Sunday, April 16, 2006

Semi-OT: Bias, Schmias

One of my favourite un-noticed phenomena of the last couple of years is the slow, very slow recognition of the fact that "media bias" complaints are coming more and more from the left, rather than the right. These complaints are starting to have an effect, to some extant. Example: the Washington Post recently hired a conservative blogger to "balance" their blogger Dan Froomkin, who had been accused of being liberal because his column is consistently critical of President Bush (though the column does not advocate policy and therefore can't really be considered ideologically liberal). After the conservative blogger turned out to be a plagiarist and was dropped, the Post announced plans to hire both a conservative blogger and a liberal blogger -- in effect admitting that it was not "balanced" to have a partisan conservative blogger but no partisan liberal blogger. It was the first sign I've seen of a "big media" outlet effectively admitting that it didn't have any actual liberals.

I thought I'd round up some of the more interesting introductions to the concept of conservative media bias, because it's a concept you're going to be hearing more and more about in the next couple of years as networks, newspapers et al start to realize that they can face pressure from the left as well.

- Peter Daou spends a lot of his time blogging about right-wing bias in the media. In his essay "The Triangle" and This Followup Essay, and the essay "A Challenge to Rightwing Bloggers Who Blame the Media for the Cheney Mess: Prove it", he sets out his idea that "storylines trump stories," and that the storylines favoured by the "mainstream media" tend to be conservative-friendly storylines, where conservative politicians "stand firm," where religious faith is portrayed as interchangeable with conservative politics, and where certain slogans take hold and are repeated over and over again without being fact-checked.

- "John Fund Again?" by Paul Waldman, based on a somewhat unscientific study of the political orientation of the guests on Sunday news talk shows. Whether you agree with the methodology or not, it is true that the guests on the talk shows tend to skew right, and that the debates tend to skew right (most famously in 2002 when the "debates" tended to be between a "conservative" who thought we should invade Iraq right now and a "liberal" who thought we should invade but wait till next week to do it). There's also the point the "liberal" guests are often people who aren't particularly liberal and show a disdain for their own side, like Joe Klein. The networks have shown an odd reluctance to draw guests from the relatively fertile pool of policy wonks and muckrakers in the liberal side of the blogosphere, or magazines like The American Prospect and The Nation, or or the moderate liberal side of the college professoriate (someone like Michael Berube would be an entertaining guest); they seem stuck in 1990 when compiling the guest lists.

- Digby's Hullabaloo does occasional posts on the media-bias issue. In this post he sets out a list of what he sees as the media's failures and its fealty fo "GOP operatives" in the last decade or so, and concludes that he decided that the only way to save the media was to push back from the left the way the right has been pushing for decades. In this more recent post he argues that the root of the problem is that the media still reports on politics as if it's business as usual, even though something has fundamentally changed.

I don't think everyone will agree with everything linked to above; I don't know that I agree with every point of it. But it is an introduction to the conservative-media-bias theme, which, as I said, is going to be a bigger theme as the years go on -- in part because it's closer to the truth than the more familiar "liberal bias" theme, and in part because the pushback from the left is getting stronger.


Anonymous said...

What color is the sky in your world?

Jaime J. Weinman said...
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Jaime J. Weinman said...
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