Skip to comments.Liberal media bias, part I
Posted on 12/10/2003 10:15:34 PM PST by JohnHuang2
Liberal media bias, part I
Ryan Zempel (archive)
December 11, 2003 | Print | Send
Few people have done more to highlight the issue of liberal media bias than Bernard Goldberg, author of the bestselling "Bias." Goldberg has now authored the recently released "Arrogance: Rescuing America from the Media Elite" in which he offers solutions to the problem of media bias.
I interviewed Goldberg recently and will be publishing the interview in three parts during the next several days.
Townhall: Do you think the increasing availability of alternative news sources -- such as cable, talk radio, internet -- has had any positive impact in terms of eliminating network news' bias?
Goldberg: Well, first, before I get directly to that, I think the Wall Street Journal was right when it said in an editorial that in the age of the internet, cable TV, and talk radio, denial is not a winning strategy.
And that's what the big networks continue to do in terms of the question of bias in the news. If you bring it up, they simply deny it, and then they accuse you of having the bias. But in the age of talk radio, the internet, and cable, that's not a smart strategy, that's a losing strategy.
Having said that, I don't know that the big media elite people at the networks look at Fox and say, "Geez, we better be fairer, because there's Fox." I don't think they look at conservative websites on the internet and say "we better be fairer because of that" and they don't look at talk radio and say that. I think they're dismissive of all of these things.
Some of them are worthy of being dismissive of. There's some talk radio that's horrible. There are some conservative websites and many liberal websites that are nasty and vicious and shouldn't be taken seriously.
But basically, I think the media elites maintain their arrogance and don't say, "Since there's cable out there, and since there are responsible places on the internet out there, and since there are a few responsible conservative talk outlets on radio out there, we better be fair, we better be less biased than we have been."
Because they don't acknowledge they've been biased in the first place. So I don't think it has the kind of effect that it ought to have.
I do think this, though. I do think there are slivers of sunshine. The editor of the LA Times earlier this year wrote a scathing memo to his staff about a page one story that he found to be incredibly biased regarding abortion. I don't know that he did that because of the three entities you mentioned -- talk radio, cable, and the internet -- I think he did that because the subject is really out there now.
And in some small way, I hope I contributed to that with my first book "Bias." Frankly, I don't think he would have written that memo if "Bias" hadn't come out and it hadn't touched so many American people.
Because of that, the subject is on cable and the internet a lot more than it used to be, so indirectly, yes. Indirectly, I think the real conversation started a couple years ago.
Since it's so prevalent in our culture now, they have to pay more attention, but my point is, there are only slivers of sunshine. Overwhelmingly, they remain arrogant and they don't pay any attention to any of the criticism.
Townhall: In "Arrogance" you talk about ombudsmen and how they simply do not recognize bias when they see it. Do you think there's any way to change that?
Goldberg: Well, I didn't do a survey of all the ombudsmen in America. And one at NPR recently, who took Terry Gross to task, I thought did a great job. She interviewed Bill O'Reilly and was incredibly unfair to him, and NPR's own ombudsman came to that conclusion in a public way.
So, I'm not making a blanket indictment of ombudsmen, but what I am saying is that very often they're part of the problem. If they come to the table with preconceived notions just like reporters do, then it's going to be hard for them to see why, in this case, conservatives might be upset with the way a story was handled.
Again, not a blanket indictment of ombudsmen, but I think too many are part of the problem.
I don't think the situation is going to easily be fixed in-house. I think these media elites live in such a comfortable, elite bubble in places like New York and Washington and there are so many like-minded people inside that bubble, that it's very, very difficult for them to see what we're talking about here.
It's very difficult for them to see what the problem is. They don't have any frame of reference inside that bubble. So, they think everything to the right of center is conservative and everything left of center is middle of the road. And they don't have a lot of people disagreeing with them inside that bubble -- it's an ideological echo chamber.
So, I'm not terribly optimistic that this is fixable strictly by them. I think they can, but I don't think they will, because they haven't acknowledged the problem yet.
Go to a guy like Bob Schieffer and ask him about liberal bias and the first thing he says is, "you know, you might be hearing in a biased way." Well, technically, he's right, the person might be, but that's dismissive of every person who thinks there's a liberal bias. You can give him a hundred examples and he won't pay any attention to it. For the most part, neither will Rather and Jennings and to some extent, neither will Brokaw.
So, I think they need outside help. And, in the case of "Arrogance," I offer it in the 12 step program. If 12 steps are good enough for alcoholics, they ought to be good enough for journalists.
I'm rooting for them to fix it. I want to make this clear, I'm rooting for them to fix the problem. Because I think it's important in a country like ours that we have a trusted mainstream press.
I don't want people getting their news from talk radio. I don't want them going to the more extreme websites and thinking this stuff is mainstream and reasonable.
But if the media elites don't take the wake-up call, I think, as I say in the first chapter of the book, I think they're going to become the journalistic equivalent of the leisure suit -- harmless enough, but hopelessly out of date.
I don't see very many signs -- I do see the slivers of sunshine that I mentioned -- but I don't see very many signs that they are waking up.
Townhall: One of your suggestions in your 12 steps is that they move out of New York. Do you think that's really realistic?
Goldberg: No. I wrote half of that step and came within an inch of throwing it in the garbage can for that very reason. But then I said, "Now wait a second, that's not the point."
And then I wrote the second half of the step which is: hold on, these places are real places. They have real people living in these places.
And they have real families and their kids go to real schools and these people have real jobs. And I'm saying, would it be a human rights violation if one of the networks picked up and moved to Oklahoma City? Would that really be torture? What would be so terrible about that?
And what would be so good about it is that they would finally be out of their bubble. And five seconds after they touched down in Oklahoma City -- or Tupelo, or Laughlin, Nevada, or Mitchell, South Dakota, or Indianapolis -- five seconds after they got off the airplane, they'd run into somebody who disagreed with them about something, and that would be a very healthy thing.
Do I literally think they're going to do it? No. They would rather jump off the roof of their co-op on Park Avenue than do it. I mean, that's how much they would hate leaving New York City.
Why would it be not okay for somebody who lives in Manhattan to live in Oklahoma City? What would be wrong with that? It's because they don't have respect for people who live in Oklahoma City. They don't have respect for their values, for their lifestyle.
"Oklahoma City?" they'd say, "I'd rather be dead than live there."
Well, I think that's a snobbishness that's not healthy. But do I literally think they're going to go there? Of course not.
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