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Commentary - Mainstream media is liberal

By Tim Philbrick, Farwell, MN I like your "Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down" columns, and almost always agree with the sentiments expressed in them, but your "Liberal Media Labeling" commentary in the Friday, March 13 edition was off the mark. Sadly, I thin...

By Tim Philbrick,

Farwell, MN

I like your "Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down" columns, and almost always agree with the sentiments expressed in them, but your "Liberal Media Labeling" commentary in the Friday, March 13 edition was off the mark. Sadly, I think it said more about the Echo Press editorial staff than the American mainstream media.

I'll reserve judgment on the new book, "Image Bite Politics," until I read more substantive reviews. It may be an interesting introductory look into the "visual presentation of presidential candidates in network news coverage of elections" (one reviewer's description). But to claim, or imply, that its conclusions, which are based on a narrowly focused study, refute the common (and I would say well-founded) perception of liberal bias in the mainstream media (MSM) is a giant stretch indeed.

For starters, consider the fact that numerous surveys in the last 30 years have shown journalists vote overwhelmingly for Democrats (80 percent or higher in some instances), are far more likely to identify themselves as liberal than conservative, hold liberal views on social issues, and are far less likely than the public to be religious. And (surprise!) in a 2004 Pew Research Center survey of 547 journalists and media executives, respondents had a hard time naming a liberal news organization - in other words, they were in denial! How can anyone seriously expect a group like this to be unaffected by their prejudices and worldview, first in the selection and prioritization of newsworthy subjects, and then in their research and presentation?

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Not that many don't try, or at least think they try. Unfortunately, they frequently fail and the public notices. For example, a 1998 survey commissioned by the American Society of Newspaper Editors found that 78 percent of respondents believed the press was biased and 77 percent believed newspapers devoted more attention to stories that supported the paper's point of view. In a 2003 survey by Princeton Survey Research Associates, twice as many respondents said news organizations were more "liberal" than "conservative;" even Democrats agreed, by a 41 to 33 percent margin. A Zogby survey in 2007 found nearly 90 percent saying "media bias is alive and well," with 64 percent indicating that bias leans left. In a Rasmussen poll on November 4, 2008, 51 percent said "most reporters have tried to help Barack Obama win the presidency," vs. 7 percent who thought they tried to help John McCain.

While there are plenty of news reporters and personalities who deny any bias (and a few of their denials are really laughable), there are, thankfully, some who admit the obvious. A few samples:

"I don't know if it's 95 percent...[but] there are enough [liberals] in the old media, not just in ABC, but in old media generally, that it tilts the coverage quite frequently, in many issues, in a liberal direction...It's an endemic problem. And again, it's the reason why for 40 years, conservatives have rightly felt that we did not give them a fair shake." ABC News political director Mark Halperin appearing on The Hugh Hewitt Show, October 30, 2006.

"Personally, I have a great affection for CBS News...But I stopped watching it some time ago. The unremitting liberal orientation finally became too much for me." Former CBS News President Van Gordon Sauter in an op-ed published January 13, 2005 in the Los Angeles Times.

"I know a lot of you believe that most people in the news business are liberal. Let me tell you, I know a lot of them, and they were almost evenly divided this time. Half of them liked Senator Kerry; the other half hated President Bush." CBS's Andy Rooney, an unabashed liberal, on 60 Minutes, November 7, 2004.

"Of course it is...These are the social issues: gay rights, gun control, abortion and environmental regulation, among others. And if you think the Times plays it down the middle on any of them, you've been reading the paper with your eyes closed." New York Times Public Editor Daniel Okrent in a July 25, 2004 column asking, "Is The New York Times a liberal newspaper?"

"The old argument that the networks and other 'media elites' have a liberal bias is so blatantly true that it's hardly worth discussing anymore. No, we don't sit around in dark corners and plan strategies on how we're going to slant the news. We don't have to. It comes naturally to most reporters." Then long-time CBS reporter Bernard Goldberg in a Feburary 3, 1996 Wall Street Journal op-ed, who has since written several books on the subject.

The Echo Press is quite correct in saying, "It's vital the information you're relying on is coming from an unbiased source..." Some of us know that all too well, and that's why we don't rely on the mainstream media for all our news. We see and hear their product every day, and far too often find it sorely wanting.

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The following is an opinion column written by an Echo Press editorial staff member. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the Echo Press.
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