Journalism’s Real Liberal Bias?

Forget a liberal bias among journalists, argues Conor Friedersdorf on DoubleThink Online. It’s journalistic convention that leans liberal. That is, liberals have (or the liberal view point has) all the good anecdotal ledes and stuff while the conservative outlook doesn’t lend itself to simple, compelling narrative. Writes Friedersdorf:

Contra the least-thoughtful conservative critics, there isn’t any elite liberal conspiracy at work. Bias creeps in largely because the narrative conventions of journalism are poor at capturing basic conservative and libertarian truths. An instructive example is rent control. A newspaper reporter assigned that topic can easily find a sympathetic family no longer able to afford its longtime apartment in a gentrifying neighborhood. Their plight is a moving brief for a rent ceiling…

The right, in other words, has a problem with narrative. The stubborn facts of this world contradict pieties left, right, and libertarian, occasionally forcing each group to revise its thinking. But the core critiques of liberalism intrinsically resist the narrative form. Who can foresee the unintended consequences of government intervention in advance?…

Over at his Washington Monthly blog, Kevin Drum disagrees:

[L]iberals complain about this exact same thing all the time. I guess everyone is convinced that the other side has nice, simple heart-tugging narrative storylines while their own side is consistently burdened with complex, bloodless, policy-heavy wonkery.

The real difference, though, isn’t that one side or the other has a monopoly on simple narratives, but that left and right tend to rely on different narratives. Liberals traffic heavily in guilt and personal tragedy. Conservatives specialize in fear and self-interest. Conservatives don’t have the same narratives as liberals, but they’ve still got plenty of narratives…

I think Drum is more convincing on this.

Noteworthy, though, that in the end — addressing “the right” — Friedersdorf argues: “[W]e’re better off joining the journalistic project than trying to discredit it.”

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.