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Ole Miss Students Ask, and Fareed Zakaria, Newsweek International Editor, Answers Their Questions About the Presidential Debate

September 26, 2008

As some of you know, the other hat that I wear is that of the chair of the Department of Journalism at The University of Mississippi. Today Ole Miss is hosting the first presidential debate. Barack Obama and John McCain will be on campus engaged in the first of three presidential debates before the November elections. I am teaching an internship class preparing our students to work with the media during the debate week. Those students had the opportunity to ask Fareed Zakaria, Newsweek International Editor, some questions regarding the presidential debate and the role of the media in covering the debate. The students submitted the questions to me, and I, in turn, sat down with Dr. Zakaria and asked him the students’ questions.

Do you feel that the media has actually been biased in its coverage favoring one candidate over the other?

I think there is no such as thing as the media anymore. I never quite understand what people mean with the disaggregated nature of the media right now. Has Fox News been biased in covering the candidates? I leave it to you to answer that question. I think if you take the media as a totality, no, I don’t think it has been biased, but any individual player in the media that you happen to have a particular gripe with, you will probably always find that true. I will say with some sincerity and honesty that the two organizations that I represent, CNN and Newsweek, I don’t think we are particularly bias. I think there are some ways in which coverage takes place which reflect certain institutional biases of neutral media when you spring a completely new candidate on the scene like Sarah Palin. There is going to be a feeding frenzy to try to figure out who she is. That would have happened whether she were left wing or right wing. Other than that, no, I think in general that CNN and Newsweek, at least, have been pretty balanced.

To read the entire interview click here.

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