There is a monumental difference between the goal of being balanced and and the goal of being objective.

A study of the campaign coverage conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism suggests that FOX treated both President and VP candidates to approximately the same level of good and bad press.

In comparison, an interpretation of the report suggest that MSNBC (and ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN) took a Pro-Obama stance.

Supposedly this proves that channels like MSNBC were “pro-Obama/Biden & anti-McCain/Palin” and that FOX was “pro-McCain/Palin and anti-Obama/Biden”. Many people now argue that study shows that FOX News gave their viewers the most balanced coverage of the 2008 campaign. “The only thing still shocking at this point,” Rob writes, “is how many times this rampant, unapologetic bias is uncovered without the media being even so much as embarrassed or ashamed about it”. NewsBusters, of Media Research Center, “the leader in documenting, exposing and neutralizing liberal media bias”, argue that the study confirms a strong tilt by journalists in favor of the Democrats.

But is that really how PEJ’s study should be interpreted? Unbiased doesn’t necessarily mean saying the exact same number of positive and negative things about both sides. There is a monumental difference between balanced and objective. McCain and Palin made a hilarious number of blunders during the campaign compared to Obama/Biden. Thus, doesn’t the study suggest that Fox was relatively negligent to the negatives of the McCain campaign? Moreover the study isn’t measuring qualitative aspects of the “positive” or “negative” things being said. There’s clearly a difference between opining that Obama is a socialist or Muslim and thus likely to support terrorists than to state the fact that Palin was repeatedly unable to answer what the Vice President does.

Lastly this study points to another interesting question: While the right wing nutters keep complaining about “Liberal bias,” lots of media outlets probably where in favor of Obama. Should the Media strive and/or claim to be objective or should they openly argue (in accordance with implicit normative standpoints and/or material interests) in favour or against this and that?