Kathryn Jean Lopez is the editor of National Review Online. She previously worked at the Heritage Foundation, the conservative Washington, D.C. think tank. Her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times, the Women’s Quarterly, New York Press, and a number of other publications.
Brian Montopoli: What would the ideal American press corps look like?
Kathryn Jean Lopez: Bill Buckley would be dean, naturally …
It would be fair. What does that mean? Simplest solution: They would all be opinion journalists — that’s what many of them are now; in my world, they would be honest about it. European countries do it. You have your right-wing paper and your left-wing paper and you read both — or you pick one, but you know what you’re picking — and decide what you believe, do some piecing together. In this day and age especially: You go to X website for your primary docs on whatever the issue is, you go to your favorite webzine (National Review Online, naturally) and blogs of all stripes for your analysis. Find your filter of choice if you are on the run. You listen to Rush or Sean or “Talk of the Nation” or Franken on the drive home.
The objective media thing is a charade. I’m not sure what the point of pretending otherwise is. We’d have livelier pieces to read and more serious debates, I think, if everyone just became an honest reporter/editor/publication. Report and do it with your slant. Just stop pretending to be doing otherwise.
BM: A common complaint from the right is that the mainstream media has a “liberal bias.” I was hoping you could talk a little bit about exactly what that overused phrase means. Do conservatives generally believe that this presumed bias is conscious or subconscious? That is, do people on the right think that the New York Times and CBS News consciously tried to get John Kerry elected, or simply that reporters and editors couldn’t keep their natural biases or their personal world view from coming through, despite their best efforts?
KJL: You’re right, “liberal bias” is a cliche. I always want to stop myself when I start talking about it — don’t want to be paranoid, sound like a broken record, but … fact is, it is there — the bias is, I mean, not just the cliche. Get me a button that says “I believe Bernie Goldberg,” because, well, I do. (And he got some honest folks like Tim Russert and Bob Costas, etc., to talk to.)
And I believe Myrna Blyth — it’s not just the political media. Myrna’s the ex-Ladies Home Journal editor who wrote Spin Sisters last year (and writes for NRO now — full disclosure) in which she told tales out of school about where the liberal bias in women’s glossies is coming from — it’s the same kinda thing Goldberg was talking about, it is the same world.
No, I don’t think reporters necessarily say, “Good morning, boss, how can I best help kill the Bush campaign today?” But they go to the news desk with certain biases. I understand completely how it happens. To so many in the MSM (Mainstream Media) — as some of us have come to call it out in the “alternative media” — it is just common sense: Liberal bias is not “liberal bias,” it is just what most of the people you are around (I’m talking about liberal reporter X) know, think, and say.
A quick example: During the election, I got a forward from an NRO reader who was friends with or had two degrees of separation from — something like that — a reporter for one of the big women’s glossies. Doing a story on the election. Couldn’t find women who were supporting Bush.
Couldn’t find women who were supporting Bush?
I wish I had the old email to quote from. I emailed once or twice with the reporter — she had emailed her address book, basically — and in that circle, and her neighborhood/office circle, she didn’t find W-supporting women. She lived on the Upper West Side of Manhattan (if I remember correctly — could’ve been East — but it was Manhattan … you get the idea). The Internet being the Internet, she eventually found some Bush-supporting gals, but I don’t think most Americans could even fathom that: Not knowing any women who supported Bush? They sure came out in November. And for some monumental reasons, in my book.