Saturday, July 14, 2007

Bias In The Media - Redux

The most intelligent man I know also happens to march with the GOP elephants, although, contrary to liberal mandate, this has not shut down his considerable brain power. In conversation last year he suggested that, just perhaps, there is a liberal bias to the mainstream media.

At that time I was more firmly aligned with the Democrat donkey brigade and accused him (politely) of being part of that vast right-wing conspiracy that so undermines liberals' efforts at perfecting American life.

He gave me a few examples where network talking heads, TV news documentary shows and powerful daily newspapers all slant leftwards, even as they claim to stand straight and objective. To prove my point that he was nuts and his vision was skewed by his own bias, I began paying close attention to the language the news readers use and their points of view they employ in their non-stop coverage of the political scene and all things Bush.

I've written an essay here about my findings -- which basically substantiate my Republican friend's viewpoint that indeed there is a pervasive liberal bias to the news that affects Americans' viewpoints daily. Finally seeing this with clarity nudged my political stance from left to center.

In my favorite waste-of-time literary chat room, which population is about 99% knee-jerk liberal, I dared to suggest last week that media bias is rampant. I still have virtual scars from the jackal attack that ensued. New to the chat room that day was a person who claimed to have worked for some years for CBS news. He led the pack of jackals, demanding I support my claims with specific examples.

I'm not good with specifics (unsupported opinion being so much easier and more accessible) and the whole issue of media bias is so blatant, so obvious to me now that my fingers stumbled over themselves and I couldn't provide examples on the spot.... so I did a little research, just for the sake of my own crushed pride (NOT that I'll ever broach that subject in the chat room ever, ever again!)

The book BIAS, A CBS INSIDER EXPOSES HOW THE MEDIA DISTORT THE NEWS, by Bernard Goldberg, says everything with facts, with detailed specifics, that several of my blog entries have been pointing to for months. Goldberg was a veteran reporter and producer for nearly 30 years for CBS news, having won seven Emmy Awards during that time. He speaks from an insider's vantage point while still maintaining the perspective of reasonable objectivity. After his original piece on the subject appeared on the Wall Street Journal op-ed page, he was soundly chastised by the CBS powers and his contract was not renewed. Interestingly, he has provided in the afterward of the book copies of letters from his peers and other intelligentsia that support his position and applaud his chutzpah in writing about it.

Even though the book was published in 2002, its points are even more salient today in light of the growing outcry against perceived liberal bias. If you're at all concerned about the picture of current and historical events that is sketched daily by the mainstream media, I suggest you spend $11.16 at Amazon and read the book for yourself. Here are just some of the highlights:
  • In discussing the absence of a conscious liberal conspiracy to manipulate the news, Goldberg makes the point that I've tried, so far in vain, to make with my chat room adversaries. If the slant of the news conforms to your own world view, your own bias, you will never see the bias present, which is why so many liberals become apoplectic at the suggestion that bias exists. As Goldberg says,
"It may be hard to believe, but liberals in the newsroom, pretty much, see NOW and [Laurence] Tribe and even left-wing Democrats as middle of the road. Not coincidentally, just as they see themselves. When you get right down to it, liberals in the newsroom see liberal views as just plain...reasonable."

"No need to identify Patricia Ireland as head of a liberal women's group, because to the media elites her views are not leftist. They simply make sense. They're simply reasonable. After all, she's for abortion rights without restrictions, isn't she? She's for affirmative action, isn't she?"

"To mainstream America, these are major elements of the liberal agenda. But to the liberals in the media, these aren't liberal views at all. They're just sensible, reasonable, rational views, which just happen to coincide with their own."
  • In a chapter entitled "The Most Important Story You Never Saw On TV" Goldberg discusses the lack of fairness in presenting more than the popular (feminist) views in any story about working moms and day care. I myself have concerns about this subject discussed here. Goldberg says:
"The argument here is that once again the elite journalists on television have taken sides." "The problem is that they don't let the other voices on. The ones who say that most toddlers are better off with their own mothers than with day-care workers and that most adolescent kids would do better if a parent were home after school instead of being alone and 'fending for themselves."
  • He goes on to state that in reporting on a 2001 government-funded study on day care, which indicated less than sterling results for kids' behavior, both CBS and NBC used the word "controversial" in describing the study... no less than four times.
"The feminist response to any "controversial" news about day care is to call for more federal laws and subsidies to improve the quality of day care."
  • Goldberg gives examples of both CBS and ABC evening news detailing exactly those sentiments then says,
    "....aren't there any voices we might hear from the other side, from all those women who would rather not work outside the home, who would rather spend more time with their children..." "Why is one point of view valid and the other nonexistent on the evening news?"
  • In his chapter "How About A Media That Reflects America?" Goldberg discusses the left/right mix of reporters themselves. In a 1996 survey of 139 Washington bureau chiefs and congressional correspondents,
89% said they voted for Bill Clinton in 1992, compared with just 43% of the nonjournalist voters.
7% of the journalists voted for George Bush; 37% of the voters did.
2% of the news people voted for Ross Perot while 19% of the electorate did.

What party do journalists identify with?
50% said they were Democrats
4% said they were Republicans.

When they were asked, "How do you characterize your political orientation?"
61% said "liberal" or "moderate to liberal"
Only 9% said they were "conservative" or "moderate to conservative."

"James Glassman put it this way in the Washington Post: '"The people who report the stories are liberal Democrats. This is the shameful open secret of American journalism. That the press itself...chooses to gloss over it is conclusive evidence of how pernicious the bias is'"

"Thom Rosenstiel, the director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism says, '"Bias is the elephant in the living room. We're in denial about it and don't want to admit it's there. We think it's less of a problem than the public does, and we just don't want to get into it.'"
The virulent partisanship of the last 20 years seems to have made many of us blind to any/all virtues of "the other side," whichever side that may be. In our blindness, we also seem to have become unable to see the manipulation and bias that occurs every day in print, every night on network and cable news. If you're at all curious about this phenomenon, read Goldberg's book.

As for me, my DVR is now set to record the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on PBS. In one sweet move I'm eliminating network and cable news shows AND all those irritating commercials.

1 comment:

ManoDogs said...

Hiya, Cyn - it's the ol' MD here (or Og, to some)! I like this post, but I wanted to make you aware of one Mr. Lou Dobbs. Check him out and see if he isn't more along your line of thinking!

Just For Fun (with a guaranteed smile)