The floodtide of e-mails and letters to New York Times ombudsman Clark Hoyt after his September 27 column on the paper’s failure to promptly investigate the conservative-initiated stories about Van Jones and ACORN testifies to the failure of the mainstream press to deal with the issue of liberal bias.
“Many readers were not buying [the] contention that liberal bias had nothing to do with the slow response to ACORN and, before that, to the resignation of Van Jones, a White House aide,” Hoyt wrote this past Sunday.
Hoyt quoted correspondence from angry Times readers: “‘So, beside Jill Abramson, Bill Keller and Barack Obama, were you able to find anyone, not resident in a cemetery, who was so tuned out?’ asked Charles Harkins of Spartanburg, S.C. Jerry Komar of Collingswood, N.J., charged that Times editors ‘hoped the story would blow over. They were caught in their own web of bias.’”
Glenn Beck, FOX, and a couple of conservative video reporters have, in effect, forced the editors and ombudsmen at two of the nation’s leading newspapers, the Times and The Washington Post, to assume a full-scale defensive posture regarding charges of liberal bias.
At the Times, according to Hoyt, managing editor Abramson and executive editor Keller have assigned an editor to keep an eye on the “opinion media.” At The Washington Post, executive editor Marcus Brauchli confessed to ombudsman Andrew Alexander that “we are not well-enough informed about conservative issues.” Brauchli announced to Alexander his intention to “challenge our reporters and editors with great frequency to look at what is going on across the political spectrum … at the extremes, among the rabble-rousers, as well as among policymakers.” Undoubtedly, Alexander (and Brauchli) are experiencing the same e-mail campaigns that plagued Hoyt.
The actions at both the Post and the Times are ad hoc reactions to the latest blow up, and do little or nothing to address the underlying reality at most papers.
The mainstream press is liberal. Once, before 1965, reporters were a mix of the working stiffs leavened by ne’er-do-well college grads unfit for corporate headquarters or divinity school. Since the civil rights and women’s movements, the culture wars and Watergate, the press corps at such institutions as The Washington Post, ABC-NBC-CBS News, the NYT, The Wall Street Journal, Time, Newsweek, the Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, etc. is composed in large part of “new” or “creative” class members of the liberal elite—well-educated men and women who tend to favor abortion rights, women’s rights, civil rights, and gay rights. In the main, they find such figures as Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Pat Robertson, or Jerry Falwell beneath contempt.
In a UCLA study of media bias, reporters were found to be substantially more liberal and more Democratic than the public at large. Hoyt, in a column last year, acknowledged this finding: “Being human, journalists do have personal biases, and a long line of studies has shown that they tend to be more socially and politically liberal than the population at large. There is no reason to believe Times journalists are any different.”
If reporters were the only ones allowed to vote, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, Al Gore, and John Kerry would have won the White House by landslide margins. More specifically, reporters and editors tend to be social liberals, not economic liberals. Their view of unions and the labor movement is wary and suspicious. They are far more interested in stories about hate crimes than in stories about the distribution of income.
But, and this is a mega-but, even though the mainstream media are by this measure liberal, ending the discussion at this point would be a major disservice to both the press and the public. While the personnel tend to share an ideological worldview, most have a personal and professional commitment to the objective presentation of information, a commitment that is not shared by the conservative media. FOX News, The Weekly Standard, National Review, The Washington Times, Drudge, The Washington Examiner, The American Spectator, CNS News, Town Hall, WorldNetDaily, Insight Magazine are all explicitly ideological. FOX makes the bizarre and palpably untrue claim of ideological neutrality, “We Report, You Decide”—a claim it violates so routinely that no one takes it seriously.