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August 05, 2003

LIBERAL MEDIA?....Is the press biased? That's a blogosphere favorite, so this study by Michael Tomasky ought to get a lot of attention (Howard Kurtz has a summary here). Tomasky studied the editorial pages of two liberal papers (the New York Times and Washington Post) and two conservative papers (the Wall Street Journal and Washington Times) and compared the way they treated ten "roughly comparable" events in the Clinton and Bush administrations.

Tomasky's basic conclusion is that the conservative editorial pages were far more partisan than the liberal ones:

  • At the liberal papers, 36% of editorials were favorable toward Clinton while the conservative papers were favorable toward Bush 77% of the time.

  • Conversely, the liberal papers were negative toward Bush only 67% of the time, while the conservative papers were negative toward Clinton 89% of the time.

This result really doesn't surprise me, especially in the case of the Wall Street Journal, which has an attack mentality that's simply unmatched among major American newspapers. Their schooyard tone and appalling level of intellectual dishonesty is unique and, unfortunately, probably quite influential. A lot of businessmen don't read any opinion pages except the WSJ's, and I've long suspected that the Journal is responsible for a considerable part of the general hardening and sense of entitlement that corporate executives demonstrate these days.

In another sense, however, I have a hard time taking Tomasky's study seriously. It's not that there's any problem with his methodology, it's just that I don't think it addresses the real issue that conservatives claim to have with the media: not political bias, and not editorial page bias, but the default assumption of socially liberal values in the news columns. Eric Alterman was honest enough to address that issue in What Liberal Media?, and his conclusion was, basically, that conservatives probably had a point. Not as big a point as they complain about, but a point nonetheless.

Now, needless to say, social bias in news stories is so subtle that it's probably impossible for any study to ever draw any firm conclusions about it. But even so, I think that's the primary point of contention, so while Tomasky's study is interesting it doesn't really address the core issue of media bias. That, I think, will probably continue to remain happily in the realm of fact-free ranting.

Posted by Kevin Drum at August 5, 2003 04:33 PM | TrackBack


Comments

This study utterly misses the point. The question about liberal vs. conservative bias does not arise because of editorial stances. Editorial pages are the proper forum for expressing specific views with whatever preconceptions/worldviews that may underly them.

The issue of bias arises in the journalism pages. That's the complaint. Whether the NYT or Washington Times fairly and accurately reports an event or whether their reporting emphasizes/omits/tailors information so as to serve a specific editorial agenda.

The complaint is not that editorial views are slanted, without such slanting, they'd be nearly worthless. Joe Lellyveld, Paul Gigot etc, go rant to your heart's content. The complaint is when the editorial view leaks into the news reporting, whether intentionally or inadvertantly.

BTW, the ongoing conflicts between the editorial and journalistic staffs of the WSJ make it a wonderful daily read.

Posted by: spc67 at August 5, 2003 04:52 PM | PERMALINK

One of the problems about media bias is interpretation. When you reach the Kausian levels of sublime idiocy, where liberal bias is liberal bias and conservative bias is liberal bias, masked, you eventually come to the point where every article could declare Joe McCarthy the patron saint of Good Stuff, and you'd still have to worry about the insidious liberalism of the press, because the New York Times had a misprint where his name was spelled Joe McCarty.

Posted by: jesse at August 5, 2003 04:52 PM | PERMALINK

Er, confirming Kevin's thesis.

Posted by: spc67 at August 5, 2003 04:53 PM | PERMALINK

Whether the NYT or Washington Times fairly and accurately reports an event or whether their reporting emphasizes/omits/tailors information so as to serve a specific editorial agenda. --

Neither one does on a far-too-frequent basis, and neither of their problems are liberal bias.

Posted by: jesse at August 5, 2003 04:53 PM | PERMALINK

Michael Tomasky??? Why not just have Paul Krugman do the study? Gee, you think Ann COulter would come up with the opposite result?

Posted by: Al at August 5, 2003 05:03 PM | PERMALINK

Anyway, the situation isn't necessarily symmetric to begin with, since Bush isn't just the opposite of Clinton. It could be that the liberal and conservative papers were equally partisan, but Clinton was a more centrist president than Bush, so naturally the liberal papers would be less favorably disposed toward him than the conservative ones toward Bush.

Really, ultimately all these studies of media bias run up against this problem of calibration. What is the center? What is unbias? Also, sampling: are the NYT and the Washington Post together a fair sample of liberal papers, or is the choice of them instead of, say, the Nation and the Village Voice a case of assuming what they set out to prove? If the argument is that right-wingnut papers are more major papers than left-wingnut ones, then isn't that more a statement about what sells than about how the media are biased?

The only thing I know for sure is that the media are all biased against the views of whoever happens to be complaining about media bias at the time. I just came off reading yet another rant about how the plutocrats have used to media to poison my mind to keep Chomsky from getting any traction.

Posted by: Matt McIrvin at August 5, 2003 05:03 PM | PERMALINK

Couldn't one say that there is a problem with Tomasky's methodology, in the choice of papers being compared?
Are the NYT and WaPo are simply not the ideological papers that WSJ and WashTimes are- they're in a different league. I know that's part of the point, but it seems to me that this is a comparison between liberal apples and conservative oranges. I would guess the circulation figures as well are wildly divergent.
Which makes me wonder something- are there any US newspapers that resemble WSJ and WashTimes on the left?

Posted by: Poop Ruiz at August 5, 2003 05:03 PM | PERMALINK

Fair enough, but speaking as a liberal, this study compares two actual newspapers, the Times and the Post, with the WSJ which certainly is a newspaper in its news, but not in its op-eds, and the Washington Times, which is an organ of Sun Myung Moon's. The author's sample field is simply not fair to conservatives.
Poop Ruiz makes this point.

