The Liberal Mass Media myth.

Conservatives are constantly bellyaching about the LMM. I’ve watched news programs on all the networks, and haven’t witnessed any outright liberal leanings in their news reporting. Well, 60 Minutes is sometimes slightly liberal, but they do have Andy Rooney, who’s about as liberal as George Bush.
And I’ve read a few of these newapapers and not found the blatant liberal diatribe alluded to by the conservatives. That is, in the news sections. I don’t know about the the editorials.

From infoplease:
Rank Newspaper Circulation

  1. USA Today (Arlington, Va.) 2,528,437
  2. Wall Street Journal (New York, N.Y.) 2,058,342
  3. Times (New York, N.Y.) 1,683,855
  4. Times (Los Angeles) 1,231,318
  5. Post (Washington, DC) 960,684
  6. Tribune (Chicago) 957,212
  7. Daily News (New York, N.Y.) 795,153
  8. Inquirer (Philadelphia) 705,965
  9. Post/Rocky Mountain News (Denver) 704,806
  10. Chronicle (Houston) 692,557

And the television news? I couldn’t find a ranking of the programs, but the networks are:
ABC and of course,
FOX (Yeah, they’re real liberal. :rolleyes:)

If anything, as with most big business, they generallytend to be quite conservative.

I think the liberal / conservative media bias debate is pretty much a wash. The more important issue is the fact that the media is profit driven.

By having to turn a profit, a media outlet has an interest in putting out whatever is likely to get attention. Not what is important, relevant, or unbiased. They simply need to deliver an audience to advertisers.

This is why I tend to trust NPR and PBS over other sources. Yes, there are issues inherent to them as well. But they are nowhere near as beholden to the marketplace as much of the rest of the media. IMHO they do a better job reporting than most other sources of the same type, and certainly go more in-depth.

Much of the media is simply a market which responds to demand. If there’s something wrong with the media, whether it’s bias or just bad reporting, I question the demand for such. Problems with the media reflect on the desires of its consumers.

Most studies have found that the media is, if anything, neutral. Studies have also consistently found that people who tend to watch a lot of broadcast news self-identify as moderates, but based on individual policies, they tend to be very slightly right leaning.

The real question is whether or not the news actually tells us anything. What do you learn from watching 8 hours of news a day? Anything at all? How long do you hold onto this information? There are a metric shit ton of studies on this point, but no real generalities as of yet, although I could be wrong.

Me too. I like BBC and the German dw-world, both on PBS.
And The Newshour, for in-depth reporting. And Frontline.
I do watch local news, but with a big box of salt at hand.
BTW; I meant to quote Mach Tuck’s post here. Sorry.

I think the news can help form our opinions, which is one reason we should be careful what we believe. Attitudes can be held without remembering the sources that gave us those attitudes. Politican spinners know this, and rely heavily on it.

Conservatives do know that individual reporters, especially in the print media, tend to be left of center politically. For many, knowing this is enough to reason from that point that the media are controlled by liberals. Ownership, and the control owners exercise directly or indirectly, are just not as interesting to them.

I think the problem with the media is not that it is liberal, but that it is lazy. Looking back at the reporting during the run up to the invasion of Iraq and there is very little questioning of the basic premise for the war. The New York Times, often cited as the leader of the liberal media, was essentially helping the administration sell the war through lazy reporters regurgitating what they were told by the administration.

'Slightly" as in “willing to use forged documents against a Republican”.

THe network that sent out a memo directing their reporters to slant their coverage.

What evidence are you aware of that Fox is not neutral? And would you agree that the same sort of evidence would be sufficient to establish bias by the other media?

Feel free to read this thread and get back to us.


The fact that the right and left both think the media slants against them makes me pretty sure it slants towards the middle. Their interest is in turning off the fewest possible number of people. When the New York Times began to print marriage announcements of same-sex couples, they weren’t pushing a far-left cultural agenda; they were reacting to the change in the middle, in the NYC metropolitan area anyway.

But cherry-picking single examples isn’t going to form a complete picture. For example, a few weeks ago I heard a guy from the Cato Institute editorialize for 3 minutes on NPR’s “Morning Edition.” What other news outlet would give someone like that 3 minutes without interruption? What bias is NPR revealing by giving so much airtime to him? NPR is also the only media outlet that I’ve heard members of the active military being given a chance to speak for themselves at length, but they’re supposed to be the Voice of Moscow according my Republican friends (who listen anyway because there’s no actual news anywhere else on the radio).

You should use winkys :wink: :wink: :wink: when teasing another poster, Shodan.
I actually was going to look for that evidence until I read your linked thread. Bricker’s clever thread says it all.

My rule of thumb on gauging the degree of left-wing bias in a typical mainstream media outlet is that it’s comparable to the degree of racism in a typical big-city police department. There a little bit there, but it’s exaggerated by their opponents to the point where the whole enterprise is considered invalid.

The link does not show what you claimed.

