Dissecting Liberal Media Bias

Most conservatives know there is left-liberal bias in most mainstream newspapers and all the broadcast networks, but they aren’t keeping score. Brent Bozell is–and has been since founding the Media Research Center in 1987. In the years since, he and his colleagues have meticulously catalogued thousands of instances of leftward tilts in major media. He has distilled his findings into a readable collection of cases in Weapons of Mass Distortion. He begins, however, by noting a recent phenomenon: the acknowledgment by some media liberals that there is bias. He quotes ABC’s Peter Jennings, “Historically in the media, it has been more of a liberal persuasion for many years. It has taken us a long time, too long in my view, to have vigorous conservative voices heard as widely in the media as they now are.” Bozell astutely observes that when Jennings and other liberals note there are now more conservative “voices” in the media these are almost always the voices of commentators, not reporters. Bozell writes, “There is no empirical evidence I’ve seen that there has been any marked increase of conservatives in the newsrooms.” Yet, the likes of Hillary Rodham Clinton and Al Franken peddle the canard that conservatives “control” the news media. Liberals advance the argument that conservative business people own many newspapers and their influence is reflected in endorsements of Republican presidential candidates. That may be true in some instances, but the editorial boards of most newspapers are made up not of owner’s representatives, but working journalists, most of whom are liberal (based upon years of post-presidential election surveys). The author claims double standards are used to further a liberal social agenda. He cites the beating and death of Matthew Shepard, a gay student at the University in Wyoming in 1998. The crime was headline news for weeks. When, however, a 13-year-old boy died, bound and gagged, as a result of “games” engaged in by two gay roommates a few months after the Shepard case, the mainstream media ignored the story entirely. Bozell builds his case carefully to show consistent leftward media bias with regard to taxation, environmental issues, gun control, religion and abortion. He cites, for example, the three broadcast networks’ coverage of the Bush tax-cut proposal of January 2003. Between January 2-15 that year, he and his colleagues found on ABC, CBS and NBC 28 stories about the proposal. In these, he says, “the liberal mantra was repeated over and over: Bush’s tax cuts comforts only the rich.” Liberal-dominated newsrooms, both print and broadcast, tilt the news to their worldview in two ways: selection of stories and reportorial treatment. Bozell takes us through the September 11, 2001 al-Qaeda attack, Afghanistan and the Iraq War to illustrate the point. Although Weapons of Mass Distortion will reinforce the beliefs of many conservatives that they are on the receiving end of a daily barrage of liberal interpretation of events, there is hope. In his final chapter, “The Coming Meltdown of the Liberal Media,” He cites the steady drop in viewers of broadcast network news programs and the declines in daily newspaper readership (from 77.6% in 1970 to 55.4% in 2002.) A July 2003 Pew Center report showed that 53% “believe that news organizations are politically biased” and “twice as many say news organizations are ‘liberal’ (51%) than ‘conservative.’” Two months later, a Gallup survey showed that 46% of Americans, when asked how much trust they have in the news media, said, “not very much” or “none at all.” To hasten the “meltdown” of liberal media, the author does not deliver the ultimate remedy: an intense effort by parents and advisors to get conservative college writers to seek careers in the nation’s newsrooms.