A journalist whose story about Google search results on President Donald Trump provoked a mini-firestorm said Wednesday that it was not the substance of the report itself that drew the most hostile reaction.
Paula Bolyard, supervising editor at PJ Media, said on “The Laura Ingraham Show” that it was her characterization of media organizations that appear most often in Trump searches as “liberal” news sources.
“The thing they’re most angry about is that I used a chart to determine left- and right-wing sites from [journalist] Sharyl Attkisson. And they’re all left of center on Sharyl’s chart,” she said.
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“So they’re outraged that their beloved New York Times is considered left of center. They’re outraged that CNN is considered left of center. They just cannot accept the fact that they are biased media outlets, and they’re furious about that. They’ve been fuming for two days about that,” Bolyard said.
Several news organizations questioned the integrity of Attkisson, a former CNN anchor who later covered national politics and government for CBS News and now has a syndicated news show, “Full Measure.”
BuzzFeed News noted that Attkisson included “sites that are not news outlets but peddlers of outright unproven conspiracy theories — such as Infowars” in the chart. It also reported that Attkisson linked to Infowars content.
Associated Press technology reporter Barbara Ortutay described Attkisson as a “conservative blogger” and said her list was “a little bit suspect.”
For her part, Attkisson wrote on her website that she included BuzzFeed in the chart because it was a representation of the ideological leanings of “media” sites, not just news sites. She wrote that it falsely implies Infowars was a source for her chart.
In fact, Attkisson wrote, she linked to a chart by the Infowars site run by talk-radio host Alex Jones, along with charts produced by other organizations, so that people could see alternatives to the one she produced.
Bolyard’s post over the weekend described a simple Google search for news on “Trump,” which produced 96 negative stories out of the first 100 shown. Not a single conservative-leaning news site came up on the first page, according to the report.
The report was the apparent impetus for a Trump tweet on Tuesday complaining about “RIGGED” searches. White House adviser Larry Kudlow later told reporters that the president is “taking a look” at possible regulations.
Google has said that its algorithm does not play politics and is designed to produce the results best suited to what people want to see.
“Certainly, they do blame it on the algorithm, completely,” Bolyard said.”There are well-known tactics you can do to make your website more visible to Google. And, you know, they say they don’t like ads. And they like to have a well organized website, etc.
“But you know when you look at it, the factors are so overwhelming … You have to wonder, are all the right-leaning sources bad websites, or they don’t have enough links or whatever? It stretches credulity to say that it’s just purely a business decision based on their algorithm.”
Bolyard said she is sympathetic to the argument that companies like Google exert near-monopoly power and that regulation is justified.
“However, I personally tend to lean more libertarian on tech issues, and I don’t like the idea of the government coming in and telling media platforms what they need to cover,” she said.