Still Liberal, Still Biased
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According to a growing number of journalists, the media’s liberal bias — a trait that most reporters refuse to acknowledge — is no longer a problem. Pointing to the commercial success of conservative talk radio hosts such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, plus the Fox News Channel’s dominance of cable TV, many media liberals insist the news industry has all of the fairness and balance it needs.
“Today you have broadcast journalists who are avowedly conservative,” CBS’s Lesley Stahl insisted in a January 18, 2003 interview on FNC’s After Hours with Cal Thomas. “The voices that are being heard in broadcast media today are far more — the ones who are being heard — are far more likely to be on the right, and avowedly so.” Stahl, however, could not name a single conservative journalist working at CBS News.
When it came to the war, journalists wished their brethren had been even more critical of the Bush administration. “Certainly television and, perhaps to a certain extent, my station was intimidated by the administration and its foot soldiers at Fox News,” CNN’s Christiane Amanpour claimed in a September appearance on CNBC. Amanpour said a “climate of fear and self-censorship” kept network journalists from truthfully reporting.
There wouldn’t be liberal bias when it came to the 2004 presidential election, either. “It took conservatives a lot of hard and steady work to push the media rightward. It dishonors that work to continue to presume that — except for a few liberal columnists — that there is any such thing as the big liberal media,” the Washington Post’s E. J. Dionne argued in a December 2002 column. He found that traditional news sources are “under constant pressure to avoid even the pale hint of liberalism....What it adds up to is a media heavily biased toward conservative politics and conservative politicians.”
These liberal journalists may have correctly sensed that they can no longer get away with the egregious bias that was possible before Limbaugh, before the Internet, before Fox News and before the MRC began documenting the media’s twisted take on the news. But in spite of these beneficial alternatives, the really Big Media — the powerhouse news organizations that produce what most Americans see, hear and read each day — retain a liberal perspective that continues to warp the news.
Although their audiences are steadily shrinking, the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts still reach 25 million people, far more than any program on the Fox News Channel. And when the media pack goes looking for story ideas, they are far more likely to parrot the predictable analysis of the New York Times or the Washington Post than repeat the insights of talk radio’s conservative stars.
All last year, the Media Research Center’s news analysts documented the media’s liberal spin on a variety of social and political issues, ranging from the war in Iraq to the presidential election, tax cuts, the welfare state, abortion and the elevation of a gay bishop by the U.S. Episcopalian church. On these issues and many others, the media reliably reflected the liberal mentality that Dionne, Stahl and others have insisted was a thing of the past.
The following month-by-month review of the media elite’s performance in 2003 shows that liberal bias is still very much with us. And that bias is not just of academic interest: As the 2004 presidential campaign gets underway, the media elite — the Big Three networks, CNN, major newspapers and newsmagazines, wire services and taxpayer-subsidized public broadcasting — promise to be the Democrats’ greatest asset, as they twist the news to boost liberals and harm conservatives.