Outgunned: How the Network News Media Are Spinning the Gun Control Debate

1. Evening News Findings

American TV viewers were bombarded by evening news stories promoting gun control. Out of 300 evening news segments, anti-gun stories outnumbered pro-gun stories by 164 to 20 (with 116 neutral segments), or an 8-to-1 ratio. Talking heads were slanted toward gun control by a 2-to-1 ratio (296 for gun control vs. 150 for gun rights), with 319 neutral spokesmen. ABC and CNN provided the worst evening news slant, while NBC was the closest to fairness—and they weren’t close.

     • ABC’s World News Tonight was the most biased in favor of gun control, airing 43 anti-gun stories to only three pro-gun segments, with 24 neutral reports. Within that sample, the talking head ratio matched the overall average of 2-to-1, with 125 gun control soundbites, 62 for gun rights, and 120 neutral clips.

     • CNN’s The World Today slanted in the direction of gun-control arguments in 50 stories, compared to only seven with substantially more arguments in favor of gun rights. (Thirty-four reports were neutral.) CNN’s selection of talking heads advocating more gun control was the most disproportionate (98 to 40, with 79 neutral clips).

     • CBS Evening News stories promoted gun control 28 times and favored gun rights on just three occasions (22 were neutral). CBS had the closest ratio of talking heads with 59 for gun control, 35 opposed, and 74 neutral.

     • NBC Nightly News was the least imbalanced, albeit with a tilt of five to one: 43 anti-gun rights stories versus eight pro-gun rights stories, with 36 neutral pieces. But three of the pro-gun stories came on one night (April 30, 1999). By a ratio of almost 2 to 1, NBC aired gun control exponents with a count of 130 advocates to 72 opponents (and 24 neutral voices).