The Washington Times is a good newspaper. Why, though, does it insist on putting quotation marks around “marriage” in every single story that talks about the political movement to extend the right to marry to homosexuals? News reportage isn’t supposed to sneer at public policy proposals; that should be saved for the editorial pages.
Andrew Cline has some thoughts on the American edition of The Guardian referenced here recently. He also disputes the notion of systemic media bias:
Spend an hour at the AIM and FAIR web sites, and then ask yourself how each can find evidence of dreaded liberal or conservative bias if the news media is so overwhelmingly one way or the other.
He does see some dangerous structural biases. Well worth a read.
While I tend to see more liberal bias than Cline in the “mainstream” press, I agree with his overall point. Indeed, as I used to tell my students, Media is plural. Remember, Rush Limbaugh is part of “the media,” too.
Jonah Goldberg’s piece, critiquing Eric Alterman’s argument that there is no liberal media, will generate a lot of buzz today. Some snippets:
Why did conservatives feel a need to set up parallel media channels, with all the effort that entailed? Because the existing structures–elite newsrooms, plus the academic, publishing and entertainment industries that intertwine with the news business–are so hostile to conservative views that the only way to compete in the public debate was to set up shop across the street.
If Mr. Alterman and fellow liberals were to make the argument that the U.S. media aren’t as left-wing as it was a decade or two ago, or that it isn’t as left-wing as some conservatives claim, or as left-wing as Mr. Alterman would like it to be, it would be a lot easier to take his argument seriously. It’s certainly true that America has moved to the right over the last 25 years, and it’s not shocking to think that the media have become (a little) less dismissive of conservative ideas, especially now that it’s become clear that there’s a market for conservative wares.
But because Mr. Alterman and friends can’t conceive of a media they would ever consider too liberal, they lament any rightward drift at all, and declare it dangerous and unwarranted. Moreover, they are highly selective in their gaze. Mr. Alterman looks to the handful of conservative media outlets and ignores the horde of liberal ones. He fulminates about the influence of the “wild men” at The Wall Street Journal editorial page, for instance, but barely mentions New York Times editorialists. Indeed, at times it seems Mr. Alterman has never even heard that the Times exists, let alone that it is both extremely liberal and more influential than any other news organ.
This is obviously less true than it once was. Still, I agree with the larger point.
One annoying habit is Mr. Alterman’s insistence on counting pundits as proof of conservative bias. He cites the fact that CNN hired Bill Bennett and me as commentators, but has trouble fathoming that this might be because even the network execs recognized they needed to add some balance. The unfortunate truth is, conservatives usually get invited onto the main networks merely to be “conservatives.” I get asked, “What do people on the right think?” while someone like Jeff Greenfield–a former aide to Bobby Kennedy, and certainly a liberal–is bequeathed the authority of independent vision and nonpartisan insight by the network programmers.
This mistake is common and easy to make. The fact that George Will, always identified as a conservative commentator, is on This Week does not balance the fact that it was hosted by Sam Donaldson or George Stephanoupolis. The fact that NYT lets Bill Safire write a column doesn’t negate the liberal bias of its op-ed pages.
Still, as the late David Brinkley suggested, the country has voted for a lot of Republican presidents and congressmen over the last three decades. While it’s true that the elite universities and elite media outlets are disproportionately liberal, their influence is obviously limited. And, in the age of 500 television channels, talk radio, the Web, and the blogosphere, people are more in control of their ability to get information than ever before.