Opinion

Bill O'Reilly and Krippendorff's Alpha

EducationColleges and UniversitiesJournalismIndiana UniversitySocietyGeorge Soros

As authors of a study on Bill O'Reilly's rhetoric, we would like to thank the Los Angeles Times, other journalists, media watch Web sites, and bloggers who have brought our research to a wider audience. We are pleased that our work has sparked vigorous debate.

At the risk of sounding like dry academics, here is unspun information in response to the May 10 Blowback piece by Ron Mitchell (senior producer, The O'Reilly Factor).

Mitchell accuses us of methodological bias. Ironically, the procedures we used for the study are scientific practices to guard against the bias that Mr. Mitchell is so concerned about. Perhaps it will ease his concern to know that prior to publication, the study went through two rounds of anonymous peer review, passing rigorous inspection from the social science community.

The mischaracterization of how we counted name-calling could be cleared up by reading the study [pdf]. We did not count "liberal, conservative, centrist" as name-calling unless they were linked to a derogatory qualifier. O'Reilly's reference to "kool-aid left" is an example of what we counted as name-calling. Or is the reference to folks of a particular political persuasion as a cult on a suicide mission fair and balanced reporting?

Mr. Mitchell objects to our comparison of O'Reilly and Father Charles Coughlin. A careful read of our paper will reveal that this comparison is specific to rhetorical use of techniques like name-calling, not—as Mitchell implies—anti-Semitism.

O'Reilly himself insinuated our study was connected to a $5 million grant from George Soros and that we are allied with the Media Matters operation. We received no funding for this study and Media Matters probably came across the research the same way dozens of journalists and bloggers did: from the press release issued by our university.

With these issues cleared up, we hope the debate continues.

Indiana University professors Mike Conway and Maria Elizabeth Grabe, and graduate student Kevin Grieves, are the authors of the study Villains, Victims and the Virtuous in Bill O'Reilly's "No-Spin Zone."

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