How did the Oscars coverage rate? Hint: it was biased
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How did the Oscars coverage rate? Hint: it was biased

March 7, 2018

The Distortion

Read between the lines. Learn how news outlets distort the information.

The media coverage of the Oscars has featured strong opinions about the political content and social movements discussed at the ceremony. Whether they supported or opposed that content, news outlets gave one-sided coverage and presented their opinions as if they were fact. Yet the articles we analyzed weren’t marked as opinion or editorials, and some outlets also included character attacks and dishonorable language about the host, the actors or the show itself.

The four outlets we analyzed (Breitbart, Fox News, The New York Times, and Vox) all had high slant scores, ranging from 80 to 90 percent slanted. This was because, in general, they presented a single perspective on the event, and sometimes did so with dishonor. They rarely considered other viewpoints. (The outlets also included spin and Breitbart had some faulty reasoning. To see the technical sheets that break down the lines with spin or logic issues, click here.)

Let’s look at two categories of news coverage:

Opposing the political content

The coverage in Breitbart and Fox News was critical of the Oscars, suggesting the decline in viewership this year was in part because of political content and because the host alienated conservative audiences. Here are some of the more disparaging comments that support this perspective, with opinion marked in red:

Kimmel is one of the most divisive and polarizing figures in the country, a Trump-hating Democrat who regularly lectures the rest of us about embracing socialized medicine and giving up our guns. With Kimmel as host, the Academy basically told 50 percent of the country to go watch something else. (Breitbart)

Jimmy Kimmel claimed he was keeping this year’s Oscars positive, but the ratings were anything but. (Fox News)

The writing was on the wall for this ratings catastrophe all year. (Breitbart)

“The Tinseltown elite genuinely hate the people they expect will pay to see their movies and watch their TV shows,” [Media Research Center Vice President Dan] Gainor said. (Fox News)

On top of insulting Trump voters, this Oscar telecast also promised to be a lecture in favor of gun control (by elitists protected by hundreds of armed guards) and against sexual harassment (by elitists who are either harassers or enablers). (Breitbart)

While it can be useful for media outlets to report criticism, the way they do this is important. The disparagement in the examples above isn’t necessary and could foster divisiveness.

In favor of the political content

The New York Times and Vox, on the other hand, supported the political and social messages presented at the awards ceremony. Both outlets suggested the political messages of women’s “empowerment” and increasing “diversity” were positive. Vox even said the Oscars should have done more in this arena. Here are some highlights, again with the opinion marked in red:

But the evening will go down in the Hollywood history books as the moment when women — finally, forcefully and, they dearly hope, forevermoreseized the film industry’s reins and made it clear they would be doing and saying and being anything they wanted. (The New York Times)

[The video clip about representation of minorities and women] was a worthy and entirely correct montage. (Vox)

It was a bookend of sorts to the #MeToo moment that was ignited by allegations of sexual misconduct against Harvey Weinstein, Brett Ratner, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K. and other powerful men in the film industry. But it also served as a galvanizing moment for women in Hollywood and how they can chart their own paths going forward. (The New York Times)

But representation is also something that’s much easier to talk about politely and decorously than the other issue that the industry has been discussing in the months leading up to the Oscars: the system of misogyny that has allowed powerful men to sexually harass and abuse the women of Hollywood with impunity, a system that ultimately cost some women their careers. (Vox)

It’s almost as if the Times and Vox were watching a different show than Fox News and Breitbart. The opinions in the Times and Vox might not directly disparage individuals as much as those in the previous section, but they’re still one-sided. They politicize and judge the political aspects of the Oscars rather than just presenting the facts of what happened at the ceremony (see our Raw Data for an example of how that can look).

And here we thought the Oscars were also about cinematic achievement…


Is it fact or fiction? Which outlet presents the most spin?

  • 67% Spun

  • 69% Spun

  • 74% Spun

  • 91% Spun

The Numbers

See how the articles rate in spin, slant and logic when held against objective standards.

View Technical Sheet >

The Raw Data

Unspun and unbiased. These are the facts.

Top Spin Words

  • Self-serving hypocrisy

    As the early ratings show, even Democrats were not interested in watching that kind of self-serving hypocrisy. (Breitbart)

  • Ratings collapse

    Ratings Collapse: Early Numbers Show Oscar Telecast Hit All-Time Low (Breitbart)

  • Throwing down the gauntlet

    Frances McDormand throwing down the gauntlet for show business with two words: “Inclusion rider.” (The New York Times)

  • Ratings Catastrophe

    The writing was on the wall for this ratings catastrophe all year. (Breitbart)


  • Too polite for its own good

    The Oscars’ Time’s Up tribute was too polite for its own good (Vox)

  • Robbed of their careers by predators

    Sciorra’s presence is a powerful reminder of how many women have been robbed of their careers by predators in Hollywood — and how much great art the rest of us have missed out on because of it. (Vox)

  • Blistering reports

    Even public shaming by academics, who have released blistering reports detailing the exclusion of women and people of color in Hollywood, have not had much luck nudging the movie factories to reassess their hiring practices. (The New York Times)

  • Barrage of politics

    Other than potential viewers staying away because of the presumed barrage of politics, the Academy Awards could have also kept viewers away by celebrating movies that many people didn’t see. (Fox News)

  • Worthy and entirely correct

    It was a worthy and entirely correct montage. (Vox)

  • Divisive

    Kimmel is one of the most divisive and polarizing figures in the country, a Trump-hating Democrat who regularly lectures the rest of us about embracing socialized medicine and giving up our guns. (Breitbart)

    Media Research Center Vice President Dan Gainor told Fox News viewers shouldn’t be surprised that the show turned political and featured “divisive, left-wing politics” throughout the four-hour event. (Fox News)

The 90th Oscars awards ceremony airs to an estimated 26.5M viewers

Jimmy Kimmel hosted the 90th Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday night. The “Oscars,” or Academy Awards of Merit, are given annually to “honor outstanding artistic and scientific achievements in theatrically released feature-length motion pictures,” according to the awards’ website.

This year’s show was aired live from 8 to 11 p.m. eastern on ABC, to an estimated audience of 26.5 million viewers. It is the lowest number since the 1990s when the viewership data began being collected. The 2017 awards had 32.9 million viewers.

Besides speaking about the nominated films and filmmaking, some presenters and award recipients spoke about other topics. While hosting, Kimmel made jokes about Fox News, President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

Best actress award winner Frances McDormand spoke about “inclusion riders,” a stipulation that actors can put in their contracts to ensure gender and ethnic diversity among cast and crew members of film projects that they work on. Presenters Kumail Nanjiani and Lupita Nyong’o spoke in support of “Dreamers,” referring to recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Award winner Kristen Anderson-Lopez spoke about diversity and gender representation in the songwriter category.

Award winners include:

  • Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” won for both Best Picture and Best Director.
  • Frances McDormand earned Best Actress for her role in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”
  • Gary Oldman won for Best Actor for his role in “Darkest Hour.”
  • Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez received the Best Original Song award for the track “Remember Me” in “Coco.”
  • Alexandre Desplat won Best Original Score for “The Shape of Water.”

Sources: Breitbart, Fox News, The New York Times, The Oscars