2/4/2002

 

‘Liberal’ Media Doesn’t Please Liberals

 

A popular book lately is Bias by Bernard Goldberg arguing that mainstream TV news has a liberal bias. The news may not be conservative enough for some, but it is hardly liberal.

 

If you’re not familiar with the U.S. support of Indonesia while it massacred East Timor, it’s probably because mainstream news never covered it much. Do you have a good understanding of why there are so many protesters against the WTO meetings? Probably not, because mainstream news has done an atrocious job of laying it out in the detail it needs. Do you remember when the passage of NAFTA was a hot topic? Labor organizations were against it and painted as spoil sports because it might cut into the wages of members. But did you know that the major labor organizations were for a slightly different version of NAFTA? Virtually the same as the version proposed by the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment? Probably not, because that would require covering labor issues from a labor perspective.

 

Think about it. When was the last time you saw a labor issue covered at all? When they are it is generally just a brief report that union “X” and company “Y” are on the verge of a strike, end of story. Or it may come from the business angle of what this could do to the company. Never any analysis of the workers claims: are they getting shorted on overtime pay? Are there unsafe conditions? Are they getting no raises year after year while the top managers benefits go through the roof? You’re not likely to find out from mainstream news.

 

The one network most accused of being liberal is PBS. Its “The News Hour”, rarely has anyone but mainstream representatives of whatever the issue is; political leaders, business leaders, think tank spokesmen, more often from conservative think tanks.

 

The mainstream media do tend to like David-and-Goliath stories, which makes them prone to stories that sound like they’re picking on big-business and big-government, but it’s really just what makes good news copy. That hardly makes them liberal.

 

In his book Mr. Goldberg says the news anchors are out of touch with most Americans because they tend to vote Democratic. Let’s remember that about half the presidential votes went to Al Gore, and a significant number went to the more liberal Ralph Nader. Polls consistently show that even conservative voters are concerned about issues such as the environment. So, if there are periodic news stories on the topic, they’re simply being on target.

 

If mainstream news was roughly in the center one might think that that’s where they ought to be and they’re doing a good job. But the fact is they’re not. They rarely dig deep into a subject that needs it. They almost never use their imagination to find the issues or angles that should be important but aren’t. They are all to ready to run whomever had a “photo-op” today and call it news. The fact is it’s mostly milque-toast info-tainment and nobody depending on it is going to become an informed citizen.

 

Conservatives may not be happy with mainstream news, but I can guarantee one thing; it’s not because they’re making liberals happy. Here’s one of these issues where we could find common ground. I don’t think liberals or conservatives should be happy with most news. It’s an important job in keeping a free country running right, and it’s not being done nearly well enough.