Today’s journalists can’t stop themselves from socializing … on the web.
And their willingness to share their political views on social media sites like Twitter is solidifying the widely held belief that journalists lean to the left — and reveal their biases in their work.
That’s being gentle about it.
Survey after survey shows the ideological bent of most mainstream press reporters favors the Democratic Party. And that’s before one reads their stories, watches their news broadcasts and considers their collective mea culpa after giving Sen. Barack Obama the hands off treatment during the 2008 election cycle.
Still, press members continue to cling to their impartiality pose. But watching how some reporters work in our Twitter-fied culture makes it even more obvious such a stance can’t be believed.
CNN senior Business Correspondent Ali Velshi couldn’t contain himself when Sen. Jim Bunning (R.-Ky.) took a stand against extending jobless benefits for unemployed Americans. Bunning argued the money for such an action should come from unspent stimulus funds. He didn‘t want to add another dime to the ballooning, and many argue unsustainable, deficit.
That’s a debate worth having either in print or on the Web. Tell that to Velshi, who rushed to his Twitter account to fire up this salvo:
“Read for yourself why Bunning is an embarrassment 2 the Senate, 2 Washington @ 2 politics.” along with a link to a CNN story on the matter.
A glance at CNN’s Rick Sanchez’s Twitter feed finds him straining to be balanced, but the Tweets often include slams against insurance companies as well as other material sympathetic to the healthcare reform movement. One Tweet linked to a study showing how many people in the U.S. die, supposedly, because they lack healthcare coverage.
It’s not hard to guess what side of the Obamacare debate Sanchez is on.
Over at The Washington Post, managing editor Raju Narisetti found himself in trouble recently after letting his stance on healthcare reform hit the Twitter-verse.
According to newsbusters.org, Narisetti shared this on his Twitter account:
“We can incur all sorts of federal deficits for wars and what not. But we have to promise not to increase it by $1 for healthcare reform? Sad.”
The Tweet was used by the paper’s ombudsman to highlight new policies at the paper regarding supposed impartiality and the use of social media.
That’s a fine policy, but it’s a bit too late in Narisetti’s case. He eventually shut down his Twitter account even though one of his final tweets declared, “my tweets have nothing to do with my day job.”
We’d buy his argument if we hadn’t seen the Post turn Virginia Sen. George Allen’s “Macaca” moment into an election altering event a few years back, and how it tried a similar trick to derail Bob McDonnell’s gubernatorial campaign late last year with a decade’s old college thesis.
MSNBC host David Shuster confirms his network’s ideological bent repeatedly through his Twitter feed.
He called Tea Party participants “tea baggers” via the micro logging service and waged a personal battle against conservative journalist James O’Keefe, the young man who caught some ACORN employees in embarrassing situations last year.
Consider these aggressive — and factually incorrect — Shuster Tweets aimed at a fellow journalist:
@JamesOKeefeIII a) you are not a journalist b) the truth is you intended to tap her phones c) it’s a felony d) you will go to prison
@jamesokeefeIII oh, and did I mention that your tweet will help prosecutors prove intent? Keep at it, young man. I’m enjoying this a lot.
Why would a journalist “enjoy” the troubles of a young peer?
MSNBC’s Contessa Brewer tries to be impartial on her Twitter page, but she manages to link to articles that demean the Tea Party movement and applaud Sarah Palin — but only when the former governor critiques Rush Limbaugh for using the word “retarded.”
But these journalists can’t compare their social mutterings to Roger Ebert, the Pulitzer Prize winning film critic famous for his Thumb-struck reviews.
Movie reportage can’t compare to hard-news gathering, but as a cultural leader Ebert has no peers in his industry.
And while the legendary critic has been fighting a brave battle against thyroid cancer, he’s been enthusiastically blasting anyone who disagrees with his politics on his Twitter account, from Rush Limbaugh to Tea Party members.
Ebert’s Twitter temper tantrums wouldn’t be a concern if his movie reviews were fair and balanced. That’s hardly the case, as he helps steer movie audiences toward films reflecting his political biases.
Why would today’s journalists need a boss, ombudsman or even a peer to pat on the shoulder to remind them social media outbursts can strain their objectivity?
Well, if you live in the media bubble and everyone around you has virtually the same biases, those thoughts may never cross your mind.