Now, if you want direct evidence of Memos directing staff to slant coverage, Fox is the place. You know that already.

When the media said McCain and Obama “tied” in the first debate, McCain said that meant he “must have won.” The polls showed most people think Obama, in fact, won. To me this is the myth in a nutshell. Republicans just assume that the reality is to the right of the news, but in fact, the news is a little right of reality.

Eric Alterman does a pretty good job of dealing with this whole issue in his book What Liberal Media?

Alterman notes early in the book that he believes that many individual members of the media are, in fact, reasonably liberal by American political standards. He concedes that many (possibly the majority of) reporters for major national newspapers and television news programs probably identify with liberal positions, especially when it comes to social and cultural issues like gay rights, abortion, race relations etc. He’s not so sure about economic issues.

But, as Alterman points out, the coverage that we get reflects more than simply the individual reporters’ point of view; it reflects certain institutional and economic factors, as well as particular social and political pressures. I think he makes a decent case that the mainstream media is, for the most part, far from liberal in its biases. He even finds a few conservative political operatives who concede that the whole “liberal media” thing is more of a rhetorical bludgeon than an everyday reality.

I tend to agree with Mach Tuck that the biggest determinant of how the media cover the news is generally related to the fact that media companies are generally large corporations, often owned by even larger corporations. Not only are they profit-driven, but their whole worldview needs to reflect, at least in some measure, the priorities of the companies who own them.

Edward Hermann and Noam Chomsky made this point years ago in their excellent work, Manufacturing Consent. The subtitle of the book is instructive: “The Political Economy of the Mass Media.” Hermann and Chomsky analyze a whole bunch of media stories, and go into considerable detail in many cases, but a central part of their argument is that, in order to understand the media in a free society like America, we need to understand whose interests they serve, especially in the realm of political economy.

They also point out that, in cases where bias can be found in the media, it’s often not a case of deliberate or even semi-conscious skewing of the facts. They argue that people who come through the ranks in these large media organizations end up internalizing the values of the institutions, and that these values generally include not being too critical of the existing power structure, or the companies that own the media outlets. As they note, no-one needs to specifically tell the editor of a major newspaper or a national TV show which stories to run, or what editorial position to take, because you will never make it to such an important position unless you’ve already internalized the priorities of the organization.

Hermann and Chomsky also concede that there are often many very good journalists who do their best to get around or past the corporate and institutional barriers to good journalism. They argue that the period just after Watergate was an example of a time when the country was fed up with corruption, when people wanted to get to the bottom of things, and when, therefore, many reporters found that they suddenly had an opening to pursue stories that they might not have been able to write before.

Interestingly enough, some of the best journalism often comes from papers with very conservative editorial positions. A perfect example is the Wall Street Journal. Despite the right-wing lunatics and dribbling douchebags who tend to infest its editorial page, the WSJ has some of the best reporters in America, and it produces journalism that is, for the most part, factual and very well researched. A key reason for this is its audience; the paper is read by captains of industry, by politicians, by the wealthy and powerful, and these people want their news straight. They don’t want or need it coated in the syrup that gets ladled over what passes for news on your local TV station or in your local paper.

Of course, now that Rupert Murdoch has taken over the Journal it will be interesting to see whether this tradition of real journalism continues. Murdoch tends to turn everything he touches into an ideological sock puppet.

My datapoint : I worked for a while for one of the organizations listed by the OP. While it wasn’t exactly “official”, all new employees were quickly made to understand that we supported Democrat candidates, and ‘socially liberal’ positions. In part this was a function of the journalistic environment (as per Beware of Doug and mhendo), the schools people had studied at and the kind of groupthink that can engender, but it was also a clear top down directive.

I think the reason many of the SDMB liberals balk at this notion is that ultimately Democrat affiliation is a far cry from being truly politically liberal.

The Iraq war illustration above is a perfect example. We didn’t break from the party line at all, but still didn’t challenge the conservative position.

So I guess what I’m saying is - journalists skew liberal, media businesses skew Democrat, but the Democratic party isn’t all that liberal.

One wonders what he’ll do to Page 3.

Its also a popular tactic of politicians to label the media as being “against” them (see Hillary’s comments about the “vast right wing conspiracy”) as a way to shore up the base. That way you can just handwave away any facts that might be thrown out which you don’t happen to like.

The Fox Network (which is what you’re talking about) is actually extremely liberal. Fox News, on the other hand, is not. Since the two co-exist as channels owned by Rupert Murdoch, it could almost be argued that the man cares more about money than any political ideology.

Ha! I love it when a poster is so naive!

You assume, of course, that Shodan actually reads posts with evidence in them or that if he reads them, he comprehends.

No, it’s a case of “my mind is made up, don’t confuse me with the facts!”

Man, I gotta remember to put on my tinfoil hat!
But no, I’m thinking of O’Reilly and Hannity and their ilk, though I may get the two Foxes confused.