realize there is life outside huffy. I’ll put anyone’s opinions here up against the “progressive” high priest pundits on huffy anytime.

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jan4insight
Guest

Thanks, everyone, for the warm welcome! Good to see so many HP friends here – it feels like a real community already, and all ready to shore up the left against those who would fracture it and otherwise do the Repug’s work for them. We’ll keep it together – Yes, We Can!

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Khirad
Member

Greetings, Jan.

Should be Colbert, “better knowing” the Cabinet… 🙂

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jan4insight
Guest

Hi, Khirad – good to see you here 🙂 I’ll have to catch Colbert’s cabinet head interviews; I somehow missed them. But, Stewart has also done a good series – good to know we’ve got the Comedy Central stalwarts in our corner!

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Khirad
Member

More wishful thinking. Sounds like a great Colbert segment. 😉

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boomer1949
Member

Hey Jan,

Welcome to the Planet. We’re so glad you’re here. Actually, and as scary as it may seem, I trust the likes of Stewart, Colbert, Olberman, and Maddow, more than the MSM, including HP. In addition, PBS and NPR have earned my trust.

Stewart & Colbert may be comedy, but at least they tell the truth and are funny while they do.

As for the rest? These so-called professional journalists [and I mean CBS, NBC, ABC, Faux News (okay a stretch), CNN (a stretch as well)…all of the so called professionals] need to revisit why they became journalists in the first place. It’s neither rocket science nor a tabloid-rating-money-making profession. It’s about facts, not opinions. Stop treating the American public like they’re a bunch of toddlers unable to think for themselves.

Poor Walter Cronkite. I’m sure this man has been spinning in his grave for weeks. The entire lot of them, those arrogant enough to think the even come close to Mr. Cronkite’s stature and respect from the public, should be embarrassed and ashamed to think they even come close.

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Emerald1943
Member

Hey boomer! I am a die-hard Stewart/Colbert fan and try to never miss their shows. But I read, not too long ago, that a lot of young people in this country get their news from these two. While I guess that any truthfulness in the news is good, I wonder how much depth that these young people have on the issues. It concerns me a little that they do not have a good understanding of the issues that they should have. While I think that putting news into a comic setting is fun, the issues that we face now are certainly not funny and IMHO require more than the superficial treatment afforded them by my two favorite comics.

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Tiger99
Guest

Hellooooooooooooo Jan4!!! Some call me Tiger others call me asshole… I respond equally to both…Heh Heh Heh…

Welcome to the Planet!!!

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AdLib
Admin

In case you didn’t see my other note to you…welcome to The Planet, Jan!

FYI, the brilliant Nellie recently proposed a project for the community here to collaborate on, researching, creating then widely distributing a substance and fact based expose on HuffPo. The word needs to get out as HuffPo continues to claim it represents the voice of Progressives.

I’m on board with that project.

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Emerald1943
Member

Oh wow! Count me in!!! What can I do to help?

And Jan, a warm welcome to you! I am sure that you will find some of the most wonderful and intelligent people in the world here at the Planet! They are just simply the BEST!

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Pepe Lepew
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escribacat
Member

Hello jan. Great to see you here!! I haven’t seen any of those episodes of Jon Stewart you mention — what a great idea. I’ll have to check it out. I spend a certain amount of energy trying to fight back the waves of disgruntlement and hysteria and OUTRAGE! that are generated over there by incendiary headlines and sloppy reading and general impatience. I’m kind of tired right now!

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choicelady
Member

Cher, this is magnificent research! Thank you so much! This is a keeper for all the fern-bar, world-weary progressives who think the entire nation has given up on Obama. I think it was KQuark who said it’s the long-stemmed wine glass progressives, not the meat and potatoes folks (I think some of that is my words, not KQuark’s.) I do believe that people will rally if and when there is progress on health care, etc. And this morning’s paper indicated that even in Sacramento THEY ARE HIRING AGAIN. Not a lot, but hiring. Whoo Hoo! Since we look like a major depression zone, that is very good news.

I am an historian by background, so I went back to look at FDR’s record for the “Top of the World” post, and found FDR took several years to develop the WPA and several other programs. So I have some confidence. My world-weary progressive associates blathered on about how independents are disgusted with Obama and Congress, and that Dems will lose in 2010 – even though people like their own elected officials. Well, people vote for their own elected officials, so we might NOT see a lot of alteration of Congress?

