I read with great interest the comment made to my earlier post concerning lack of diversity in the newsroom. I agree with most of it.
Yes, Fox News is biased conservatively. They have gone out of their way to hire conservative journalists to present the news from that viewpoint. Just how conservative it is, we probably differ. I’d say it’s as conservative as the average member of the House of Representatives. Which would be just barely right of center. Critics would argue that it’s to the right of Pat Roberts.
But when I talk about media bias, I’m not talking about the few conservative voices that liberals can point to: Fox News, Washington Times, New York Sun. I’m talking about the mainstream, traditional outlets that dominate how the news is covered: New York Times, LA Times, Washington Post, CBS, NBC, ABC, PBS, and CNN. Their combined coverage dwarfs the viewership of Fox News. It’s not that I “don’t care about bias unless it’s liberal bias.” Fox News doesn’t come anywhere close to influencing news coverage as the other outlets do. Thus, I talk mainly about reforming these outlets, and I ignore the bias of the far less-influential outlets.
Am I for ideological quotas? Absolutely not. I’m not for race-based quotas, either. However, as I pointed out earlier, editors could make hiring decisions with the understanding that both diversity of culture and ideology can add something to the newsroom. That’s all.
Yes, newspapers are businesses and they can do what they want. But, public pressure has always been an acceptable way to change the policies of private business.
As for the lack of objectivity in the newsroom, I agree that this is the biggest problem. Yes, the term news judgment is jargon for “what’s your opinion about what people want/need to know.” But, when the majority of the people making those decisions are liberal, they make assumptions about what the public wants to know that are wrong.
“There can’t be objectivity, but there can be fairness.” I agree with that as well. But fairness isn’t just getting a quote from the other side. It comes from truly understanding the opposing position and presenting their position in a non-judgmental fashion. This is incredibly hard to do when no one on your staff thinks that way.
But we first must agree that there’s a problem. And no liberal in academia or the traditional press (including my critic) seems prepared to admit that there’s anything wrong. Check out this quote from Howell Raines, the ex-editor of the New York Times:
Our greatest accomplishment as a profession is the development since World War II of a news reporting craft that is truly non-partisan, and non-ideological, and that strives to be independent of undue commercial or governmental influence….But we don’t wear the political collar of our owners or the government or any political party. It is that legacy we must protect with our diligent stewardship. To do so means we must be aware of the energetic effort that is now underway to convince our readers that we are ideologues. It is an exercise of, in disinformation, of alarming proportions, this attempt to convince the audience of the world’s most ideology-free newspapers that they’re being subjected to agenda-driven news reflecting a liberal bias.
This attitude sums up the attitude of most of the liberals who work in my profession: “Overall, we’re doing a fine job, and most everyone’s satisfied. We, as individuals, are overwhelmingly liberal, but these complaints about bias are unfounded.” Until that’s no longer the conventional wisdom, nothing will change — except for the continued declines of circulation and ratings.