Posted by: John Isbell at August 5, 2003 05:11 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, that was a great post.

Posted by: Joe Schmoe at August 5, 2003 05:14 PM | PERMALINK

Al: I suspect that Tomasky did a decent job even though he's a liberal. I wouldn't dismiss the study because of that.

Matt: I agree. I didn't want to make my post overly long by adding that, but the fact that Clinton was more centrist than Bush probably accounts for some of the difference.

Poop: I think the choice of papers was quite reasonable. The point was not to pick the most partisan papers, but to compare the partisanship of the most influential papers. On that score, I think Tomasky made the right choices.

Posted by: Kevin Drum at August 5, 2003 05:16 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder how Howie squares this with last week's Newspapers Are Mean To Conservatives column?

I did think it was interesting that he put the Washington Post forward as a liberal paper which would be expected to support Clinton.

I wonder what paper he reads.

Posted by: julia at August 5, 2003 05:19 PM | PERMALINK

With so many critics, I hate to upset the equilibrium by whacking this pinata from the right. (And yes, Editorial page bias is not the issue). However, the Kurtz summary did nothing for my confidence. The issues he picked for comparison:
(1) The Hillary task force refusal to disclose its records versus the Cheney energy task force refusal to do same. At the risk of annoying everyone with tired right-wind spin, these are not symmetric issues - Cheney is an elected official of the executive branch, and Hillary was not. The legal and constitutional issues were different, and , if I recall, it might be entirely possible to have opposite views on the legality of non-disclosure in the two cases.

(2) Janet Reno's first year versus Ashcroft's first year. Waco versus what? And yes, she got some good press for Waco initially, but I don't remember her first year as a triumph.

So, Tomasky delivers a flawed attempt to answer the wrong question. Sounds like just another post at my blog (which is free!).

Posted by: Tom Maguire at August 5, 2003 05:21 PM | PERMALINK

AI/Al (not sure what your name is) - you demonstrate the issues of symmetry perfectly. Comparing Coulter to Krugman is like comparing the crash of the Hindenberg to your car getting dinged by a shopping cart.

Posted by: jesse at August 5, 2003 05:26 PM | PERMALINK

In another sense, however, I have a hard time taking Tomasky's study seriously. It's not that there's any problem with his methodology, it's just that I don't think it addresses the real issue that conservatives claim to have with the media: not political bias, and not editorial page bias, but the default assumption of socially liberal values in the news columns.

Wow- It is just so nice to read someone actually say that and acknowledge it.

I still a great deal of the bias in the media is due to the ignorance of the reporters involved combined with a healthy dose of sheer laziness. If we accept that the majority of reporters are more liberal personally and tend to vote for Democrats, I don't think they INTENTIONALLY write news stories that are biased, but should a story come up with multiple angles, they will latch on to the one they know the best, or they distort the viewpoint of the opposition because they are too lazy to explore it and understand it. That nehavior stems from laziness and a lack of intellectual curiousity, not necessarily partisan motivations, yet the end result can often be the same.

Posted by: John Cole at August 5, 2003 05:36 PM | PERMALINK

would that be so even though their bosses, who promote them and give them raises, are overwhelmingly Bush supporters? (2/1 in the last election).

How noble of the reporters to be the only profession in society that doesn't let advancement to the highly-paid ranks of an underpaid profession affect their judgment.

Posted by: julia at August 5, 2003 05:46 PM | PERMALINK

My take: the bias leftward in the news pages, via beat reporters, is on social issues only, virtually never economic, and is, in any case, extremely mild.

As demonstrated by Tomasky, the leftward tilt even on overtly leftward-tilting editorial pages is mild, diluted by typical guilty-liberal attempts to be "balanced."

The rightward tilt of overtly right-tilting editorial pages (and, one might add, tv networks) is not mild. It is aggrieved, and virulent, and unrelenting, in a constant political knife fight with absolutely no quarter offered to perceived enemies.

So, liberals get two milds, and conservatives get two extremes. I'll leave it to readers to speculate on which works best in our current intellectual/political culture.

Posted by: Realish at August 5, 2003 06:30 PM | PERMALINK

"A lot of businessmen don't read any opinion pages except the WSJ's".

This statement requires emplical justification. The the causation is tenuas in the sentence that follows --the Journal could be reflecting Wall Street, not shaping it's views.

Posted by: Damien Smith at August 5, 2003 07:03 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry for the typo on tenuous.

Posted by: Damien Smith at August 5, 2003 07:04 PM | PERMALINK

Realish--you're right, lets talk about TV...

This is perhaps an obvious point, but newspapers are not really the best place to look for bias. Bias in Television news is far more common, and far more influential. Can any of those claiming a liberal media bias stand there with a straight face and say that this is the case with television news?

The point that news reporting and opinion pages are generally separated in newspapers is a good one (spc67), but I fear that this is not the case on television. Is "Scarborough Country" a news program or an opinion forum? What about that elfin-looking dude on Fox News (if someone could help me with his name, id appreciate it. he looks just like the elf king from lord of the rings)? The lines are more than a little blurred. And please don't tell me that no one takes Fox News seriously.

The only place there is anything like a true liberal media bias is on the Lifetime network...

Posted by: kokblok at August 5, 2003 08:49 PM | PERMALINK

The other thing that's worth noting about the study is that 9/11 changed things for a while. It would not surprise me at all to find that the liberal papers went a little easier on Bush, even on unrelated issues, than they otherwise would have. Unfortunately, that's durn near impossible to prove.

