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February 08, 2007

Your Liberal Media

I just noticed that the Washington Post online has a Best of the Web feature on their "politics" page that's provided by Real Clear Politics. Now, I like Real Clear Politics. When I'm looking for a right wing web site that provides an excellent cross-section of right wing opinion, I often head there. But the Washington Post is letting them name the "Best of the Web?" That's...odd. And here's the result:

Bestofweb

So let's see what the The Washington Post actually believe is the "Best of the Web," shall we?

The Weisberg article is a traditional bit of centrist tut-tutting by a master of the form. "Happily helpless, Democrats can denounce Mr Bush for getting it wrong without assuming any responsibility themselves....as a rule, Democrats are no more interested in a frank discussion of fiscal realities than the president is." And so on. Next, Gerard Baker explains that "there has always been something a bit phony about John Edwards" and worries that the candidate "catapulted from obscurity to the front line of American politics because he sounded like Jimmy Carter and seemed to think like Bill Clinton is hoping to win the presidency on a platform borrowed from George McGovern. Move over to James Taranto attacking both Clinton and Edwards for lacking a "comprehensible" strategy on Iran. Then there's Fox News analyst Susan Estrich talking up Tom Vilsack. And, of course, we have Ann Coulter being Ann Coulter.

This is what the Washington Post is using its authority to name the "Best of the Web." This is what unsuspecting readers who trust the newspaper's name will surf to, assuming the articles offered to be the most trenchant, incisive, and fair columns written that day. Three right wingers and two nominal center-lefties with a strong aversion to Democrats.

Man. That liberal media. So biased.

Update: Ankush seems to think this is an ad. Given the placement (middle of the page, no nearby ads, Post content beneath) and the formatting (same as the Post content beneath), I disagree. But if anyone knows for sure, I'd be interested to hear it.

February 8, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

Bravo. Well said.

And I know this won't, by any means, end this debate but anyone who uses the phrase liberal media or refers to the wapo as a liberal outlet should be looked at in the same light as someone who says the tooth fairy is doing their tax return this year.

But the view will live on. The liberal media myth will perpetuate because it's good cover for the people who want it to.

And jeebus, ann coulter made Real Clear Politics best of the web. I think I'd revise my view of their intellectual capacity, wouldn't you?

Posted by: ice weasel | Feb 8, 2007 8:35:28 AM

Washington Post has pretty much given up pretensions of being a news organization in the old sense and now functions as a loose auxiliary to the Republican Party. As a party organ they are more credible than FOX and therefore they can serve a different function, giving the imprimatur of neutral opinion when they are in fact an in-party organ.

Posted by: della Rovere | Feb 8, 2007 8:46:20 AM

The editorial content of the Washington Post has declined to the point of being irrelevant. They still have some real reporters but who knows what gets cut by the editors? The old media is slowly dying and I'm not sure it's worth saving. Sites like TalkingPointsMemo.com have hired full-time journalists. A site like that could grow to be as large as a newspaper. Old media institutions are really going downhill. It's weird to say, but the Huffington Post has better content than the Washington Post.

Posted by: MarvyT | Feb 8, 2007 10:07:40 AM

This is pathetic. How hard is it to find a reasonably bright recent graduate to cull together interesting links?

Posted by: Duvall | Feb 8, 2007 10:55:02 AM

This is almost the equivalent of the Post letting Buzzflash handle it and you know what kind of uproar that would cause. Doesn't RealClear also have a relationship with Time magazine? Which is also interesting because WaPo owns Time competitor Newsweek.

Posted by: Jake | Feb 8, 2007 11:25:23 AM

Realclearpolitics seems to have quite the racket going. They provide best of the web to the Post, "buzztracker" to Fox News, and their blog is hosted by Time. Plugged into three different media conglomerates.

Posted by: Dave | Feb 8, 2007 11:55:43 AM

There are obviously plenty of examples of conservative bias in the media, but the fact remains that journalists, on the whole, are more liberal than the country as a whole. We'd be fooling ourselves if we thought that didn't affect journalism.

