June 22, 2007

Media Bias

Marc Comtois

I don't expect anyone was really surprised to learn that journalists open their wallets and donate to Democrats over Republicans by a 9:1 ratio. Well sweep me off my feet. In a trade where the panacea of "objectivity" is touted...well, these polls just don't help, do they?

But you know what? Bias isn't an inherently bad thing. We are obviously biased around here, but we say so. Besides, journalists file stories sans opinion all the time. But the MSM is so bent on keeping the un-biased charade alive that their preventing their reporters from donating to political parties. That's troubling:

...some major newspapers and TV networks are clamping down. They now prohibit all political activity — aside from voting — no matter whether the journalist covers baseball or proofreads the obituaries. The Times in 2003 banned all donations, with editors scouring the FEC records regularly to watch for in-house donors. In 2005, The Chicago Tribune made its policy absolute. CBS did the same last fall. And The Atlantic Monthly, where a senior editor gave $500 to the Democratic Party in 2004, says it is considering banning all donations. After MSNBC.com contacted Salon.com about donations by a reporter and a former executive editor, this week Salon banned donations for all its staff.
Again, they aren't doing this because they don't approve of the particular political leanings of their reporters. They just don't like getting called on it.
As the policy at the [NY] Times puts it: "Given the ease of Internet access to public records of campaign contributors, any political giving by a Times staff member would carry a great risk of feeding a false impression that the paper is taking sides."
Yeah, it's pretty difficult to determine which side the NY Times favors...Bah! (OK, sorry). That's the shell-game I'm talking about. I agree with Ed Morrissey:
Unfortunately, the reaction of these media outlets tends towards cover-up rather than openness. In that sense, they take a page from modern campaign-finance reform by trying to solve a problem through top-down suppression of political action rather than just opting for full disclosure....Why should journalists have to trade away their rights to political expression in order to work in the media? They are Americans, after all...it strips a fundamental right of political assembly and speech from a segment of American society. Regardless of how one feels about bias in the media, that approach is fundamentally wrong. Journalists should demand an end to those policies, and First Amendment activists should support them.
On the other hand, media organizations are within their rights to dictate the actions of their employees. Though it is ironic, isn't it? Those who champion and benefit from free speech have no problem suppressing it. Then again, I suppose it's a natural evolution from the idea--which the MSM has championed--that, somehow, campaign contributions don't really qualify as free speech.

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That story was a must-read. Some points:
* The people who participated (donating to federal candidates or to political groups) represent less than 1 percent of working journalists in this country. If you included managers and owners of the corporations that own most American media outlets, the Republican numbers would soar close to even (or beyond).
* A good number of these people are involved in graphics, production, or areas of the paper (sports, food, features) outside the hard news arena.
* The NYT public editor had a great point: companies that restrict workers' political participation have no problems with their involvement in Boy Scouts or the Catholic Church (two institutions involved in hot political issues like gay rights, abortion, etc.). He didn't feel workers should be banned from those, either - practically any community endeavor a worker participates in may be politicized. My wife is on the board of directors of an AIDS hospice, and neither of us would tolerate an employer trying to restrict that.
Personally, I'm all for disclosure of these. Learn what each media corporation's prejudices, political activities. invetsments, etc., are, and give their products whatever weight you feel appropriate.
Slightly off topic: NBC deserves a little less weight for the $1 million Paris Hilton interview.

Posted by: Rhody at June 22, 2007 11:31 AM

Everyone has preferences and biases; the question is whether these folks are able to set those views aside when reporting the news.

I think those of us who read widely and watch a lot of news know the answer; most members of the media are either not able or not inclined to do so.

Having said that, I think they should be ENCOURAGED to contribute to the candidates and causes that they favor, so that when their contributions are disclosed we will all know (for sure) where their biases lie!

Posted by: brassband at June 22, 2007 12:23 PM

I saw this and knew exactly how this was going to be portrayed.

The problem with the whole "media bias" thing is that the reporters do not have the final say of what goes in the paper, or on the air. That is the job of the editorial staff. A whole lot of hoo-ha is made about the reporters bias; as this story shows, they are more liberal than most of the people who post on or read this site.

But when have you ever heard/seen a story about how editors lean? And, editors are part of management. And the management of virtually ALL newspapers and news stations are large corporations.

What do you think--how far left do most corporations lean?

So, sorry guys. This nothing. And I've had enough dealings with the press to see, in black-and-white or in living color, the difference between the way the reporter covers the story and the final result in print or on the air.

Liberal bias? Right. Then why haven't we heard about how Guiliani quit the Iraq Study Group because he didn't want to turn down $11.4 M in speaking fees?

Or how Dick Cheney is claiming that he and his office are not subject to oversight by ANY branch of the gov't?

