How do the Liberal media get away with pretending to be neutral?

Ah, you’re right, Izzy! Of course, Scribe later summed up this way: “The crux of the issue is probably that the media is moderate enough to give both the right and left something to complain about, IMHO.”


I am addressing only a specific issue raised by Gadarene in his most recent post to this thread, to which he felt I had given “no real rebuttal”. To this end I directed him to the previous thread, in which I had addressed it, and to the following post (by scribe):

This is important, as it is assessment of the relative impact of the various players, from someone who would have a better idea than most. Scribe’s opinion of the overall issue of bias is not especially significant (as compared to anyone else’s).

I am soon going to be a part of the “liberal media,” actually working for a news organization in Washington, D.C.

It’s true that there are some examples of the news media having a liberal bias. For example, yesterday I was watching my local newscast (I’m in a major market) and they did a man on the street segment asking: “What’s the biggest mistake George W. Bush could make?”

I was appalled. That was the most loaded, biased question I had ever heard asked on the news.

On the other hand, I was watching MSNBC the day after Gore’s concession and the anchor was showing those photos of Gore being a party animal the night before. The anchor said: “If I knew he was like this before, I might have voted for him.”


But I think incidents like that are the exception. On the whole, 90, perhaps 95 percent of all the news stories you read/see/hear from a supposedly agenda-free media outlet will show both sides of the story. Who gets the first quote or sound bite? Usually the guy who supports whatever issue is in question. Then the opposition gets their side in. Yes, most journalists are left-biased on a personal level. Only rarely do I think that bleeds through into the stories they produce.

Generally, people trust the media outlets that deserve it: The Wall Street Journal (VERY conservative on it’s op-ed page) and The New York Times (VERY liberal on it’s op-ed page) and a few others. USA Today, which tries to be high and mighty by NOT endorsing in races, is actually one of the least trusted. A member of the media that doesn’t have strong opinions and a media outlet that doesn’t have strong opinions will only be weakened by that in the long run.

Izzy quotes Scribe:

Gadarene adds emphasis.

Also, self-censorship by reporters is a very palpable phenomenon. That is, I can bring in reams of anectodal evidence to the effect that reporters will often shy away from stories which are inimical to the interests of the parent company, even if they are not told to do so. And, of course, many are told to do so–I’d be happy to provide evidence of that, as well. Do a web search for “Monsanto” and “Florida,” for one.


At the risk of descending into semantic quibbles, and as much as I hate to dispute someone whose Ohta impression is so masterful, I wouldn’t say the New York Times’s op-ed page is “VERY liberal” at all. Rather, it depends on the issue. And depends on what you call “liberal,” I suppose, but Thomas Friedman opining that the IMF protesters are “economic quacks” who deserve “the back of our hand” doesn’t strike me as anywhere near left-wing.

That said, there are newspapers whose op-ed pages generally lean liberal, just as there are those who go the other way. The Madison Capital-Times, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Los Angeles Times, San Jose Mercury-News are examples of the former, and The Wall Street Journal, Washington Times, and New York Post are examples of the latter. Of these, however, only the Journal is particularly influential on the national scene–most of those papers tend stolidly toward the preservation of the status quo.

Anyone who believes there to be a liberal media needs to read Mark Hertsgaard’s On Bended Knee: The Press and the Reagan Presidency. And then they need to read it again.


I love that site that oldscratch linked to. The very first item is an unattributed, unverifiable quote claiming that Hillary Clinton said some very nasty things about the homeless and welfare recipients. Now that’s some good journalism. :rolleyes:

I bet Alexander Cockburn is really proud to have his name attached to that site.


Plenty of interesting points have been brought up. I am convinced, however, that any body can find media bias in any direction if that’s what they want to find. Consider the past election season and the media’s treatment of George W. Bush:
Clearly, the media spend too much time discussing his youthful indiscretions, verbals gaffes, and his one use of profanity, so from this perspective, the media was anti-Bush.
But the media also didn’t provide any serious criticism or even analysis of his major political proposals, such as the privatizatin of social security and the tax cut, so in that sense, the media was pro-Bush.

As a former Jackal of the Press in good standing, I am all too aware of left-of-center media bias. Perhaps not far left enough to satisfy some posters here, but it’s undeniable that on subjects such as abortion, the environment, racial strife etc. the reporters’ bias bleeds over into their stories. Check the last line of the story linked to in the OP on Bush and abortion in GD to see one of countless examples.

Most of those who remark on this lack of journalistic professionalism do not care if op-ed articles and editorials reflect one dominant opinion. I welcome them. Radio and TV rarely have editorials anymore; the reason seems to be cowardice. It’s easier to vent your opinions in your reporting. This doesn’t mean you must be “objective”, something I think is possible only if you’re dead. “Fair” should be the goal.

To answer the OP, reporters and editors have gotten away with bias for so long because they could. Now, with increasing fragmentation of media, more people are turning to specialized sources of information that cater to their individual tastes and biases, and mass sources of information are losing influence. If you can’t trust CBS or the N.Y. Times (did they really, as I am told, run the story of Jesse Jackson’s illegitimate child on page 29?) you’ll turn to Rush or some other truth-challenged dodo on the left. We’ll all be less-informed and more opinionated.

As for jshore: So NPR interviewed somebody from the Cato Institute? That’s a big whoop-de-do there, feller. NPR’s running a reasonably balanced story once in a while only serves to highlight their dominant p.c. biases. That I frequently agree with these biases doesn’t make me any less nauseated at hearing them.