I wonder why they didn't compare, say, Clinton to Reagan? Or Clinton to Bush I?

Posted by: PaulB at August 5, 2003 08:56 PM | PERMALINK

I have a hard time making sense of a discussion like this because I'm utterly confused about the definition of "conservative" these days. If Bush/Cheney/Rove are conservatives, then the term has been so radically altered from its traditional meaning that I don't even know how to begin to respond to Tomasky's work.

Posted by: peter jung at August 5, 2003 09:15 PM | PERMALINK

The phrase "media bias" has, for me, shifted meaning a bit since I started working on my latest gig, which involves a lot of digging around in late 19th/ early 20th century newspapers.

This is a NYTimes editorial from July 27, 1894:

Miss Ida B. Wells, a mulatress who has been "stumping" the British Islands to set forth the brutality of Southern white men and the unchastity and untruthfulness of Southern white women, has just returned to these shores. On the same day on which an interview with her was reported it was also reported that a negro had made an assault upon a white woman for purposes of lust and plunder, not in Texas or Mississippi, but in the heart of the City of New-York. The wretch is probably safe from lynching here, which is to the credit of the civilization of New-York. Thus far he seems to have escaped the clutch of the law. But the circumstances of his fiendish crime may serve to convince the mulatress missionary that the promulgation in New-York just now of her theory of negro outrages is, to say the least of it, inappropriate.

I have no idea if anyone reading this even knows who Ida B. Wells was, but I'm reasonably certain that we all agree on these notions:

* The term "mulatress missionary" is gratuitously insulting.

* One unspecified assault is not equivalent to, and does not justify, a series of socially sanctioned murders. (Wells was an anti-lynching crusader.)

* The following sentence — "The wretch is probably safe from lynching here, which is to the credit of the civilization of New-York." — is not an emphatic statement in opposition to lynching, which is what one would expect.

Clearly, these universal agreements were not in place in 1894.

I think that's what we're all wrangling with, trying to find the universal agreements, the default settings for our culture — what's okay, and what's just not done. Yes, of course, media, culture, memes — whatever — it's all much more diffused and pervasive (kinda like WMDs) than it was in 1894. But c'mon — would the NYTimes print that editoral today? Can you think of any mainstream outlet that would?

Again, I'm not imputing any latent racism to our wingnut friends. I'm hoping that others might see from this small sample what I'm learning: the specifics change, and the scale expands, but the argument is the same.

Posted by: jupiter at August 5, 2003 09:47 PM | PERMALINK

My take is that the liberal bent, such as it may be, of the reporters as people (as opposed to reporters as reporters), means that they bend over too much in favor of the Right.

In other words, they will quickly question, in a news story, the spin of, say, Clinton, but they will report the stuff that Bush says as if it were fact, or even sensible. Thus in trying to be "fair" to Bush, they actually give him more of a pass than they would Clinton.

But then, I'm biased.

Posted by: craigie at August 5, 2003 11:15 PM | PERMALINK

For a more in depth report, the Council for Excellence in Government did a study on media for the last twenty years, documenting every aspect of government in the media. The findings were that for every president since Reagan, the percentage of good and bad press was fairly consistent. The study encompassed print media as well as television. If you're interested, I've posted a copy of the report here.

Posted by: The Voice at August 5, 2003 11:32 PM | PERMALINK

Studies have shown that 30% of liberal blogs will state uncritically that the media is liberal, while 95% of conservative blogs make this statement. Conversely, only 50% of liberal blogs say the media is conservative, compared to only 2% of conservative blogs.

Perhaps there is an insidious socially liberal stance in the media; this, still, isn't the point. What matters is the simple political bias shown in the 'hard news' pages, and the simple truth is that in the last decade, there has been an inarguably pro-Republican-politician bias in these columns. Perhaps this is all post-9/11 Bush beatification, but even if it is, does this make it any less true?

Posted by: neil at August 5, 2003 11:52 PM | PERMALINK

*Yawn* I'm tired of talking about this subject....the fact that conservatives think the media is liberal and liberals think the media is conservative indicates to me that the media ends up being pretty non-ideological, taken altogether. Yes, there's obvious bias with some people, but give me a break. It's like a pro sports games, where both sides are complaining about the refs.

Posted by: nota bene at August 6, 2003 12:13 AM | PERMALINK

The term "mulatress missionary" is gratuitously insulting.

For 1894? I'd say that's charmingly direct. She's a missionary who happens to be a female mulatto; if you were a late 19th century journalist (with the Spanish-American War right around the corner) how would you describe her?

Posted by: Anarch at August 6, 2003 12:29 AM | PERMALINK

*Yawn* I'm tired of talking about this subject....the fact that conservatives think the media is liberal and liberals think the media is conservative indicates to me that the media ends up being pretty non-ideological, taken altogether.

This is an utterly unwarrated conclusion. And, in fact, it's wrong. Don't fall prey to the pressure to be "balanced" at the expense of the facts, nota bene. Don't mistrust the evidence of your senses and the evidence of your intellect in favor of being a cynical faux-'grown-up'.

Racism is not equally represented on both sides of the aisle. Nor is extremism. Nor are dirty, precendent-breaking political tricks.

Michael Moore is not the equivalent of Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh. Nor is Bill Moyers. Nor is Noam Chomsky.

And bias is not evenly spread in the media. There is a mild socially-liberal bias among reporters, but it is swamped by the overt, extreme conservative bias of the majority of high-visibility pundits, radio hosts, and tv news anchors.

"Balance" is lazy. And not only that, the pressure for "balance" favors the side that plays dirty. Let's shoot for "truth" instead.

