Thursday, June 02, 2005

Jacoby and the So-Called Liberal Media

The ever crapulent Jeff Jacoby defrosts the old 'liberal media bias' canard in today's column. He spends the entire column describing how liberals like Kerry, Gore, Hillary Clinton and Eric Alterman are just whiners because they think the media tilts conservative. Everyone knows, Jacoby claims, that reporters are liberal, therefore the media is liberal and anyone who says otherwise just can't stand a diversity of views. Of course, Jacoby does not bother to explain why, if liberals can't stand conservative viewpoints, he himself is allowed to spew forth right-wing talking points in a supposedly liberal newspaper, but I imagine irony was never taught at the Leadership Institute. From the column:

Kerry, Gore, and Clinton, by contrast, benefit from a news media that is overwhelmingly liberal, as countless surveys have shown. To cite just one: When a New York Times reporter polled journalists covering the 2004 Democratic National Convention, those from around the country favored Kerry over Bush by a ratio of 3 to 1. Among the Washington press corps, the results were even more lopsided -- 12 to 1 pro-Kerry.
Okay, so what if reporters voted for Kerry? No study has ever definitively proven that they gave any personal bias to their news stories or news coverage in general. In addition, it is the editors who make decisions about which stories get covered, and they are more likely to be concerned with how advertisers are going to be affected by content. Of course, to say that Clinton benefited from a liberal news media is to ignore that his administration was hounded by that same so-called liberal media from day one. Clinton's entire presidency was plagued by fake scandals trumped up by so-called mainstream journalists and opinion writers. I mean, Travelgate? Even the whole Monica Lewinski scandal was uncovered because Ken Starr couldn't dig up anything on Whitewater. Meanwhile, President Bush has faked (or at least misrepresented) intelligence that lead us to war, Dick Cheney conducts energy policy meetings in secret, someone in the White House leaks the name of an undercover CIA agent, and countless other scandals but none of which have lead to any serious investigation by the press. Sure, there are articles here and there, but nothing like the frenzy when conservative commentators found out that Clinton let donors sleep in the Lincoln bedroom (something Bush also does -- just ask Mitt, he's stayed overnight at the White House).

In any event, when you leave the world of reporters and enter the world of commentary, you find that conservatives vastly outnumber liberals. Conservative syndicated columnists (of which Jaoby is one) outnumber left-leaning columnists. What about talk radio? I can count the number of nationally syndicated left-leaning talk-show hosts without taking my shoes off. On the cable TV talk shows, conservatives again dominate. There is no question, to my mind, that news commentary tilts conservative in both the opinions of hosts and the guests they have on.

The bigger danger is that people like Jacoby are trying to destroy the concept of objectivity. Their ultimate goal is to undermine not only the news media, but anyone who releases information they don't like. Just look at what's going on with the Deep Throat revalation -- Novak today says that Felt's motivation for leaking to the Post was that he was passed over for promotion, implying that he couldn't be trusted. This is just the most recent example of the "attack the messenger" tactics that have been used by the right against anyone who speaks out -- Paul O'Neil, Joe Wilson, Richard Clarke, General Eric Shinseki just to name a few high-profile examples. Attacking the messenger shifts the conversation from whether or not allegations are true to whether or not the source is trustworthy. What happens when no sources are trustworthy? Well, then people will be left to assume that the truth is somewhere in the middle.