Wednesday, September 22, 2004


The media’s liberal bias

Don’t we wish?

[Politics and Media]

The media’s liberal bias is an urban myth that will not die in my lifetime. I wish the media had a liberal bias. That would actually help fulfill the constitutionally-recognized, First-Amendment-kissed role of the press to act as a watchdog for the public and provide a check on the structural conservative biases built into government. What, you say, a conservative bias ... in government? Here’s the short answer: Remember the problem of money in politics? Remember who has most of the money?

I keep looking hopefully for that liberal bias, and not finding it. NPR – also known as “Namby Pamby Radio” – has been bending over backwards to avoid even the appearance of liberal bias ever since the Republicans took over Congress in 1994 and made NPR bend over forewards for a spanking by ominously threatening its budget. Drive time radio? Lotsa liberals there. The right wing has some powerful media bullhorns – Fox News, the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, The Washington Times, The New York Post – and liberals have Michael Moore, independent filmmakers and those thick magazines they sell at the checkout rack at my natural foods grocery store. The Utne Reader v. Fox News Network – there’s a fair and balanced fight.

This brings us to the mainstream media. Let’s start with the once big and now incredibly shrinking three national network news shows. Dan Rather (more on him shortly) leans Democratic. Score a big one for the liberal team! Peter Jennings and Tom Brokaw lean Republican. Well, I guess there’s your liberal bias right there. Never mind that the networks are owned by powerful profit-oriented conglomerates whose interests lean conservative. There’s also The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times, those liberal rags.

We'll get to them -- first, lets try to separate perception from fact. There’s a perception problem here, the probably stems from a natural tendency we all have to feel outnumbered or surrounded when a lot of people disagree with our views. In a separate post, I’ll take a look at actual personality differences between liberals and conservatives that lead conservatives to overstate the existence of a liberal bias.

What are the facts? Opinion research on journalists shows that journalists are mostly centrist; are more pro-business and conservative on economic issues and “welfare state” issues than the general public; are more liberal on social issues, such as gay marriage, abortion or gun control.

The first thing one notes about this pattern is how neatly it tracks with the present-day Republican political strategy. If you get the voters to focus on social issues like gay marriage, abortion or gun control, you can actually elect candidates who will hurt them on economic issues such as social security, health care, corporate welfare and tax cuts and for the wealthy. The kernal of truth in the “liberal media” myth lies in the media’s mild liberalism on the social issues; so by promoting the “liberal media” myth, Republican strategists get a 2-for-1 benefit. They get the public to focus on the social issues and distract them from economic issues; and they get a built in spin control on any media story that favors the Democratic opposition.

The whole Dan Rathergate thing plays into this in a similar way – that’s the subject of a separate post.

Now we'll consider the New York Times, a partisan Democratic newspaper if there ever was one, right? Let’s fast rewind to election 2000. A content analysis of news stories in the 2000 presidential race conducted by the Pew Charitable Trust Project for Excellence in Journalism showed that the mainstream media was significantly more likely to publish news stories that portraying Bush favorably than portraying Gore favorably, and was more likely to run negative stories about Gore than Bush.

The New York Times, in the interest of journalistic balance and impartiality, usually runs a Bush campaign story and a Kerry campaign story every day. What could be more fair and balanced? If the Times had a liberal bias, you would expect to find their stories slanted at least slightly toward favorable portrayals of the Kerry campaign and unfavorable portrayals of the Bush campaign. In 2000, my anecdotal recollection, which matches up with the Pew study numbers, was that coverage of the Gore campaign typically did one of two things: it either headlined the “fact” that the Gore campaign was “in trouble” or “listless” or “lacked direction”; or it would dilute the Gore message by focusing on underlying strategy: e.g., Not “Gore Says Bush Will Appoint Anti-Choice Judges,” but “Gore Courts Women Votes by Claiming Bush Will Appoint Anti-Choice Judges.” The Bush stories tended to more to portray a focused campaign or to simply report the Bush message.

Lo and behold, what is the New York Times saying today? Headline, page A1:
“Kerry in a Struggle for a Democratic Base: Women”
This isn’t an aberration. Check back over the past several weeks. Count ‘em up. There’s a marked tendency to report disagreement within the Kerry campaign. You might say, well the Kerry campaign is in disarray. I suspect that any political campaign is chaotic enough, or has enough disagreement among top advisors, that such stories could be written about it, so why Kerry, why now? More importantly – in a later post – why is that newsworthy?

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Help Mommy, there are Liberals! underneath my bed!!! (No, seriously, that's the name of the book...) Don't believe me? The dang thing's on Amazon, not some hippie-press bullcrap ;) Anyway, thought you might enjoy, pinko ;)
And why are these other posters so threatened by a blog that doesn't suck the balls of conservatism? Glad to see that I'm not the only one who sees that "liberal media" is a myth. If anything, these above comments just goes to prove that bush asskissers want to take over all forms of communication and media.
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