Posted by: Sanpete | Feb 8, 2007 12:03:17 PM

Sanpete, we've got your statement that "we'd be fooling ourselves" if we didn't think that the media is liberal on one hand, and empirical evidence to the contrary. I know which of these choices I'm going to take more seriously.

Posted by: Tyro | Feb 8, 2007 1:13:58 PM

Tyro, what I said is based on empirical evidence, namely surveys of the self-reported political views and voting habits of journalists, so if you do take such evidence seriously I don't see what your beef is.

Posted by: Sanpete | Feb 8, 2007 2:01:58 PM

Sanpete is wrong. Surveys have found journalists to be more likely to vote for democrats than republicans (the most famous being Clinton over Dole). Considering how far the GOP has moved to the right, that doesn't mean journalists are more liberal than the general public.

Posted by: SAO | Feb 8, 2007 2:17:04 PM

Tyro, what I said is based on empirical evidence, namely surveys of the self-reported political views and voting habits of journalists, so if you do take such evidence seriously I don't see what your beef is.

Right. Now show how that translates into actual bias in the product, and please do so without reference to a wingnut article or "think tank".

Posted by: paperwight | Feb 8, 2007 2:21:11 PM

SAO, that was a curious disproof of what I said. There are a number of studies on this, not all based on voting. Some are based on self-ID as "liberal," "conservative," etc..

Paperwight, I raised a simple point about the make-up of the press corps. How it translates into actual coverage is more complex. In general, people are somewhat biased towards their own views, and have a more difficult time understanding other views than their own. That's human nature. Journalists are trained, usually, to overcome some of those difficulties, and the best journalists are very good at representing all views. But it's silly to suppose that the personal views of journalists have no effect on the biases of their work. That would be unhuman.

That said, there is also some pushback against this, efforts to guard against the bias that can actually overreact and lead to the opposite bias in some ways. It's a mixed bag. I listen to NPR a lot, and can see the liberal bias very plainly in some programs, but not so much with others. The straight news coverage is usually pretty straight, I think.

Posted by: Sanpete | Feb 8, 2007 2:56:25 PM

Sanpete, you can scream until you're blue in the face that middle class suburban professionals vote in middle class suburban ways, but that does not change the fact that the media gives a disproportionate weight to conservative viewpoints and voices, as Ezra demonstrates here. You're merely trying to distract from the empirical evidence embedded in the final product.

Posted by: Tyro | Feb 8, 2007 3:32:00 PM

This is pathetic. How hard is it to find a reasonably bright recent graduate to cull together interesting links?

isn't this what Froomkin does for the WaPo online.

Also, IIRC the most recent polls indicate that reporters are in general more socially liberal but more economically conservative than the putative average voter. Further editors and owners that set the agenda are very conservative particularly economically. All i could find was the one below which is from 2004 which more or less backs my point.

http://people-press.org/reports/display.php3?PageID=829

Posted by: BillCross | Feb 8, 2007 4:43:52 PM

Tyro, I'm pointing out general facts established by sound methods; you're pointing to one case and asserting a general conclusion. It's difficult to measure bias in the finished product, but what I've said is surely more relevant to the overall than what what you've come up with.

Posted by: Sanpete | Feb 8, 2007 5:28:57 PM

what I've said is surely more relevant to the overall than what what you've come up with.

Precisely not. What you've said is less relevant. It's about as relevant as pointing out that new organization are owned by large, faceless corporations beholden to the bottom line whose executive management donates to Republicans. It's also reflective of the difference between liberal and conservative criticism of the media-- liberals point out that the media is doing a poor job and is being lazy, leaving them vulnerable to right-wing hucksters that run their think tanks and PR firms. Right-wing criticism of the media focuses on resentment against the class that the journalists come from.

Ezra provided a clear example of the press doing a poor job which ends up causing them to give more attention to the conservative POV than is warranted. You merely vent your frustration about the social class that the journalists come from. Ezra wishes the press would do a better job. You would never trust the press because of who the reporters are. (similarly, you could argue that, economics graduate students' research is biased in favor of the anti-poverty government programs and rent control because their stipends hover around the $20k/yr or less range, even though anyone who studies economics could tell you that the field's papers lean heavily in favor of neoliberal/libertarian economics).

