Center for Media and Public Affairs

Center for Media and Public Affairs

The Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA) is a self-described nonpartisan and nonprofit research and educational organization that is affiliated with George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. It was founded in 1985 by Dr. S. Robert Lichter and his now ex-wife Dr. Linda Lichter. It publishes a bi-monthly newsletter called Media Monitor.


The CMPA conducts studies of the news and entertainment media. Among its activities are a continuing analysis and tabulation of late night political jokes, [Political Humor in TV Talk Shows. In Schaefer, Todd and Thomas Birkland, eds. "The Encyclopedia of Media and Politics in America" Washington DC: CQ Press, 2007] [Niven, D., Lichter, S.R., and Amundson, D: The Political Content of Late Night Comedy. "Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics", Vol. 8, No. 3 (Summer 2003). ] an annual report on diversity among network news journalists, [Peter Johnson, “Rising News Diversity Makes News,” USA Today, Feb. 29, 2000] and a content analysis of the nightly news on the major broadcast and cable news networks.

The results of the latter are compiled in the CMPA newsletter. CMPA engages in health communication research, investigating the way in which scientific issues are conveyed in the media. [Assessing Local Television News Coverage of Health Issues. Menlo Park, CA: Kaiser Family Foundation, 1997.] CMPA also engages in survey research to determine the accuracy of media's reports of scientific opinion. [Food for Thought: Reporting of Diet, Nutrition and Food Safety. Washington, DC: International Food Information Council, December 2005.] .

CMPA conducts social scientific research on media coverage with the use of such techniques as content analysis and survey research. Its studies appear in academic journals and reference works as well as in popular media outlets. [The Center for Media and Public Affairs. In Schaefer, Todd and Thomas Birkland, eds. "The Encyclopedia of Media and Politics in America." Washington DC: CQ Press, 2007] [Lichter, S.R: Ideological Bias. In Wolfgang Donsbach, ed., "The International Encyclopedia of Communication." London: Blackwell/ICA, 2008] [Lichter, S.R: "The Presidency and the Press -- Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush." In Stephen Vaughan, ed. "The Encyclopedia of American Journalism". New York: Routledge, 2007] [Dye, T., Ziegler, H., and Lichter, S.R: American "Politics in the Media Age". Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole, 1992. Fourth edition.] [Harold Stanley and Richard Niemi "Vital Statistics on American Politics". Washington D.C.: CQ Press, 2008, pp.183-185. ]

CMPA's signature activity is its "rapid response" studies of media coverage of current issues, which appear quickly enough to influence ongoing public debates, such as presidential campaigns, Senate confirmation hearings, and major policy debates in Congress. [Lichter, S.R: A Plague on Both Parties: Substance and Fairness in TV Election News. "Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics". Vol. 6, No. 3 (Summer 2001) 8-29] [Farnsworth, S. and Lichter, S.R: The Mediated Congress. "Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics", Vol 10, no 2 (Spring 2005) 94-107] [Farnsworth, S. and Lichter, S.R: New Presidents and Network News. "Presidential Studies Quarterly", Vol 34, no 3 (September 2004) 674-690.]

Although CMPA avoids taking stands on political issues, its studies have sometimes become part of the public debate over the media's role in politics and society. For example, in 1992 a CMPA study found that the average length of a presidential candidate's soundbite on the evening news had dropped to less than ten seconds, down from 42 seconds in 1968. In response CBS adopted a policy requiring longer soundbites on the CBS Evening News. [Howard Kurtz, “Media Notes,” "Washington Post", July 7, 1992; Rick Schindler, “CBS Vows to Serve Up Chewier Sound Bites,” "TV Guide", July 18, 1992]

CMPA studies of entertainment media have been used by members of the United States Congress such as Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) in their efforts to reduce gratuitous violence and sex in television entertainment. [David Hatch, “Every Four Minutes,” "Electronic Media", Sept. 27, 1999] CMPA's research on entertainment media has also included studies of how various groups have been portrayed on television, such as studies of Hispanic Americans' portrayals commissioned by the National Council of La Raza and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. ["Don't Blink: Hispanics in Television Entertainment." Washington, DC: National Council of La Raza, April 1996]


The organization has been criticized for advancing a notion of objectivity thought to be ideologically consistent with the values of liberal democracy. Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky argue that the CMPA is organized around the creation of "flak," which they define as "negative responses to a media statement or program" and which they maintain is part of a project of "disciplining the media." [ Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, "Manufacturing Consent." New York: Pantheon, 2002, pp. 2, 26-27 ]

The media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) has challenged CMPA's non-partisan claim, based on the argument that much of its funding has come from conservative sources, and that its founder, Dr. S. Robert Lichter, once held a chair in mass communications at the American Enterprise Institute and was a Fox News contributor. [cite news|url=|title=Study of Bias or Biased Study?|last=Press Release|date=May 14, 1992|accessdate=2008-09-29] [cite journal|last=Hart |first=Peter |coauthors=Steve Rendall|date=July/August 1998|title=Meet the Myth-Makers: Right-Wing Media Groups Provide Ammo for "Liberal Media" Claims|journal=Extra!|url=] After a "Washington Post" article referred to CMPA as "conservative," the "Post" published a "Clarification," which concluded, "The Center describes itself as nonpartisan, and its studies have been cited by both conservative and liberal commentators." ["Clarification," "Washington Post", February 9, 2000.]


External links

* [ CMPA Website]

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