Posted by: Realish at August 6, 2003 12:34 AM | PERMALINK

Liberal government rests on technocracy - the idea of a professional core of comptence and honesty which is required to engage in policy. The pervasive lies coming from the government on basic statistics show that yes, "liberal" bias is a thing of the past, and we are now in a state where disinformation, and not information, is the basic currency of how policy is enacted.

Raise your hand if you think this will work for any length of time.

Posted by: Stirling Newberry at August 6, 2003 03:55 AM | PERMALINK

Michael Moore is not the equivalent of Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh. Nor is Bill Moyers. Nor is Noam Chomsky.

You are right. Noam Chomsky is far worse than any of those characters, having spread more vicious lies about America and Israel than anyone else I can think of- He deserves a special mention all his own. Michael Moore, whose Oscar documentary was a work of fiction, appears to be following his lead. BTW- not only are these pair odious, but there is a lot of foreign consumption of these two- the same can not be said of Coulter and Limbaugh.

Furthermore, I don't know ONE person who takes Ann Coulter seriously.

Posted by: John Cole at August 6, 2003 05:05 AM | PERMALINK

how about Phyllis Schlafly?
http://www.townhall.com/columnists/BIOS/cbschlafly.htm

here's the column: http://www.townhall.com/columnists/phyllisschlafly/ps20030804.shtml

thanks to jesse
http://www.pandagon.net/archives/00001437.htm

Posted by: markus at August 6, 2003 05:37 AM | PERMALINK

I loved the statistics about political blogs. My own survey has shown that 68% of right-wing blogs are written by pod aliens, whereas 92% of left-wings blogs are written by candidates for sanctification. Admittedly I haven't told you my criteria.

Posted by: John Isbell at August 6, 2003 06:15 AM | PERMALINK

What tv news anchor is to the right, Realish?

BTW, pundits are supposed to be biased (that's sorta their job, to give their opinion) & radio hosts don't hide their bias behind the 'nonpartisan' label.

Posted by: RW at August 6, 2003 06:20 AM | PERMALINK

John Cole-

Federal judge and conservative author Richard Posner takes Ann Coulter seriously. He named her one of the top 100 Public Intellectuals in 2001.

As you are no doubt aware, Posner is one of the high priests of the Right- and you wonder why we have trouble taking you guys seriously?

Posted by: peter jung at August 6, 2003 06:22 AM | PERMALINK

Regarding media bias, it's worth noting that progressives are the ones who most vigorously make the case against further media consolidation.
This is odd, given that the Right has been whining for decades about liberal bias in the news. If indeed the Right believes that liberal bias is pervasive, then THEY ought to be the ones howling about consolidation, no?

Posted by: peter jung at August 6, 2003 06:29 AM | PERMALINK

I wonder how much percieved "liberal bias" in the news part of the press stems from the business practices of not alienating the customer base especially when considering social issues. For example, I would think that a social conservative would consider a story that treated an event involving a gay person or a gay issue as a "straight" news story without making an issue of the person's gayness, or without including an obligatory (to those on the right) viewpoint from someone condemning homosexuality as liberal bias, or even "advancing" the "gay agenda". Yet, if the paper is in an area with a sizeable gay population, the newspaper, as a business, would have no business reason to alienate a part of its customer base - so the percieved "bias" of not going along with knee-jerk ritual right wing condemnation isn't about "liberal bias" but is a business reason because the right wing agenda tends to be quite exclusionary - which is bad for any media business wishing to maximize its patronage.

To me, it seems that a decent part of the right wing agenda IS exclusionary and dependent on keeping certain groups of people marginalized. Is the fact then, that media outlets which depend partly on the business of these same people so and refuse to go along with this overt marginalization examples of "liberal bias" - or just a refusal to pander to "conservative bias"?

Posted by: Andy at August 6, 2003 06:47 AM | PERMALINK

"Noam Chomsky is far worse than any of those characters, having spread more vicious lies about America and Israel than anyone else I can think of- He deserves a special mention all his own. "

ROTFALMAO!!!!!

Posted by: David Ehrenstein at August 6, 2003 07:21 AM | PERMALINK

"which news anchor is to the right?"- RW

C'mon, now...
1)almost anyone on MSNBC
2)anyone on Fox News

I think some of the posters have a good point, though, which is that we must separate out social, national security, and economic issues in order to understand where bias lies. In fact, we'd do well to separate each issue.
I would say that the print media is quite liberal on social issues, but extremely conservative on national security and especially economic issues.
The worst news bias has nothing to do with traditional liberal/conservative splits, but with the complete disregard the media shows towards certain parts of the world.
For example, Conservatives claim that the media is biased against Israel, because it constantly reports on the transgressions of the IDF, which are trivial in comparison with the actions of many governments around the world. I think this is true, but it does not mean that the media is neccesarily biased in favor of palestinians...after all, terrorist bombings in Tel Aviv also get quite a bit more air time than terrorist bombings in Sri Lanka. Does this mean the media is pro-Israel? It would have to, if you accept the conservative logic above. But, perhaps the media is simply biased towards reporting the Israeli-Palestinian crisis at the expense of other stories. The news reporting of the massacres in Rwanda, which should have been the event of the decade, was shamefully scant. This was the worst media blunder of the 1990s, because it probably cost thousands of lives (a more aggressive press *might* have led to a quicker intervention), and yet it is hard to pin on either conservative or liberal media bias.