Instead, we hear about John Edwards' hair cuts and how fat Al Gore is.

Yeah. Real liberal bias.

Posted by: klaus at June 22, 2007 5:55 PM

In most newspapers, editorial staff do not have control over news departments. Thus, the Journal has a strong libertarian leaning OP-ED page, but have a decided left leaning news department. Note that columnists Bakst and Kerr are in the news, not the OP-ED.

Leftists always laugh off the idea of liberal bias. The old "it's not even worth discussing" laugh. They site a few irrelevent examples like hair and weight (hardly rises to DUI reports and faked military documents).

In truth, the left hopes to silence the few conservative voices, like Fox and talk radio. Dems refuse to debate on Fox, and Congress is considering, once again, the so-called fairness doctrine, despite the sources of media being virtually limitless today.

Let's be honest klaus. Fox, the Washington Times, the New York Post, and talk radio lean right. NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, PBS, NPR, the NY Times, Wash. Post, LA Times, USA Today, Chic. Trib, and anything part of Viacom, Time-Warner, and ABC Disney lean left.

Posted by: mikeinRI at June 22, 2007 7:12 PM

Study after study has shown members of the media to be more liberal than the average American. They register to vote Democrat by a 9:1 margin, they contribute more frequently to Democrats than Republicans. Statistically, you find more Republicans in business and engineering schools and more Democrats in liberal arts and journalism schools. It should come as no surprise that left-leaning students often become left-leaning professionals.

The good ones are those who attempt to put their political beliefs aside and are balanced in their reporting. The bad ones seek to promote an agenda that they belief in personally.

Prohibiting political activity by reporters isn't going to stop the bias, it just drives it underground. Let's just get rid of the whole "the media is unbiased" fallacy and recognized it for what it is: a group of human beings reporting on current events whose analysis is tempered by personal beliefs, cultural factors, etc.

Posted by: Anthony at June 22, 2007 8:17 PM

why is it that every time the wheels start to come off the right wing wagon cart we start to get stories about the "media bias?"

So much for the idea of "personal responsibility," huh?

Posted by: Pat Crowley at June 23, 2007 6:35 AM

These results are no surprise to anyone with half a brain and the ability to read the printed word. What is surprising is how these papers and reporters continue the 'we don't take sides' lie. No need to travel far looking for political agenda driven media. The Providence Journal is an agenda driven newspaper to the point where their credibility has faded into non-existence. Their statehouse coverage is as Pro-Democrat as any paper in America and their infamous flip-flop on the casino deal smacked of political favor and patronage. In Rhode Island the old media (print and tv) is very much a part of the culture of corruption and has played the hear no evil/see evil game for years with the 'connected' around here. Buddy Cianci was never part of the 'connected' crowd. It's why he got busted. So amusing how the old media can't let go of Buddy and hold him up as their only big game trophy. lol Yet today in a state full of federal investiagtions the old media sleeps. They sleep because too many 'connected' may be exposed if they look too hard.
What's so enjoyable to observe is how the old media is so envious and jealous of the power of the new media in talk radio. Just think how 'informed' you'd be if the Providence Journal and Channel 10 were your only source of news and analysis.
The old media needs to understand that nobody buys their lie anymore. They've been outed and exposed by the new media.

Posted by: Tim at June 23, 2007 9:30 AM

Personal responsibility is a beautiful thing, Pat. So why did your comrades in the Legislature once again make its antithesis their number one priority this year with extremely generous social programs, inclusive specifically of leaving the five year legal benefit maximum intact?

Number one priority. Over education. Over state workers. Over the debilitated public pensions.

Posted by: SusanD at June 23, 2007 11:02 AM

A big reason why we don't have more Republican reporters and editors at MSM outlets is the much better-paying conservative media apparatus that snaps up college kids who write for conservative college papers and blogs. It's well funded by conservative think tanks and politicians, and will pay a college kid a helluva lot more than they'd make paying their dues at the local weekly or small daily.
Turn right for more green, as they say.
Tim, you've broken new ground. The conservative defense of Buddy Cianci. Maybe that's how he'll recast himself, as the uber-Yorke or DiPetro.

Posted by: Rhody at June 23, 2007 11:19 AM


Awesome comeback!! lol Are all union wankers like yourself unable to comprehend even basic text? Actually based on what I've heard and seen over the past two weeks or so I'd say the answer is a big fat yes to that question but I'll give you 'da benifit uhv da dowt' Rhody. Please do show me and everyone else here where I defend Buddy Cianci?


