Clift & Carlson Not Liberal in Conservative Dominated Media
contrasts on welfare, GDP and suicide.
- A leading
author argued that the Washington press corps is dominated by
conservatives and weekend talk shows don't have any liberals to
counter the likes of Novak, Snow and Barnes.
1) A couple of headline
contrasts I caught while traveling across the country last week.
First, the two papers on the
coasts offered very different interpretations of a study on a welfare
program in a state in between in flyover country. Both headlines refer
to the same Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation study on
Minnesota's policy of providing financial incentives to get welfare
recipients to work.
Gives Minnesota Welfare Program Rave Reviews: Innovative
Initiative Uses Financial Incentives to Encourage Work and
Help Reduce Poverty. But Critics Point to Added State
Costs." -- Los Angeles Times, August 28
- "Study Casts
Doubt on Incentives to Get Those on Welfare to Work."
-- New York Times, same day.
-- Boston Globe, August 29 vs.
Economy Grew Fast 3.6% in 2d: Inflation Remains Low; Dow on
- "Revised GDP
Brings Back Inflation Fear." -- Portland (Maine)
Press Herald, same day
Third, from the it
depends which way you look at it department:
States Have Highest Suicide Rate, U.S. Study Finds."
-- Boston Globe, August 29
Suicide Rate Lowest in the Nation." -- Boston
Herald, same day.
2) The arrival of September
reminded me that I had yet to showcase an illuminating article in the
August Washingtonian magazine. It's a telling illustration of why the
Washington media establishment are baffled by the idea of liberal
bias. In their world the Washington media are dominated by
conservatives, which is the conclusion you reach when you don't
consider Margaret Carlson, Al Hunt, Nina Totenberg or Eleanor Clift to
Barbara Matusow, a veteran
Washington writer about media affairs who regularly appears in
American Journalism Review and is most famous for her 1980s book on
the TV anchormen, penned the August article titled "Powers of the
Press." Matusow examined the DC media powers and named the
"Top 50" journalists, alphabetically from the Wall Street
Journal's Jill Abramson and CNN's Wolf Blitzer to CNN's Judy Woodruff
and the Washington Post's Bob Woodward.
Below is all but one
tangential paragraph from the section of her article subtitled
"What Liberal Media Establishment?" (I urge you to read this
all the way through and then see if you agree with my comments listed
afterwards.) Here's the excerpt:
"One of the most
striking things about the journalistic establishment this year is
the number of strong conservative voices, including Bob Novak, Bill
Safire, Paul Gigot, Charles Krauthammer, Wesley Pruden, Robert
Samuelson, and Bill Kristol.
"Of the 50 journalists
on the list, only E.J. Dionne, Bill Raspberry, and Clarence Page
consistently take the liberal side. But neither Page nor Raspberry
is particularly interested in ideology, and none of the three
thunders from the left anywhere near as passionately as a
Krauthammer or a Safire does from the right.
"[Gerald] Seib [of the
Wall Street Journal], [Ron] Brownstein [of the Los Angeles Times],
and Bill Schneider [of CNN] are analysts, not polemicists, while
[David] Broder's main interest for years has been good government
and a strong two-party system.
liberals -- Linda Wertheimer [of NPR], Robert Siegel [of NPR], Diane
Rehm [NPR talk host], and James Fallows [Editor of U.S. News] --
work at jobs that require them to play it straight. [New York Times
columnist Maureen] Dowd and [the New Republic's Michael] Kelly,
meanwhile, defy political categorization but in any case are hardly
defenders of the liberal establishment.
"When we asked people
if they could name any fire-breathing left- wingers in the
Washington press corps, the only person most could think of was
Lars-Erik Nelson of the New York Daily News, who brings a genuine
sense of outrage to his work....
have a virtual monopoly on talk radio -- 70 percent of the hosts
nationwide are right-wingers -- and here in Washington they dominate
the TV talk shows. Week after week, fiery partisans like Bill Safire,
Bill Kristol, Tony Snow, Tony Blankley, Charles Krauthammer, Bob
Novak, Fred Barnes, and George Will are pitted against journalists
like Evan Thomas, Al Hunt, Nina Totenberg, David Broder, Sam
Donaldson, and Cokie Roberts, all of whom have centrist, mildly
liberal, or ideologically unpredictable views.