Posted by: kokblok at August 6, 2003 07:34 AM | PERMALINK

As a conservative who mildly believes in the liberal bias of the media (while strongly disbelieving in the possibility of an unbiased media) I have to say these results don't surprise me a bit. I actually read all four papers regularly, and have subscriptions to the two Washington papers. The WaTimes is in a league of its own; it makes absolutely no attempt to be anything other than a hard-right paper. Its editorial page does criticize the current administration, but always from the right. The WSJ editorial page has a more intelligent, but almost equally partisan viewpoint. It has one token liberal op/ed writer.

From the right, the NYTimes editorial page looks like the mirror image of the WSJ. It writes very well, but universally from the left. It was extremely critical of the Clinton administration, but almost always from the left. It has zero credibility with conservatives, much like I expect the WaTimes and the WSJ have with the left.

I believe the WaPost is by far the best political paper in the country, and has the best and most interesting op/ed pages. They have a wide variety of writers, possibly weighted right, as the editorials are weighted left. I'd be interested in a comparison of just the NYTimes and the WSJ.

Does anyone here read Lying In Ponds? She attempts to make the same judgements of editorial writers, though she doesn't include the WaTimes writers. Not surprisingly, she rates Ann Coulter as the most partisan writer, followed closely by Scheer and Krugman. The writers she rates break down pretty evenly left and right. Interestingly, though, theose who are critical of Republicans are significantly more so than those who are critical of Democrats (Coulter 53, Scheer 79 are the top of each list).

Posted by: MattJ at August 6, 2003 07:44 AM | PERMALINK

C'mon, now...
1)almost anyone on MSNBC

Christie Muzamechi is a RWer? Lester Holt?

2)anyone on Fox News
David Asman? Rick Folbaum? Jon Scott?

Which ones?
Please tell me you guys aren't lumping in hosts of *opinion* shows (such as Buchanan/Press, O'Reilly, Hannity/Colmes, Hardball) with news anchors - which was the context.

Posted by: RW at August 6, 2003 08:20 AM | PERMALINK

Anarch —

>>The term "mulatress missionary" is gratuitously insulting.

>For 1894? I'd say that's charmingly direct. She's a missionary who happens to be a female mulatto; if you were a late 19th century journalist (with the Spanish-American War right around the corner) how would you describe her?

I think it was meant as an insult, since it's doubly inaccurate: Wells was neither a mulatto nor a religious missionary. But insult or honest mistake, you're right in one sense: the language clearly was considered acceptable.

That's what's changed. No editorial in a contemporary mainstream publication would ever use the phrase "mulattress missionary" (however accurate) — and not out of sissy PC self-censorship. We've all agreed that it's offensive and its use discredits the speaker. We've moved on to new arguments over what is and is not offensive, and why.

Posted by: jupiter at August 6, 2003 08:21 AM | PERMALINK

Face facts. The media is locked in the vise-like grip of a "Conservative"mindset. There has been a cleverly-orchestrated, lavishly-funded campaign over the past decade to outlaw Liberal thought.

You read me right -- OUTLAW it.

Next to no one will identify themselves as a Liberal today. And those that are given the "Liberal" label by the Reactionary powers-that-be are invariably Center-Right, like Bill Clinton.

That's right, folks -- BILL CLINTON ISN'T A LIBERAL!

Naturally by saying that most of you think I'm certifiable.

So be it.

Posted by: David Ehrenstein at August 6, 2003 09:30 AM | PERMALINK

I'm not going to take the time to examine the bios of the newscasters RW mentions except to say that anybody that thinks that David Asman is anything other than a hard right wing shill has deep seated problems perceiving reality.

Asman was an editorial writer for WSJ for 12 years before becoming their editorial features editor. He was at that job for 5 years or so before Roger Ailes lured him away to his present job.

And there seems to be a consensus here that the WSJ's editorials during that time were the always coming from the right and often coulteresque in their dishonesty.

Posted by: Zelig at August 6, 2003 09:39 AM | PERMALINK

MattJ writes: From the right, the NYTimes editorial page looks like the mirror image of the WSJ.

But the conclusion of Tomasky's study is that that impression is incorrect. The New York Times is much more likely to criticize the Democrats than the Wall Street Journal is to critize Republicans. The NYT is similarly much more likely to praise Republicans than the WSJ is to praise Democrats. They aren't mirror images of each other.

Posted by: Daryl McCullough at August 6, 2003 10:31 AM | PERMALINK

Thx, Zelig. However, a bio on folks past - considering that the Washington bureau chief for NBC and the chief political analyst for ABC are both former Dem staffers - is probably not what Realish had in mind. Otherwise, it hurts the premise - much more so when one considers that a network newscast on a bad night will have around 5 times as many viewers as FNCCNNMSNBC combined.

OT, I'm amazed that so many people analyze editorial pages and pundit shows as a way to disprove 'bias'. It's sorta like choosing a HS basketball team to use as evidence that the people attending the school really aren't all that short.

There are plenty of resources out there for news analysis, left & right. Make up your own decision.

Of course, if you disagree with me, you're wrong. :)

Posted by: RW at August 6, 2003 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

I wouldn't want to defend everything Chomsky has ever said, but when he accuses the US and Israel of committing atrocities and lying about it, he's usually right.

On the subject of media bias, I think you see the bias you'd expect from people who are well educated secular affluent types who hobnob with the politicians they write about. They're usually liberal on issues involving sex, centrist or even conservative on taxing and spending, and generally do their best to sound "patriotic" on foreign policy issues, which means they're apt to downplay American wrongdoing (as Chomsky and many others have demonstrated). They're not jingoistic enough to suit the conservatives, however, so they still get labelled as "leftwing".

Posted by: Donald Johnson at August 6, 2003 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

The whole "Yellowcakegate" scandal is a perfect example of how "conservative bias" has replaced "liberal bias" in the mass media.

