I have a warm spot in my heart for the University of Maryland. Though I didn't end up in College Park, they were nice enough to offer me admission when few other colleges (given my high school grades) were inclined to do so. The Terps saw something in me that others did not. They have now come under fire from Fox News, and I rise to their defense.
Scholars at the university have conducted a survey on the impact of the news business on good citizenship. Not surprisingly, they found that voters who made the effort to watch TV news and read about the issues were less likely to be misinformed. Not surprisingly, there was a significant exception: Fox News.
MSNBC took some hits, but it was the daily viewers of Fox News who were significantly more misinformed about healthcare, climate change, and Barack Obama. They were 14 points more likely to mistakenly believe that "the stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts," and 13 points more likely to erroneously believe that "the auto bailout only occurred under Obama," and 12 points more likely to hold the incorrect belief that "when TARP came up for a vote most Republicans opposed it." By 30 points, they mistakenly believed that "most scientists do not agree that climate change is occurring."
And of course, they were 31 percent more likely to believe the Birther whopper that "it is not clear that Obama was born in the United States."
It was not a matter of partisan self-selection. Democrats who watched Fox, as well as Republicans, came away misled and misinformed.
One would think that, in replying to the findings of the Maryland survey, Fox would strive to be reasoned and accurate. A major American university, after all, had raised serious questions about Fox's objectivity and reliability. These are core journalistic values.
Instead, a Fox spokesman told the New York Times that Maryland is a school for lazy inebriates.
"The latest Princeton Review ranked the University of Maryland among the top schools for having `Students Who Study the Least," and being the `Best Party School.' Given these fine academic distinctions, we'll regard the study with the same level of veracity it was 'researched' with," said Fox's Michael Clemente.
Apparently, Clemente was...um...misinformed.
The Times' Brian Stelter checked the facts. He reports that "for the record, the Princeton Review says the University of Maryland ranks among the 'Best Northeastern Colleges.' "
And, much as its students and alumni would like to claim the honor, Maryland was not Number One on the Review's list of party schools.
It barely made the top 20.