"The most forceful
liberal panelists -- George Stephanopoulos, Chris Matthews, and Mark
Shields -- all emerged from Democratic Party politics, which is no
coincidence. When conventional journalists like Eleanor Clift and
Margaret Carlson are forced to hold up the liberal side of the
argument almost by default, they can never be as convincing as true
believers like Bob Novak or Bill Kristol.
"'Certainly on the top
shows, the whole thing is radically skewed to the right,' says Slate
editor Michael Kinsley, who once tried to defend liberalism against
Pat Buchanan on Crossfire. 'It's ludicrous for conservatives to say
We have Tony Snow. They have Cokie Roberts.' Cokie is a journalist
who in some vague way may be liberal but is publicly committed to
impartiality even if she slips a fraction here and there. In the
same way, Sam Donaldson is not an engaged partisan the way George
"'I don't think strong
liberal voices are needed since liberalism is so much a part of the
established mindset,' counters Tony Blankley. 'The fact is that in a
million little ways, whether it's the way Tom Brokaw lifts his
eyebrow or nods his head, the whole tone that comes out of Big Media
"'Their liberalism has
gone past the point of needing to be articulated and has been
internalized in their bodies and their body language. That's why the
few conservatives who are on TV are not enough to balance the rest
of them, who are in their natural environment.'
"Is it possible he
really believes what he's saying?"
It is certainly possible, and
sadly probable, that much of the DC-based media believe Matusow's
assessments and thus dismiss complaints about liberal bias. Let's look
at a few of Matusow's assertions:
presumptive liberals -- Linda Wertheimer [of NPR], Robert Siegel [of
NPR], Diane Rehm [NPR talk host], and James Fallows [Editor of U.S.
News] -- work at jobs that require them to play it straight."
Comment: Quite an
example of defining away bias. If you should be balanced to properly
perform your job then you are balanced.
Matusow: "When we asked
people if they could name any fire- breathing left-wingers in the
Washington press corps, the only person most could think of was
Lars-Erik Nelson of the New York Daily News."
Comment: He's the one!
The only liberal in DC. This conclusion shows just how far to the left
the Washington media define the center.
partisans like Bill Safire, Bill Kristol, Tony Snow, Tony Blankley,
Charles Krauthammer, Bob Novak, Fred Barnes, and George Will are
pitted against journalists like Evan Thomas, Al Hunt, Nina Totenberg,
David Broder, Sam Donaldson, and Cokie Roberts, all of whom have
centrist, mildly liberal, or ideologically unpredictable views."
missed the obvious implication. Journalists can provide the
"mildly liberal" view but you have to go outside of
journalism to find a conservative commentator.
conventional journalists like Eleanor Clift and Margaret Carlson are
forced to hold up the liberal side of the argument almost by default,
they can never be as convincing as true believers like Bob Novak or
can always find shortcomings in those on their side. So, the fact that
Matusow doesn't see Carlson and Clift as consistent liberals shows
where she's coming from as well as the prism through which many in
Washington journalism see politics. And I doubt Clift and Carlson have
to be "forced to hold up the liberal side."
From a conservative
perspective, however, you could also point out that the conservative
"true believers" and "fiery partisans" reflect a
range of opinion that often strays from the majority conservative
line. George Will believes in raising taxes. Bill Kristol spoke
glowingly about liberal Republican Colin Powell. Tony Snow and Fred
Barnes are hardly as hard core are Bob Novak. But Novak hardly upholds
the traditional conservative line on China or the Middle East. And
since when did Robert Samuelson become a conservative?
If Margaret Carlson and
Eleanor Clift are not liberal pontificators then Matusow is correct,
there is no liberal media establishment. It's nice to be able to
define away a charge.