Bush told his lies about Iraqi uranium in January, but the story didn't break until Wilson himself published the op-ed in the NYT.

If the press is so hell-bent on busting Bush's balls, wouldn't they have brought up the lies in the preceding 6 months? Of course not, because their owners wanted the increased ratings of a war, so they acted in an overtly conservative manner, protecting Bush's lies until a 3rd party (Wilson) blew the lid off the whole circle-jerk.

This story is proof-positive that the conservative bias in the media isn't in what they cover, it's what they don't cover.

Posted by: Ras_Nesta at August 6, 2003 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

I keep hearing about how all these reporters are socially liberal but fiscally conservative, but I'll be damned if I can recall the last time any network news show did a story on how social spending is too large, tax rates were too high or that charities should be the first option instead of gov't.

Not that it hasn't happened, but I just can't recall any between 'fiscally conservative' reporters tell me about Bush's "huge" or "massive" tax cuts, which may lead to "slashes" in social spending.

Posted by: RW at August 6, 2003 11:52 AM | PERMALINK

RW--
I think that your vision of a strict division between "opinion" and "news" on television today is what is flawed.
Of course, few would mistake the O'Reilly Factor or Hannity and Colmes (or, ot be fair, the late Donahue) for "unbiased" journalism, whatever that means.
My point was that there are legions of anchors on Fox and MSNBC that tend to blur the lines, and that they are generally conservative. I already named names, or at least distinguishing characteristics: Scarborough, the elf dude, Cavato. I could have also said "anyone on CNBC", but you'd probably rightly counter with "who watches that?"
RW, you are right to point out that more people watch any single network newscast than they do watch any single cable news "program"...but, i'm sure that if you added up all the time that people watched cable news it would dwarf the amount of time they watched network news. Total viewing time is what matters, not Nielson ratings...(why do you think cable news repeats the same stories over and over again?)

Of course, my deeper problem with the conservative news anchors is not that they are "biased"--it's that they are wrong.

Posted by: kokblok at August 6, 2003 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

kokblok (great name),

I think that your vision of a strict division between "opinion" and "news" on television today is what is flawed.

Well, when someone says "news anchor", I pretty much assume they mean news anchor & not opinion show host.

Scarborough isn't a news show, it's an opinion show & Cavuto has stated that he's a host & a commentator. He even has a segment with the word "commentary" highlighted when he gives his POV (something missing on too many shows, IMO). Now, pls don't mistake me for shilling - I think Fox leans to the right & you're quite correct, the hosts are also on the right. But, as long as they're up front about it (like Donahue) I have no problem. They're analysis/opinion/commentary segments designed to discuss the latest.

The folks who tell us what happened as part of the news is what concerns me, although I don't think it's anywhere near as bad as it used to be.

BTW, adding up all the time comes out in favor of the nets as well. The evening news shows, shows like Nightline, 20/20, Primetime, etc, all dwarf the cable channels.

The thing is, if the nets DID present a balanced view, there'd be no Fox taking from their audience, IMO. There'd be no need.

Posted by: RW at August 6, 2003 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

RW--
No rightward tendencies in economic reporting?
Perhaps we are using different definitions of the term "conservative" (or the term "economic"), but it seems to me like the excessive, day-to-day attention paid to the stock market as an indicator of national economic well-being is peoples' exhibit A.
I might add the entire "Fleecing of America" series on NBC, which implies all government programs are wastes of time and money. And let's not forget the brou-ha-ha over "frivolous torts", a media-created problem if I've ever seen one (I admit, this may not be strictly "economic". you make the call)....

"I can't recall any 'fiscally conservative' reporters tell me about Bush's 'huge' and 'massive' tax cuts, etc."----RW, I dont know what this part of your post is supposed to mean...please clarify...

Posted by: kokblok at August 6, 2003 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

Hmmm, the fact that news media organizations are unwilling to hammer Bush on rapidly expanding government makes them 'conservative'. Fascinating.

I suppose that if Bush became ardently pro-choice on abortion and the news media refused to attack him on that basis you would also use that as proof that the media is 'conservative'?

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at August 6, 2003 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

Sebastian Holsclaw--
I didn't say anything about 'conservatives' not attacking Bush for his tax cuts. That was RW, a self-professed conservative, who I was quoting (sorry for not using italics, I'm new to this)..I was confused at his statement as well..

Posted by: kokblok at August 6, 2003 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, that was my pathetic attempt at sarcasm.

I typed: but I just can't recall any between 'fiscally conservative' reporters tell me about Bush's "huge" or "massive" tax cuts, which may lead to "slashes" in social spending.

What I meant to type: but I just can't recall any between the 'fiscally conservative' reporters telling me about Bush's "huge" or "massive" tax cuts, which may lead to "slashes" in social spending.

I recall numerous reports about the 'huge' tax cuts, but none pertaining to the validity of them or that they may be too small.

but it seems to me like the excessive, day-to-day attention paid to the stock market as an indicator of national economic well-being is peoples' exhibit A.
The viability of one of the foundations of our nation's economy is 'conservative'? Sorry, "Bulls & Bears" won't show up on many Young Republicans' must-see list. They're too busy watching the DNC wet-dream West Wing, anyway (speaking of bias in the media - how about your very own prime-time drama to push your ideology and pet projects?).

Posted by: RW at August 6, 2003 01:19 PM | PERMALINK

RW--
Now here is where I can agree with you...the place to look for liberal media bias is not in broadcasting, but in prime-time dramas and hollywood movies.
Sorry I am a little drunk now (day off work), but I think I am competent enough to co-opt Coulter's old arguement about why conservative bias is A-OK in the news..."Well, it's because that's what people want to see!" And so it is with liberal bias in sitcoms and movies...

