A couple of items of interest to those who claim, as I do, that many of today’s mainstream media have a conservative bias and the reactionary minions are forever trying to divert attention from their leaders’ failings by claiming the media has a liberal bias.
Vanessa Pierce is making news. Who is Vanessa Pierce? A nobody really, until the woman, just graduated from college, went looking for a reporting job. She brought up in each interview that she was a Republican, and when she didn’t the jobs, she claimed a liberal bias against Republican wanna-be reporters. She then wrote a column that was widely lambasted by reporters who rightly claim that cause and effect here may have nothing to do with her party affiliation. And that her social science skills need a lot of work.
The other night I watched a little of Joe Scarborough’s screed, known as Scarborough Country on MSNBC. I had seen him earlier whining about liberal bias. This time he had Peggy Noonan, as reliable a flak for conservatives as you’ll find, always ready to blame the media for Bush’s troubles. The former Reagan speech writer was at it again, this time saying, “[Bush] doesn’t want to send out his version of Spiro Agnew to talk about the nattering nabobs of negativism. But do they still live? You bet they do and they are still in charge of newsrooms in America.”
Dee Dee Myers, the former President Clinton press secretary who was on the program with Noonan, makes the mistake, in my view, of simply saying something to the effect that “if Bush would change his policies he wouldn’t get bad press,” letting the charge that the press has a liberal biased go unchallenged. Bush’s bad press is indeed related to his bad policies, but we’ve all forgotten how the press was flag waving in the run up to and during the initial weeks and months of the Iraqi War. There was bias a plenty then – conservative bias by a press too afraid to challenge the administration.
In fact the New York Times today has an extraordinary “Editor’s Note” today, admitting that its WMD coverage before the war was flawed. The offending reporter was principally Judith Miller. But the Times admits a range of mistakes, including how it buried contrary evidence in stories with headlines that gave no clue that they had screwed up.
Michael Getler, the ombudsman for The Washington Post, admits that his paper wasn’t skeptical enough before the war, letting the Bush PR machine have its way.
A whole series of events that unfolded in public, beginning almost a year before the invasion, laid out the arguments against war, but failed to get much attention in the Post and some other papers. There were, for example, early statements of caution from some leading Republicans. There were Senate committee hearings on containment and alternate strategies, and another hearing with several retired four-star generals urging caution. There were important speeches by Democrats making the case against invasion. There were antiwar demonstrations in European and American cities.
Yet, as we saw in Getler’s column this past Sunday, The Post is still fighting charges that it has a liberal bias.
The anti-war demonstrations were under reported by many media outlets, including The Post, which reported the October demonstration on the Mall on its Metro pages.
Another news organization that was widely criticized and admitted it unwisely downplayed the anti-war demonstrations was National Public Radio. A few days after the demonstrations, NPR tried to balance its mistakes with belated reports. Yet today, NPR’s media ombudsman admits that criticism from Fair and Accuracy in the Media was indeed fair and accurate when it pointed out that NPR is tilting conservative.
I think that NPR is putting more conservatives on the radio than it used to. This is a good thing provided the balance is maintained…. [But] FAIR is concerned whether the pendulum has swung too far. That’s my concern as well.
And NPR’s Jeffrey A. Dvorkin also nails the point more broadly.
[C]onservative organizations tend in my experience to be unabashedly open about their ideology. Liberals and liberal organizations are less so, possibly because they are so often put on the defensive by a more aggressive and militant conservatism.
When you hear a conservative complaining about liberal bias in the media, you usually can figure he or she has run out of arguments with which to defend the misguided policies of their conservative leaders.