It’s very interesting that you’ve found LESS opposition with this search than we’d have projected from HuffPo and MSNBC. Wow – that is just amazing. Give us all some hope!

Thank you!

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KQµårk 死神
Member

Cher, as a numbers person who appreciates cold hard analysis I love love this post. Your efforts were not lost on me by any means. I’m glad you quantified what I suspected to be true. While the skew toward negative news was quite obvious on healthcare on other issues I was surprised by the relative neutrality of the MSM in general towards Obama. I see the opinion driven sites as much more critical and worse have a default slant against Obama.

You are probably familiar with Nate Silver’s site but I have to mention it here because it’s one of the sites that know how to do analysis well like the one you present here.

http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/

About the worst attempt at analysis was Huffy’s attempt to add foreclosures and late loans to the misery index. I won’t go into all the ways their analysis was bullshit but the biggest mistake they made was to begin with an assumption and then try to skew statistics to try and prove the point. It was a serious piece of junk analysis as well because the rate of home ownership was over inflated because banks were giving loans to everyone because the real estate market was vastly over valued. The point is you don’t set any significance to statistics if a situation was never sustainable in the first place. In other words they never started their analysis from a stable baseline.

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kesmarn
Admin

Cher, I’ve been meaning to get to your article since last night and finally got the chance to read it today. What an amazing–and fundamentally encouraging–piece of research this is. It’s such a valuable and objective contribution to the Planet. Thank you for the time, thought and effort you brought to this!

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SueInCa
Member

Excellent report Cher. No wonder we had missed you a couple days ago on here. Glad to see you are back.

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escribacat
Member

Cher, you are a woman after my own heart! I am trying to reproduce what you did to get the chart you mentioned but I’m not seeing it. You went to Google and typed in Obama year in review — when I do that I get a list of stories.

I also wonder if this includes English language stories from all nations … ? I am fascinated that there weren’t tea party stories. My skewed impression created by my dumb reading habits is that nothing else happened in August!! And the Geithner thing I think was the most interesting. You mean the rest of the reading world isn’t obsessed with Tim Geithner and the conspiracy of his existence?

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Emerald1943
Member

Wow! Cher, you did an amazing amount of work to pull all this information together! Kudos to you for having the stamina to wade through all of it! I’m impressed!

I, for one, am so sick of the “talking heads” and their opinions that seem to be everywhere! If only we could get “just the facts”! But with the dumbing down of America (discussed last night on another thread), the average Fox watcher must have someone to tell them what to think. After all, it’s hard work to make up your mind! I really believe that people have become so lazy and apathetic that they have no problem allowing it.

Your news about the lack of an overall anti-Obama slant is encouraging. Let’s hope it continues that way.

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abby4ever
Guest

Chernynkaya: what a lot of work you put into this article. And it is so interesting to me, especially the stuff about Google News. I use them frequently because you get so many different sources and different kinds of sources.

But this robut, who programs it?

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javaz
Member

Wow, excellent analysis, Cher, and thank you for the recommendation about using Google News.
Trouble is, far too many people rely on the MSM – Fox, NBC, CBS, ABC – and even though you and I understand the Republican/Conservative bias in the corporate media, thousands if not millions of people do not.

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Gretel1or2
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Gretel1or2

WOW – I’m very impressed with this Cher! Thanks for taking the time I find it very informative and interesting. I find that the cable news stations, namely CNN, MSNBC, FOX NEWS, and some of the networks are too biased and provide the majority of their “information” via pundits who are somewhat dishonest and at the same time, not very intelligent, I live in NYC and I have found that my local NY1 station provides very objective reports about the president or other political goings on. No unsolicited opinions, just the facts.

I spent some time on HP yesterday and today, and it’s a very hostile and toxic atmosphere there. The recent headlines seem to be pushing a narrative that the White House knew of the recent bombing attempt, but did nothing about it. They are also pushing a narrative about the democrats being in danger and not having any substance to run on besides using Bush as a “bogeyman.” I also am under the impression that more and more people are beginning to see through HP’s agenda…even on other sites.

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jan4insight
Guest

HI, Gretel – I just found this site after total disgust with H Post, and it’s good to see you here, too. Hope some of our other HuffFoxingtonPost friends join in 🙂

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AdLib
Admin

Welcome to The Planet, jan4insight! So glad you’ve found us!

We do have many HuffPo members, past and present.

You’ll find yourself warmly welcomed by many to join this remarkable community where there’s true Freedom of Expressionand respect for all members.

Welcome!

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Tiger99
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