More altercation over media bias…

MediaMinded considers Eric Alterman’s new book on media bias and makes some excellent observations. You’ll find my thoughts below.

He notes that, from the evidence of the introduction anyway, the book seems to be a response to such earlier works as Bernard Goldberg’s Bias–an easy target. Goldberg’s book has been soundly criticized and properly so, I think, for being simplistic in its research and overly personal in its attacks. Bias in the news media is a far more complicated affair. MediaMinded says:

As I’ve written before, I believe that the horse-race coverage of political races is a lot more balanced than many conservatives will admit. In my opinion, media coverage of certain important social issues — touching on race, crime, immigration, homosexuality, AIDS, abortion, feminism, religion and others — almost invariably is reported from what I would label an “American liberal” (as opposed to European leftist) position. If there’s any political fallout from this slanted coverage of hot-button social issues, it’s that Democrats tend to be portrayed as defenders of the weak and powerless (women, minorities) and Republicans tend to be portrayed as defenders of the powerful.

Good points.

The rub, of course, is coming to some understanding of why this bias happens that can cross ideological boundaries. I suggest that the structural biases of journalism may offer such an understanding.

UPDATE (11:20 a.m.): Eric Alterman considers media masochism–the propensity of TV media outlets to give air time to vociferous media critics. I think Dr. Alterman may be over-intellectualizing this a bit. It seems to me that these folks (Ann Coulter et. al.) are given the time for their entertainment value. Alterman asks:

Another way of putting this is aside from the blonde locks and the built-for-speed legs in the micro-minskirts, why have all of us even heard of Ann Coulter? Why is she considered even remotely important enough to force me to devote much of the book’s opening pages to examining the sources of her all-but-inexplicable success?

She is important in our culture because she is entertaining. That’s not difficult to understand. Let me make a suggestion (that will seem elitist and snarky): A serious book on media bias should not have to consider Ann Coulter or Bernard Goldberg seriously. But, then, it would be far less entertaining.

CLARIFICATION (3:55 p.m.): By (Ann Coulter et. al.) above, I mean to suggest all of her ilk–right and left. I do not mean to pick on the right alone in these comments.