Is the stock market really that important to be the only piece of economic news many people are aware of? What about the constant cheerleading about 'consumer confidence'? "Buy more crap, or else you're a bad citizen for hurting the markets!" The bears and bulls are a bit of a fetish, won't you agree? Especially in an era of trans-national capitalism...

I don't think you adressed the "Fleecing of America" phenomenon (tax-payer as victim) or the frivoulous tort urban legends.

Posted by: kokblok at August 6, 2003 01:39 PM | PERMALINK

The critical issue is bias in the news sections of newspapers. The NYT has a habit of leading stories on economics or Iraq with consistantly negative opening paragraphs and headlines. The WaPo is much less biased in news columns. The WSJ has unbiased news columns and the reporters often disagree with the editorial pages. I don't read the Wash Times. Turn of the century newspapers were wildly biased compared to the present (except perhaps Krugman and Scheer) and so the whole question has little practical imapct.

Posted by: Mike Kennedy at August 6, 2003 04:44 PM | PERMALINK

Have you been following the Washington Post's series about the Democratic presidential candidates?

They start, or at least they have so far, with the candidate ranting and raving with veins bulging in their foreheads because they're so animated by their uncontrollable rage about Bush.

Oddly, although he's rather well-known for both petulance and tantrum throwing, there has been no similar article about the Republican candidate.

As a matter of fact, we 'saw' him leading the nation forcefully in the wake of the attacks on the WTC, from a plane which later turned out to have non-functioning communications equipment.

I don't think the Washington Post is a great example of liberal media bias.

Posted by: julia at August 6, 2003 06:26 PM | PERMALINK

Wait a minute, now. When the Post and the Times criticized Clinton, did they criticize him because he was too moderate and not liberal enough? I don't remember it that way. Where do we get the idea that the Times and the Post are all that liberal?

Much more tiresome than the continual complaints about press bias from one side or the other, is the cliche that "since both sides are complaining things must be about OK, and besides, who can say really?" Couldn't we at least declare that response to be the most obvious generic answer, so that people no longer are able to present it as the result of their deep thinking on the subject?

Posted by: zizka at August 6, 2003 08:04 PM | PERMALINK

but I think I am competent enough to co-opt Coulter's old arguement about why conservative bias is A-OK in the news..."Well, it's because that's what people want to see!" And so it is with liberal bias in sitcoms and movies...
An excellent rebuttal against arguments pertaining to Fox News. Taking into account that sitcom viewership is down (dunno about the movies) & you're helping my point. You could be my proxy against the arguments pertaining to ClearChannel & talk radio, since lotsa folks don't happen to give as much credence to 'choice' when it comes to arenas where their preferences fall short.

I don't think you adressed the "Fleecing of America" phenomenon (tax-payer as victim) or the frivoulous tort urban legends.
I haven't said that the network news is 100% DNC talking points, but I've also yet to see any 'fleecing of America' reports that use the stories to show how the wasted money should be sent back via tax cuts - instead of being used for other (more viable) social programs. Remember, even lefties admit that reporters are socially liberal.

And I don't watch enough to comment on tort stuff.

Is anyone going to honestly say that Rather/Jennings/Brokaw or their newscasts are on the right?

Posted by: Ricky at August 7, 2003 04:13 AM | PERMALINK

Daryl McCullough writes: But the conclusion of Tomasky's study is that that impression is incorrect. The New York Times is much more likely to criticize the Democrats than the Wall Street Journal is to critize Republicans. The NYT is similarly much more likely to praise Republicans than the WSJ is to praise Democrats. They aren't mirror images of each other.

After reading your post, I went and read the paper rather than Kurtz's summary. One thing that jumped out at me was that I had a very different idea of 'partisan' than did Tomasky; I view partisan as liberal/conservative, where Tomasky viewed it as Democrat/Republican. I wonder how much of the disconnect between liberals and conservatives on media bias has to do with this? When the NYTimes criticized Clinton from the left for his welfare reform decision, for example, Tomasky viewed that as principled and non-partisan; I don't believe most conservatives view it that way. I would agree completely with the premise that the WSJ is a much more Republican paper than the NYTimes is a Democratic one; my comments had to do with the liberal/conservative tilt of the two. After reading the summary of the paper, I see nothing to contradict that view.

I'd also agree that the WSJ and WaTimes editorial pages were much more abusive and disrespectful of Clinton than the NYTimes has been of Bush, and I believe that has probably been true in general of these papers for as long as I'e been reading them.

Posted by: MattJ at August 7, 2003 09:14 AM | PERMALINK

mattj: interesting point, though I'd say "same difference".(provided we can agree all four paper are within one standard deviation of the centre).
Either Clinton's policies were liberal and the criticism from the NYT and WP is evidence of their attempt to see both sides. (Reverse for Bush)
Or, Clinton's policies were moderate. Then the criticism from the left (NYT, WP) should be offset by praise/mixed editorials from the right, if only along the lines of "finally got something almost right". That did not happen. The only explanations are a) more partisanship on the right or b) the WSJ and WT are farther from the centre than the NYT and WP. Same difference to me.*

*Suppose Bush's policy was moderate. He should be criticised from the right then, shouldn't he?

