Skip to comments.No wonder conservatives feel like outcasts in newsrooms
Posted on 10/12/2003 5:44:54 PM PDT by TrebleRebel
Several years ago, a newspaper colleague paid me what for her was a sincere compliment: "For a right-winger, you're actually OK." What do you say to a patronizing comment like that? "Thanks, hon, and for a fat girl, you don't sweat much"?
Actually, I took it in the spirit it was offered: as a fellow reporter's admission that she had been wrong to prejudge my character and abilities based on my politics. My writing and my professional conduct had won her over.
I tell that story to conservative journalism students as an example of the kind of prejudice they will face if they pursue media careers and as a suggestion for how to deal with it. Any conservative, especially a religious conservative, who chooses journalism as a vocation should understand that he or she is entering hostile territory.
That, of course, isn't news. It is a cliché to say the news media are liberal, but it is the truth, as a number of independent studies and surveys have confirmed. That is especially true on social issues. And reporters are overwhelmingly secular.
It isn't simply that coastal media elites skew survey results. In 1994, The Orlando Sentinel's Peter Brown commissioned a survey of journalists and readers from five medium-sized media markets and one large middle-American media market: Dallas-Fort Worth. The poll found that in terms of worldview, most Dallas area journalists have more in common with their colleagues at The Washington Post than with the people who read their newspapers and watch their telecasts.
What does that mean for the conservative new to a newsroom? For one, she will be astonished by not only the pervasive groupthink but how little awareness there is of the narrowness of thought present. Indeed, the paper may pride itself on its commitment to diversity. It rarely seems to occur to editors that a newsroom filled with a demographic cornucopia of journalists who think more or less the same way may benefit institutional self-esteem but not coverage.
For another, she will be struck by the gap between what journalists actually know about conservatives and what they think they know. Reporters and editors, like most people, assume their own frame of reference is normative. The conservative in the newsroom will be assumed by many to be a Bible-thumping, race-baiting, gay-hating bigot until proved otherwise because that's what many journalists, who rarely if ever socialize with conservatives, think we all are like. Moreover, they believe that's how rational, fair-minded people see the world.
Sooner or later, the folks who run the media will realize they would stop losing readers and viewers if they would hire more conservatives and thereby present a more balanced, better informed and more interesting product. Until that day, journalism needs young conservatives to be pioneers. As Catholic historian Paul Johnson said to potential church converts, "Come on in, it's awful!" Journalism isn't awful for conservatives, not by a long shot, but to succeed, they have to be cleverer, tougher, harder-working and more patient than liberal colleagues.
As a conservative journalist, you will have to distinguish yourself by the strength of your writing and reporting. You have to love journalism for its own sake, not because it gives you a platform for your views. You will have to be a journalist first, not an ideologue who lets his convictions blind him to facts. You will have to pick battles carefully and never, ever give in to the romance of self-pity. A chip on your shoulder is a weight that will sink you.
Finally, a sense of humor will keep you grounded. Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby once told me why he admired Ken Chandler, a fellow conservative who was then publisher of The New York Post. "Ken's the only man I know at that level who stays in journalism for the same reason everybody gets into it in the first place: Because it's a hell of a lot of fun."
Rod Dreher is an editorial writer and occasional columnist for The Dallas Morning News. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Damn, that's good. I could have used this line a couple of years ago.
wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions,
they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence."
- John Adams -
I'm not usually one to quibble such a point, but if you can't judge someone's character by their politics, what CAN you judge it by? Their nice manners? Politics ARE your character projected outward. They are the manifestation of your values. Hey, I know some liberals who are very polite, patient, and kind when they want to be. Nevetheless, their mindset is ultimately one of vicious loathing for mankind masquerading as moral superiority. I'll chat with them at work but I won't let them in my house.
This "conservative" journalist just bought into a stereo-type. The way this is written suggests that "bible-thumping, race-baiting, gay-hating" folks are one of a kind and that they are bad.
He doesn't admit that in today's world "bible-thumping = bible believing;" and that "race-baiting = anti-affirmative action;" and that "gay-hating = health conscious."
And they say the media is conservative... :)
Which would pretty much guarantee unemployment for awhile.
"Thanks. For a socialist moron, without an original thought in your head, you have rare bursts of brilliance."
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