MEDIA BIAS

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.

FILED UNDER: Media
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Paul says:

    Maybe they hired a reporter from “Reuters.”

  2. Guy Cabot says:

    “Washington Times” and “good newspaper” used in the same sentence???

    I have now seen it all.

  3. James Joyner says:

    WaTi has some excellent reporters and has broken all manner of stories missed by WaPo. John McCaslin and Bill Gertz, especially, are first rate.

  4. Because although it’s an excellent news aource and contains insightful commentary, the Washington Times is also the most corrupt newspaper in America.

    Moreover, the founder of the Washington Times has described homosexuals as “trash” and called for the re-criminalization of homosexuality in America. I understand that he’s not too happy about women being allowed to vote either (I bet some of you think I’m kidding).

  5. James Joyner says:

    Graham,

    I’m not a fan of Moonies. But I’m not reading the work of Rev. Moon but that of his reporters. And, my word, if I couldn’t get my news from any sources whose founder thought ill of homosexuality, I’d be limited to CNN.

  6. Guy Cabot says:

    Frankly, Bill Gertz is a hack and a cheap propagandist. I’d place him in the same category as a Matt Drudge–a gossip whose ‘reportage’ rarely has a basis in reality. IOW, he is a tool willing to echo a certain ideology. It’s easy to “break” stories when they’re false.

    McCaslin is no better.

    I’d also direct your attention to another Times reporter/editor: Robert Stacy McCain. McCain is that odd breed that seems to believe the wrong side won in the Civil War (a view shared by Wes Pruden) and Lincoln was a “war criminal” who got what he deserved.

    WRT to Rev. Moon, it cannot be seriously argued the Times is exclusive from Moon’s views. At least one Chief Editor has noted that’s not true. But let’s look at another key piece of evidence: since its inception, the Times has never, repeat, never shown a profit. So, if Rev. Moon is willing to bankroll a newspaper for nearly a quarter of century without coming close to a profit, what other reasons might he have?

  7. Anonymous says:

    What’s the deal about reading politics into punctuation? There ARE legitmate uses for quotes around words.

    Leaving politics and newspaper like/dislike aside, marriage as defined today is between a man and woman – whether you think it should be otherwise, that is what the word means today. If you said you went to a wedding this past weekend, there wouldn’t be any questions.

    So a homosexual union is not a marriage. If you want to eventually redefine the word, that’s okay, but it hasn’t happened yet, so you put the quotes around the word since you are using the word in a way that is outside its mainstream definition.

    Everyone “comprende” this?

  8. James Joyner says:

    Clearly, the “” is designed to demean the concept. The phrase “homosexual marriage,” with “homosexual” modifying “marriage” makes it perfectly clear that it’s not the same kind of “marriage” that a “man” and a “woman” would have.

  9. John Lemon says:

    “Unlike” the “New” York “Times,” the Washington Times does not editorialize about tax cuts in its food section.

  10. Brian says:

    As I blogged:

    Well, strictly speaking, the Times is right. The word marriage comes from a Latin root, a verb which means “to take a wife.” Many of these proposed “marriages” would have no wife, although they might have a “wife.”

    As a practical matter, calling these unions marriages, without quotes, would accept the premise of proponents that this is merely the extension of an existing institution to a somewhat wider audience. Opponents see same-sex “marriage” as a new phenomenon unrelated to traditional marriage except by a legalistic sleight of hand.

    We’ve been down this road before. Homosexuals succeeded in getting the mainstream media to buy into the word “gay.” Apart from it being a propagandistic euphemism for the perfectly neutral “homosexual,” I have other objections to the term as well. The original meaning of “gay” was “happy,” and the only groups of people I know who are perpetually happy are most young children and some mentally deficient folks. (And how can they be so happy when they also claim to be brutally repressed by our homophobic society, huh?) The homosexuals were trying to seem harmless, but ended up seeming immature, pointless and silly. When they picked the label “gay,” they subtly demeaned themselves.

  11. Paul says:

    Guy said, apparently with a straight face:

    the Washington Times is also the most corrupt newspaper in America.

    Quite ironic when juxtaposed against the New York Times of late.

  12. Paul says:

    OOOOOPS My eye jumped– That was Graham’s name on the bottom of that post. Sorry Guy.

  13. Guy Cabot says:

    No problem, Paul.

    But I would agree the Washington Times is among the most corrupt; unlike the NYTimes, the WashTimes will never admit its mistakes. Has the WashTimes ever apologized or corrected newstories they ran that proved to be false?

  14. Paul says:

    About as often as Maureen Dowd. LOL

  15. Guy Cabot says:

    Mo Dowd is an opinion columnist, Paul.

    The WashTimes opinion columnists are a very special breed of idiots.

    No, I’m talking of their reporters.

  16. The person who wrote this needs to re-think:

    “Leaving politics and newspaper like/dislike aside, marriage as defined today is between a man and woman – whether you think it should be otherwise, that is what the word means today. If you said you went to a wedding this past weekend, there wouldn’t be any questions.”

    There are plenty of gay marriages, but they are not recognized by the state: several mainstream Protestant denominations perform them. The gay marriage debate is simply over whether/how the state should recognize, legitimize, deal with, or fight tooth and nail this fact.

    Insisting on placing quotes around the word is a strong editiorial statement in and of itself. I’m sure it’s based on a style sheet with a rigid definition of the word “marriage,” but it makes the paper look idiotic when it appears outside the editorial page.

