March 24, 2003

The saga continues…

David Shaw weighs in again on bias in the news media, this time with more commentary on Eric Alterman’s recent book, What Liberal Media? This column is mostly a rehash of recent thought and events, but I do find Shaw’s conclusion worth highlighting:

But I think it’s the demonstrable presence of so many liberals in the big-city news media–and their coverage of antiwar activities and the civil rights, feminist, gay rights, consumer and environmental movements–that has enabled the conservatives to make their case for liberal bias.

To many conservatives, the very fact that the media covered these movements means the media were sympathetic to them and the coverage was, ipso facto, tainted by a liberal bias.

Moreover, journalists are skeptical, confrontational and iconoclastic, which means they challenge the establishment, while conservatives want to conserve it.

So the better journalists do their job, the more likely conservatives are to see them as liberal.

As I have said before, the very function of a free press–that sees itself as a check on power and the champion of the underdog–is a (classically) liberal enterprise. This, however, is quite different from overt, ideological bias. Overt bias is a local event, i.e. confined to an outlet, a journalist, an issue, or a local situation.

UPDATE (10:50 a.m.): In regard to the comment by Barney Gumble, let me clarify the last sentence of my post. By “local event” I mean a clearly identifiable rhetorical situation as opposed to a broad or general reality. Many of the examples he identifies qualify as such, in my opinion.

For further commentary, I recommend checking out today’s posts by MediaMinded: here and here.

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