Wednesday, December 19, 2001

Coming home from lunch today, I tuned into a conservative radio talk show (is there any other kind?). The subject was liberal bias in the media and folks were trashing some academic who had called in earlier. One guy insisted that CBS anchor Dan Rather was completely liberal and as unambiguous, incontrovertable proof, he offered this observation - On election night in 2000, when Gore won a state, Rather said the state goes to Gore. But when Bush won a state, Rather said the state falls to Bush.

Wow. Convincing stuff, huh?

I know I'm risking a shitstorm of flack from my conservative friends here, but this needs to be said -- there is no liberal bias in the media. Are their liberals in the media? Of course. But numerically and in terms of demographic reach, they are hugely outnumbered by openly conservative commentators, media owners and editorial writers. Liberals are are also nowhere near as loud or virulent in their comments as conservatives - I defy anyone to show me the on-air, liberal version of Matt Drudge, Rush Limbaugh, Ollie North or Bill O'Reilly. And if you think the left loves big media, keep in mind that much like the hardcore right, hardcore liberals despise corporate media and regularly issue lists of stories ignored by the TV networks and mainstream newspapers.

This has been a topic of recent emails between my friend Warren and I. Below is a slightly edited response I wrote to him when he asked Do you really think there's a shortage of left-leaning commentators? Don't the three major network anchors count?

I can't think of any full-time news show hosts who openly identify themselves as liberal except maybe some on NPR and those slightly less conservative than my-co-host suckers who cower opposite conservatives on the tag-team shows (Hannity & Colmes). Network anchors rarely comment on the news - they read scripts written for them. I think they (as well as CNN) attempt to be painfully evenhanded. In the end, they offend both sides of the line because nobody likes it when their POV isn't the lead. But the fact is, these people work for major corporations and are very rich. Their interests don't lie with WTO protestors, although they see the news value in covering such actions.

I've been amazed at the stuff Conservative news people get away with on the air (ie: some MSNBC anchor openly calling Ossama a scumbag in a report). Much of that is due to the nature of 24/7 cable news. There's so much space to fill that editorializing and personal opinion gets mixed up with the news. That's suppose to be a no no in journalism, but Conservative journalists have turned it into a litmus test. If you don't get personal and demonstrably pro-American on the air, you must be un-American. Since the major anchors don't actively call the bad guys scumbags on air -and they dare to do things like have a camera crew covering inside Tehran during the Gulf War - they must be liberal weasels. Sorry, but reporting both sides of a story or editorially backing a Democrat doesn't make you an insane liberal.

I don't mind conservative commentators who identify themselves as such. It's a bit like the English system where newspapers are known as being Tory or Labor. But when obviously conservative organizations like Fox proclaim an un-biased position, I can only snicker. Even my father has joked their motto should be "We distort, you decide."

I know this is hard to believe, but "Liberal Media" is a myth concocted by conservatives basking in the warmth of perceived victimization. The conservative viewpoint has always been well-represented in corporate media, especially in the op-ed sections of American newspapers (particularly our largest daily paper, the Wall Street Journal). I get a kick when newspapers attempt to expand their editorial viewpoints by hiring blacks or women, and (surprise!) those people turn out to be even more conservative then the white males with whom they work. The left is best represented in alternative media and specialty outlets like Mother Jones. But when you consider religious (ie: Christian) programming, the conservative viewpoint virtually owns TV and radio news/talk shows.

Granted, that's how it sounds from here and NYC. In CA, you might be exposed to a few more liberals on the air, but I can't imagine any of them have the national impact of a Rush Limbaugh. And probably none of them will be as far to the left as a G. Godden Liddy is the right, when he advised his listeners where to shoot ATF agents should them come a-knocking.

Funny, isn't being fearful of government agents suppose to be the domain of the left?

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