Posted by: markus at August 7, 2003 01:42 PM | PERMALINK

Well, Ricky,
I do not think viewership of sitcoms is down due to Fox News--it is probably the fault of reality TV (if you want to claim that genre for the right, go ahead)...
My use of Coulter's arguement, however, was somewhat tongue in cheek...i think it's really not a very good arguement, particularily not in regards to news programming (though more applicable in the case of entertainment)...I do not think that news directors should be like hollywood producers, playing the numbers game to see what makes the best ratings...i take it from your misguided allusion to Clear Channel that you think that's just fine...if that's the case, fine, but you're wrong.
As someone who has had many contacts with people in the field of media reform in Central Asia, I can tell you that this is exactly the wrong attitude...news agencies need to play by fundamentally different rules in order to play their proper role in society...when it's just about money, you get what you have in Kazakhstan, which is numerous "serious" daily newspapers filled with lurid sex stories, etc.

Posted by: kokblok at August 7, 2003 06:08 PM | PERMALINK

"Is anyone going to honestly say that Rather/Brokaw/Jennings or their newscasts are to the right?" --Ricky

To that, I can only reply with...(a paraphrase)

"He (Bush) is my president...he can tell me which way to march and I'll be the first in line"
-Dan Rather, 2002

Posted by: kokblok at August 7, 2003 07:02 PM | PERMALINK

markus writes: interesting point, though I'd say "same difference".(provided we can agree all four paper are within one standard deviation of the centre)

First, I would disagree that all four papers are relatively the same distance from the center; I would argue that the WaTimes is significantly further than any of the others. It is also a much less read, or influential, paper than the rest.

However, in reading this thread and thinking about what you wrote, I realize that, even though the WaTimes and WSJ are closer ideologically to me than the NYTimes or the WaPost, the only editorial page of the four that I really respect is the WaPost. The other three seem to have no interest in presenting opposing arguments intelligently; I read them to read the liberal party line (in the case of the NYTimes) and the Republican/conservative party line (in the case of the WaTimes and WSJ). Tomasky's paper is interesting, and has made me consciously evaluate these newspapers in ways I don't normally, but in no way convinces me that the NYTimes editorial page is anything but partisan.

Anyway, don't you think that 'less partisan than the Washington Times!' is an embarrassingly low standard to meet?

:)

Posted by: MattJ at August 8, 2003 01:35 PM | PERMALINK

re MattJ: well according to the study the NYT is a less partisan than the WSJ (you said so too, above), but I'll agree we really can't be sure of that (I will however violently oppose any reading which states that the WSJ is less partisan than the NYT).

I'll agree that "less partisan than the WT is an embarrassingly low standard to meet", but I'd say the embarrassment is on the WT.
You see, I found time and again, that my negative knee-jerk reaction to conservative arguments is due to the absolutism with which these points are expressed. (Take for instance gay marriage. among others eve tushnet explained the "it will destroy homosexual marriage" argument in a way that made sense to me. I still think she's wrong but that's not the point.) I'm aware that there's -generally speaking- a symbiotic relationship between moral clarity and partisanship on "the right", still, I'd wish there was a paper that tried hard to be unbiased.
yours
markus

Posted by: markus at August 8, 2003 07:22 PM | PERMALINK

"William M. Cooper" wrote:
Subject: This is the letter I sent the New York Times

.... I think that even if you don't find as much as a
primer to a bullet cartridge, you have still found
thousands of body parts of the thousands of innocent
civilians who were butchered at the hands of a madman.
You have unending stories of the victims coming
forward and testifying of the brutality that they
lived in every day. You have the Kurds who were
gassed to death. Not soldiers, but women and
children. You have the jubilation of the freed people
as they tore down the statues of their tormentor and
beat the head of it with the bottom of their shoes;
which for them was the highest insult to offer up.
You do the President, Great Britton's Prime Minister,
the military forces from differing contries and their
sending nations a great injustice by calling the war a
bad move to have taken. To clarify this position;
what if Hitler hadn't been grabbing all the countries
he did, but kept to all his secret projects and his
genecidal activities. Would we not had gone after him
once we learned just how brutal he was and how
murderous his power over the peoples of Europe had
become? Perhaps you would have wrote then something
like: "well it's only Jews, Gypsies, Retards,
Handicappers, Elderly, Ministers and a mixed group of
nonGermans, so why waste the fuel and manpower?". I'm
so sick to my stomach to say, that the way the news
and Democrats are using airtime and prose for nothing
better than showing the world your total contempt for
the suffering masses around the world. A very
obnoxious and macabre way to slam the integrity of a
man you obviously want to loose the next election,
while doing it over the tombs of those whose blood
cries out for some justice, and protection to those
they leave behind. The media was so biased against
the then, Governor Bush during Bush's election that it
really opened the eyes of a lot of people who saw your
tactics. But you still didn't learn anything. When
the war started, the networks started the propaganda
machinery all over again and lost ratings, because of
their baseless cries of destruction to the American
Military and other such nonsense. Now you're at it
again with slam articles about not finding weapons of
mass destruction.
I think you and every body else who has verbated all
the parties previously mentioned, owes President Bush
and Prime Minister Blair, and all the other noble men
and women who freed the multiple people groups who
were brutalized in Iraq a huge and resounding pat on
the back for what they did do and not what a madman
with ample warning was able to successfully ship
accross his borders and hide before the war started.
The intelligence that the President used was also from
previously found items that were found before the war
by UN inspectors who saw the illegal hardware with
their own eyes. So continue the antiBush/Blair
stance you seem to be insanely devoted to, but you'll
not find a sympathetic ear from me, because it is
obvious that your minds are so polluted with
prejudice, that every thing appears evil in your eyes,
even when good is all around and in clear sight.
I say this to your shame.
For our noble President, England's Prime Minister, the
troops, the victims, the grieving mothers, fathers,
children of Iraq.
William M. Cooper
1227 W. Kenedy #52
Kingsville, TX. 78363
http://www.1stbooks.com/bookview/8857
coopr2000@yahoo.com

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