Raging Right Wing Republican

For those of us who are politically informed, and therefore Republican.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Brent Bozell on media bias

In an April 10, 2002, appearance on CNN's Larry King Live, ABC News anchor Peter Jennings gave a remarkable answer when asked about media bias.

"Historically in the media, it has been more of a liberal persuasion for many years," Jennings said. "It has taken us a long time, too long in my view, to have vigorous conservative voices heard as widely in the media as they are now. And so I think, yes, on occasion there is a liberal instinct in the media which we need to keep our eye on, if you will." . . .

Then again, was the statement that astonishing? Well, yes, simply because nobody of his stature had ever come close to admitting that liberal bias existed. . . . But if one looks closely at Jennings' answer, it becomes clear that, to the distinguished anchor at ABC News, media bias really isn't much of a problem at all. It's just an "instinct" that is evidenced only "on occasion." . . .

Jennings also betrayed a fundamental misunderstanding of why media bias is a problem. For "too long," he said, "conservative voices" were not "heard as widely in the media as they are now." Quite true, but that statement is slippery, on two counts. First, who does Jennings mean by "conservative voices" — journalists, or their guests? There is no empirical evidence I've seen that there has been any marked increase of conservatives in the newsrooms — note that we're talking about newsrooms, not the pundits' roundtables — of ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, and PBS. Second, if by "conservative voices" Jennings is referencing the opinions of conservatives within news stories, even if journalists are giving more airtime to conservatives, it doesn't follow that the coverage of those "conservative voices" is any more positive. . . . The media's pervasive bias determines precisely which news stories are (and are not) covered, and in how much detail. Indeed, the media elite deliberately attempt to set the national agenda through their coverage of the news.

I have learned this firsthand in a career spent closely analyzing the news media, but the point was driven home to me several years ago at a meeting with a Los Angeles newspaper. The Media Research Center had just released an exhaustive study regarding liberal bias in the news media, and I was scheduled to meet with the editorial board of the (now-defunct) Los Angeles Herald-Examiner to discuss the report's findings. When I arrived, however, I was ushered into the conference room and met by a solitary figure, a member of the editorial board obviously pegged with the unsavory assignment of listening to this pesky conservative. The ponytailed hair and the cold body language — he silently pointed me to a chair — hinted that this would be anything but a productive meeting. I made an opening statement, then passed him the voluminous report we were to discuss. Without bothering to open it, the editor shoved it back at me and unleashed a vitriolic harangue against conservatives. Niceties flew out the window as he snarled, "All you conservatives care about is making money!" Clearly we weren't going to discuss the report, so I asked him what liberals like him cared about. Without bothering to deny my description of his ideological persuasion, he quickly shot back, "You just don't get it: We are the social conscience of this country and we have an obligation to use the media."

At least this editor had the decency to admit what so many others steadfastly deny. Yes, the mainstream news media's views of conservatives is less than flattering — the liberal media see conservatives as "the great unwashed," as Republican congressman Henry Hyde aptly put it — and that is a big problem. But just as important, and too often overlooked, is how the media view themselves. The media elites feel they must be the "social conscience of this country"; they seem to have a higher calling beyond objectively reporting what happens on a day-to-day basis. Reporters, editors, and producers routinely display an arrogance driven by an inflated sense of self-worth. They are the enlightened, the elite.

(L. Brent Bozell III, Weapons of Mass Distortion [New York, NY: Crown Books, 2004], 1-4)

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