Len Witt interviews a University of Texas journalism professor over at pjnet. He thankfully points out that most of her complaints — complaints that reflect most members of the academy and many activist organizations — are thrust from a liberal position. De Uriarte and many of the professors with whom I’ve come in contact believe the problem with the press is that they aren’t liberal enough. Her response to Witt’s query:
That charge of bleeding hearts and right wing pundits is so threadbare it hardly merits response. The academy is supposed to be a forum for the free exchange of ideas in the interest of developing critical thinking skills. And if you read the Hutchins Commission (and significant bodies of ethics codes since their 1947 standards were set) you find that standard 3 states that the public can expect the press to provide “a forum for the exchange of comment and criticism.” So how do we do that if we have not developed critical thinkers?
Whenever questions become “irreverent” or hard to respond to those labels of bleeding hearts and liberal bias get tossed out as silencers. No wonder in 25 years the press has not been able to diversify. That’s one of the silencers to minority points of view.
So, the allegations of liberal bias are nothing more than a diversion. “Hardly merits response.” That’s not exactly as free exchange of ideas, is it? She cites the “Media Reform” conference in St. Louis as a step in the right direction. As I mentioned earlier, that conference was organized by activists who believe the press needs to adopt a more leftist tone.
According to the latest report, nearly 6 in 10 Americans believe that the press is biased. But, more respondents thought the media favored John Kerry than George Bush. Surveys show that reporters and editors are overwhelmingly liberal. Being critical thinkers, shouldn’t we examine whether this evidence has anything to do with problems of credibility? Forgive me for not believing that the answer to this problem is for the press to adopt a more adamant left-wing position. I’m not trying to single out de Uriarte; she just represents the position of many members of the academy.
I recently found an interesting letter to the editor in a media journal while doing research for my thesis. A professor complained because the New York Times hadn’t covered a press conference from 22 U.S. House members who gathered to protest the Gulf War. The author accused the press of a pro-war bent and argued that a conventional frame had prevented the editors and reporters from exposing readers to non-traditional (read far-left) viewpoints.
Other academicians make the same arguments — notably Herman and Chompsky who assert that a corporate-influenced, right-wing bias pervades the media and prevents any true discussion of issues important to most citizens. These professors are correct. The media is right wing — from their perspective. They sit so far to the left of the average citizen that everyone looks right wing. Twenty-two members of Congress represents about 5 percent of the 430 House lawmakers. Most members of the academy represent this 5 percent of the ideological spectrum.
I’m not so sure we can look to this group to identify what’s wrong with the press. Perhaps, after I receive my doctorate, I’ll join the academy and try to examine some of these issues from my perspective. I wonder which university will want to hire me? I’m a critical thinker, but I do I think the correct way?