What Liberal Bias?
The question today, class, is this: Is there any hope for the New York Times – or is its liberal bias so ingrained in the current day culture of the newspaper that nothing short of bankruptcy (if that) will change it?
I bring this up because the “public editor” of the Times, a fellow by the name of Clark Hoyt, has written that while the Acorn story was big news on FOX and on conservative Websites, the editors at the Times were operating on snooze control and got around to covering it late. Very late. No, he didn’t say it quite that way, but I’m pretty sure that’s what he meant.
“It was an intriguing story,” Hoyt wrote, “employees of a controversial outfit, long criticized by Republicans as corrupt, appearing to engage in outrageous, if not illegal, behavior. An Acorn worker in Baltimore was shown telling the ‘prostitute’ that she could describe herself to tax authorities as an ‘independent artist’ and claim 15-year-old prostitutes
“But for days, as more videos were posted and government authorities rushed to distance themselves from Acorn, The Times stood still. Its slow reflexes — closely following its slow response to a controversy that forced the resignation of Van Jones, a White House adviser — suggested that it has trouble dealing with stories arising from the polemical world of talk radio, cable television and partisan blogs. Some stories, lacking facts, never catch fire. But others do, and a newspaper like The Times needs to be alert to them or wind up looking clueless or, worse, partisan itself.”
The Times looking “clueless” or worse “partisan”? What’s next: the “public editor” informing us the sun rises in the east?
But here’s the good news: Despite what you or anyone else may think, there is no liberal bias at the New York Times. How do I know this? The New York Times told me. First, the “public editor” quotes Jill Abramson, the paper’s managing editor for news, saying the problem at the Times is not liberal bias. Abramson admits the paper was “slow off the mark” but said it was because of “insufficient tuned-in-ness to the issues that are dominating Fox News and talk radio” – not bias.
And she’s not alone. Hoyt also interviewed Tom Rosenstiel, the director of the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism. According to Hoyt, Rosenstiel “has studied journalists for years, and though they are more liberal than the general population, he believes they are motivated by the desire to get good stories, not to help one particular side.”
Well, I guess that settles it. No liberal bias in the “MSM,” despite what you crazy right-wing paranoids think. Except for one little thing: there is a liberal bias at the Times and at other big so-called mainstream news organizations. And even though there’s no vast-left wing conspiracy to slant the news, no grand liberal conspiracies, there is another problem: groupthink.
Newsrooms are filled with liberal journalists. Conservatives in big news organizations are in the minority – and a small minority at that. So many liberals, so many like-minded people—no matter how fair they think they are – are going to produce a biased product. It’s as simple as that. And for anyone who doesn’t buy the logic, consider this: What if the New York Times (or any other news organization) was loaded with conservative journalists? What if they dominated the newsroom? What if they thought their conservative values were superior to liberal values? What if almost all of them always vote for the conservative Republican candidate running for president? What if they socialize with like-minded conservatives and rarely come into contact with liberals? Does anyone think the news wouldn’t be slanted to the Right? Of course it would. That’s how it works in the real world when the deck is stacked.
The reason news executives finally brought women and minority journalists into the newsroom was the realization that news reported and edited almost exclusively by white males would be slanted no matter how unbiased the journalists thought they were. White males, no matter how educated they were, simply could not understand certain issues the way others could. So executives instituted affirmative action programs to create a more diverse newsroom. But what we have now in our newsrooms, after years of this devotion to diversity, are white liberals and black liberals, male liberals and female liberals, gay liberals and straight liberals, Latino liberals and Asian liberals and on and on.
Skin deep diversity simply is not enough. We need intellectual diversity in the newsroom. We need diversity of opinion. And I’m afraid the only way to get it is with more affirmative action -- affirmative action for the smallest minority in the newsroom: conservative journalists.
By the way, I would tell those conservatives to keep their opinions to themselves. And I’d tell liberals the same thing. It isn’t your opinion that is needed, I would say, it’s your perspective. Without it, bias will continue to pollute journalism. And the powers that be will continue to deny its existence and not care how silly they look as they do it.
So is there hope for the Times and the other so-called mainstream news organizations? I report. You decide.