Jack, that you’re equating the Cato Institute with a “reasonably balanced story” says more to me than all the rest of your post.

That you’re using “p.c.” as an apparent synonym for “liberal” only serves as an underscore.

That you seem to be assuming that reporters and editors share similar biases… Well, you get the idea.

Interestingly, Madison’s other daily paper, the Wisconsin State Journal has an op-ed page so far to the right that Maureen Dowd’s column ends up looking like their liberal offering.

Careful, Lamia. Around here there are a lot of people who will claim that Maureen Dowd is an example of a liberal offering!

One argument made by many conservatives is that in a paper like the New York Times, a conservative (Jesse Helms?) is more likely to be described in terms like “ultra-conservative” or “far right” than a liberal (Ralph Nader?) is to be described in terms like “ultra-liberal” or “far left.”

If true, this is arguably evidence of media bias.

Anyway, I ran a word search a couple years ago, and words like “ultra-conservative” came up significantly more frequently. And yes, there may be other explanations, but it makes one wonder . . .

Nope, go ahead and spell it out. Don’t be shy.

The typical NPR tactic is to interview (or quote) one conservative source for a story, while two or more liberal viewpoints are shared along with the reporter’s left-leaning take on things. There are occasions when NPR has surprised me by gritting its teeth and running a truly fair story. But it then reverts to form rather quickly.

There’s a nice piece in the current Brill’s Content illustrating how book reviews are assigned to bolster book review section editors’ biases. I commend it to you; it might help you overcome that stubborn case of denial.

If I’ve wounded you by using the term p.c., I will try and devote equal time to smug, toad-like archconservatives*. There. Feel better?

*When was the last time you heard the term “archliberal” on the news?

At the request of the Legal Department, I hereby specify that this description does not apply to any actual conservatives, living or dead. Especially not to Jesse Helms, Phil Gramm, Tom DeLay or Strom Thurmond*.

Is he living or dead? I can never keep track.

I’m not sure which part of my denial this is supposed to combat; could you be more descriptive?

I’m simply pointing out that American liberalism and the shibboleth of political correctness are in no way synonymous. Just because I’m a liberal, in other words, doesn’t mean that I’m PC–whatever that itself connotes. Nor does it mean, by the way, that I feel everything to be fair and balanced if you apply equally loaded words–smug, toad-like–to the right wing.

As for the paucity of “ultra-liberal” and “arch-liberal,” two things: First, FAIR has done several externally verifiable studies which show that conservative or right-leaning think tanks are quoted far more often than their counterparts on the left, and furthermore that ideologically driven think tanks are rarely labelled as such at all. Second, I would suggest that comparing incidences of mention between “ultra-liberal” and “ultra-conservative” is fairly meaningless because, as hard as it may be for you to believe, the extreme right wing actually has a greater degree of political influence (and, hence, newsworthiness) in America than does the extreme left.

When, by the way, was the last time you heard “archconservative” on the news? To whom was it referring, and in what context?

This actually tend to be right-wing libertarian with a distrust of big government, free market, and all that jive. I would definetely not call it liberal… it’s the closest I’ve seen to a libertarian major paper.
As for pldennison

hmmmm unlike the NYtimes, The Washington Post, or the Wallstreet journal? Who use annoynmous unverifiable sources all the time.

Since Cockburn is editor and one of the chief writers, I don’t imagine he minds one bit.

Sorry, scratch; I defer to your experience. My characterization was only based on the crack cocaine series by Gary Webb–but you’re right, that’s just as easily a libertarian issue as it is a progressive one.

Mea culpa.

Just a SWAG, but I’d say pure chutzpah.

No, I haven’t read any other replies.

Yes, I’m slightly blotto.

Thank you very much. G’nite.

Sigh. (Omigod, I’ve started doing it too!!)

*Originally posted by Gadarene *

Using FAIR as a reliable source tells us all we need to know about** you**. Well, actually it doesn’t, but it would if I believed in stuffing people into rigid little ideological boxes for the sake of argument. **

I have no doubt that members of some news organizations feel they are redressing this “political influence” through name-calling and bias. Still unprofessional, and still wrong.

A Google search turns up 849 references to the word “archconservative”, 50 to the word “archliberal”. And I didn’t even ask them to look in the Ancient History archives.

Thank for the compliment, first of all. :slight_smile:

Second of all, I probably should have qualified what I said. For a mainstream publication, the Times is among the most liberal of the bunch (looking more at its editorials than its columnists.) I am by no means comparing it to The Nation and Mother Jones. Even my newspaper, a college newspaper, wasn’t 100 percent supportive of WTO protesters.

When we say that liberals are quoted more than conservatives, any study should say WHERE they’re being quoted. The Poughkeepsie Journal doesn’t contribute to the national media consciousness. How are the WSJ, NYT, Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, NPR and LA Times doing. If these organizations, supposedly the most credible in the nation, aren’t quoting liberals and conservatives equally, then we will have a problem.

That is the most stupid pointless fact I’ve ever seen in GD. And that takes a lot.
If I do a search for “white power” in google I get 24,000 entries. “black power”? 39,000. SO obviously blacks have more power.
Here’s a hint for you, very few people use the term archliberal. In fact, I don’t think it’s a work. Try “ultra liberal” over 3,000 references, easily trumps your archconservative.

Geesh! :rolleyes:
and on a side note, I never trust anything out of brill’ content, after they sold out, lied about it, and then didn’t follow their own suggested rules for news reporting.