    Language changes quickly these days. If they are going to adhere to traditional definitions, perhaps they should be putting quotes around exotic terms like “e-mail.”

MEDIA BIAS

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.

FILED UNDER: Media
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Paul says:

    Or spend an hour on the MRC’s http://www.mrc.org/

    I think your key phrase was “systemic media bias.”

    Bernard Goldberg makes the point in his book that the “mainstream media” does not see themselves as biased because they believe everyone thinks like they do. ..Sorta like accents in the spoken word. I think people from rural Texas talk funny. They think I do. It is all a matter of your baseline.

    I find it quite funny indeed that the “elite media” is ALL TOO WILLING to point to conservatives at FOX but can not fathom that by doing so they are admitting they are more liberal. It seems a self evident point.

    But let’s attack the question…

    How would one define a “systemic media bias” in the mainstream media and how could it be confirmed?

    I think for the media to be convicted of having a “systemic media bias” you would have to prove that the mainstream media was considerably more liberal then the nation as a whole. A valid test would be to start up a network that was more conservative and see where the viewers went.

    Let’s say as a hypothetical that you started a brand new cable news network that gave a more conservative view then was offered by the mainstream media. And let’s say CNN lost its position at first place in cable news, CBS’s rating fell to an all time low and ABC’s ratings took a nose dive too.

    Then this HYPOTHETICAL would prove that the mainstream media was out of sync with America. Hypothetically speaking of course.

    Another valid test might be in the way they covered a President’s actions. One President from one party might say a country had Weapons of Mass Destruction and never be questioned. Another President from a different political party might say the same country had Weapons of Mass Destructions and the media would run stories suggesting he lied about it.

    Either of these 2 tests would be valid to see if the mainstream media really did have a bias. Darn shame we will never know.

    Paul

MEDIA BIAS

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.

Yep.

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.

FILED UNDER: Media
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Steven says:

    Indeed, on the “counting commentators” metric, my favorite (and this has gotten better in recent years) is the actual ratio of libs:cons on a panel. Even now on “This Week” it is Stephy (Lib), Will (Con), Zakaria (mod-to-lib) and Martin(lib). Or, even better, when it was Sam (lib), Cokie(lib), Will (con) and Stephy (lib)–now there’s balance.

    Or the old Capital Gang when it was Al Hunt, Margaret Carlson, Mark Shields and Bob Novak (and Hunt was allegedly the “moderate”!–and even if he was, it was a mod, 2 libs, and Novak).

  2. pete says:

    What a joke. The liberal media crap is just that. Actually, a brilliant move by righties. The only bias is hugely right winged. sure, some news people are liberals, but I still NEVER see the lefty shows that balance the non-ending righty shows on TV, radio, and newspapers who go on and on about about what scum democrats are. The only shows and medias I see are rightwinged. MSNBC just fired Donohue, hired Joe Scarborough, and digusting Mike Savage. Didn’t hear any one commenting on that.

MEDIA BIAS

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MEDIA BIAS: Chris Suellentrop makes the amusing if absurd argument that Al Jazeera is no more biased than American networks:

So, it’s not as if Al Jazeera has morphed into the news as told by Lee Greenwood. Or even that Al Jazeera has morphed into CNN. Rather, it’s fairer to say that since the war began, CNN—and American TV news in general—has become more like Al Jazeera. To those who have tarred him as pro-war and pro-administration, CNN’s Aaron Brown replied: “I think there is some truth in it.” Fox’s Neil Cavuto was blunter: “You say I wear my biases on my sleeve? Better that than pretend you have none, but show them clearly in your work.” Cavuto’s comments echo a statement made by Al Jazeera’s Ramallah correspondent to 60 Minutes in May 2001 about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: “To be objective in this area is not easy because we live here. We are part of the people here. And this situation belongs to us also, and we have our opinions.”

American TV news has always presented an American perspective, just as Al Jazeera presents an Arab perspective. But in wartime, the American slant has become more obvious, and as a result Al Jazeera’s Arab slant has become less objectionable.

Well. . . no. While it is certainly true that American television reporters are biased, the difference in degree is sufficient to make it a difference in kind. Yes, Fox cheerleads for the war effort. That’s less true of CNN but, yes, most of their reporters would obviously prefer that Americans win the war and that American soldiers not get killed. But they also make quite an effort to find out the truth. They challenge the Administration positon. They ask tough questions. They report information that’s damaging to the US propaganda spin. Suellentrop half-heartedly alludes to this, saying

This is not to say that Al Jazeera and American TV news are equivalents. For one thing, Al Jazeera still receives funding from the monarchical government of Qatar, and even fans like El-Nawawy rap Al Jazeera for refraining from tough coverage—or any coverage—of Qatari politics. But Al Jazeera, with its Fox-like slogan “The opinion and the other opinion,” is the closest thing the Arab world has to an independent press.

Perhaps. But that’s not saying much.

FILED UNDER: Media
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

MEDIA BIAS

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MEDIA BIAS: It ain’t just for America anymore. You have to love this London Guardian headline:“Blair battles on after record rebellion.” Blair won a rather decisive victory, 393 to 198, including an extraordinary number of cross-party votes by the Conservative opposition. Who would have benefitted greatly by Blair’s defeat, after all. Now, granted, 139 Labour “no’s” is a high number given the level of party control in the UK system. But, still, this is far short of the 180 votes that would have consituted a vote of no confidence. And, certainly, far more decisive than almost any legislative victory in the US.

FILED UNDER: Media
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.