Betcha Pat Crowley drink at Freddy's.
Nothing funnier than any union wanker talking personal responsibility but an NEA mouth making mention is really hilarious. I actually feel honest and genuine pity for people like Pat Crowley. They go through life as somebody's boy and without their own identity ideas or soul. The indoctrination is creepy!

Posted by: Tim at June 23, 2007 12:05 PM

Anyone got any examples of media bias? Aside from the ones I pointed out?

Once again, the drumbeat is "liberal bias, liberal bias..." repeated ad infinitum, but no examples.

mikeinri: you're basically flat wrong about all the papers you mentioned. You can make the claim all you want, but that doesn't make it true.

Again, as evidence, I point to the handling of the Swift Boating of John Kerry, and the howls for Clinton's impeachment. GW Bush has really, actually, and truly broken the law, many, many, many times (see Comey's testimony about the DoJ), and the silence from these "liberal" papers has been deafening.

If there were really a liberal bias to the media, GW Bush would never have been elected to his first term in 2004.

Posted by: klaus at June 23, 2007 5:22 PM

PS. Tim Russert was hired by Jack Welch. They hang out together on Nantucket, along with Chris Matthews and several other NBC "News" types.

Most TV "journalists" are millionaires.

Why would I suspect these guys don't spare much thought for ordinary people?

Posted by: klaus at June 23, 2007 6:47 PM

Tim, you defended Cianci, claiming he's a martyr.
Denial's not just a river in Egypt to you, eh?
Klaus, you hit it. Some of these big media folks who are pointed to as examples of liberal bias are just as corporate as anyone. Chris Matthews liberal? Please. He was just as obsessed as Ann Coulter with taking down Bill Clinton, and as John Kerry would say, he was for the Iraq War before he was against it. Andrea Mitchell? married the Fed Reserve chairman. barbara Walters? More socialite than journalist. We can go on.
If any of these people actually espoused a liberal position ahead of the curve, they would endanger their status on the DC party circuit.

Posted by: Rhody at June 23, 2007 8:22 PM

If being a millionaire disqualifies you from being liberal, does that mean Sheldon Whitehouse and Patrick Kennedy are closet conservatives?

Posted by: Andrew at June 23, 2007 8:52 PM

Welp, Tim Russert worked for both Mario Cuomo and Patrick Moynihan.

Chris Matthews worked for Jimmy Carter, Tip O'Neil and Edmund Muskie, among other Democrats.

Then there's George Stephanopoulos who worked for Clinton.

From Democrat staffs to the MSM anchoring, or moderating, roundtable type talkfests.

Posted by: Marc Comtois at June 23, 2007 9:58 PM

Excellent point Andrew. Some of the most liberal places are also the wealthiest, like the East Side here, but also Manhattan and San Francisco and yes, Nantucket. Hollywood is full of millionaires and full of liberals (or do you on the left deny that too?).

And klaus, how did these media elite get their jobs? Matthews worked in the Carter administration, Russert worked for Cuomo and Sen. Moynihan, and Stephanopolous, who's been substituting for ABC's Gibson, is a lib who worked of course in the Clinton administration.

Nearly 90 percent admit to voting Democrat in Presidential elections. And of those who have contributed politically, similar numbers gave to Dems.

The public editor of the NY Times wrote a July 2004 column entitled, "Is The New York Times a Liberal Newspaper?" that began with the line "Of course it is." You should read it (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/07/25/weekinreview/25bott.html?ei=5088&en=452926dcb11511a3&ex=1248667200&pagewanted=all&position=).

Self professed liberal and long-term CBS reporter Bernard Goldberg has written extensively about the bias at CBS and the other major networks (read Bias).

NY Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger, at a grad. address, said,

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. You weren’t supposed to be graduating into an America fighting a misbegotten war in a foreign land. You weren’t supposed to be graduating into a world where we are still fighting for fundamental human rights, whether it’s the rights of immigrants to start a new life, or the rights of gays to marry, or the rights of women to choose. You weren’t supposed to be graduating into a world where oil still drove policy and environmentalists have to fight relentlessly for every gain. You weren’t. But you are. And for that, I’m sorry.
Shall I go on?

Posted by: mikeinRI at June 23, 2007 10:13 PM

Marc, point well taken, and your employment histories are accurate. But would you also suggest Diane Sawyer is conservative because she worked for Nixon?
Talking heads' past employment is not necessarily a good predictor of what they'll do once they get free airtime. Matthews, in particular, is a leaf in the wind. He blows, or more accurately, blusters with official Washington's prevailing breeze.

Posted by: rhody at June 24, 2007 4:23 PM

"Betcha Pat Crowley drink at Freddy's."

Don't nobody tell him but a ticked off Jim Taricani has set up hidden cameras in and around Freddy's ...

Posted by: SusanD at June 24, 2007 5:30 PM
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