Posted by: Tyro | Feb 8, 2007 6:49:39 PM

Tyro, your vivid imagination is preventing you from focussing what I've actually said. You seem to be arguing with someone else. I probably have less complaint about the media than you do. I don't resent or distrust the press, nor do I think the press is lazy. I typically find Ezra's occasional attacks on the media exaggerated, if not off-target completely. In this case he might be right about the biases of the source, but if you look at the articles listed now, you might draw different conclusions about the product. And of course you can't draw any conclusions from this about the press in general in any case (I assume he was just being funny about that). I haven't even said that the press has an overall liberal bias in its product, though I think there's good reason to suspect one, especially on social issues.

That news organizations are owned by large, faceless corporations that skew Republican in giving is relevant, of course. I think how relevant it is can be roughly seen by tracing the ways that might seep into editorial matters. But what I've said is obviously also relevant. It does matter what political views of the members of the press have. That's part of Ezra's point.

As I said earlier, the ways in which bias would show in the product are complex. I listen enough to NPR that I could explain easily enough some ways the biases show up there, on both our local level and the national level. I could address the peculiar biases in our two statewide newspapers. I wouldn't try to do the same thing for network news or the like, because I don't follow them.

Posted by: Sanpete | Feb 8, 2007 7:48:58 PM

Shorter SanPete: I stand by my unsupported statements, without further explanation beyond reiteration of my unsupported statements.

Any time someone says "well, it's complex" and "I could explain, but I choose not to", it's pretty sure that they're now arguing ex rectum.

Posted by: paperwight | Feb 8, 2007 9:02:06 PM

Useless comment as usual, paper, with the usual level of miscomprehension, and in your typically offensive manner. Why do you bother? Consider using argument and evidence, save the insults for the schoolyard, and you might make a useful comment.

Posted by: Sanpete | Feb 8, 2007 9:31:00 PM

I don't resent or distrust the press, nor do I think the press is lazy.

Of course you don't because it repeats the lazy righwing narratives you love so much.

Posted by: Col Bat Guano | Feb 8, 2007 11:50:59 PM

Some people must really be traumatized by conservatives. They see them everywhere, even where they aren't.

Posted by: Sanpete | Feb 9, 2007 1:44:16 AM

It's not an ad. Web ads aren't typically announced as press releases.

Posted by: Craig | Feb 9, 2007 5:24:33 AM

George Bush, born in Connecticut, educated at Ivy League Schools, family compound in Kennebunkport, movie set "Ranch". Is just a plain spoken regular guy. And Edwards is phony?

Posted by: merlallen | Feb 9, 2007 8:36:23 AM

Sanpete wrote, That news organizations are owned by large, faceless corporations that skew Republican in giving is relevant, of course. I think how relevant it is can be roughly seen by tracing the ways that might seep into editorial matters. But what I've said is obviously also relevant.

You really think that a supposed bias of a reporter will yield a greater influence on product than a supposed bias of an owner, publisher, or editor?

Here's a question: Have you ever heard of a reporter being "fired" by his superiors? If you don't know the meaning of the word "fired," perhaps you could look it up in a dictionary.

Posted by: liberal | Feb 10, 2007 5:08:21 AM

Liberal, your attempt at an insult doesn't add anything of value to your post.

The potential pressures of noneditorial management and the biases of editorial and reportorial staff can't just be balanced to see which has the greater effect. They undoubtedly have different effects, both of which can show up side by side. In practice, I think any influence of noneditorial management is usually very indirect, and not so much of a factor. There are notable exceptions, such as Fox News Channel, which has an obvious business plan with a political aspect that's reflected directly in editorial policy.

As I said before, it's hard to measure bias in the product; it's often too complex. But if you pay attention you can see particular ways in which it shows up. To give one of the easier examples, I used to hear Ira Flatow on NPR's Talk of the Nation: Science Friday regularly berate guests he didn't agree with, be very accommodating to guests he agreed with, stack his guest panels with guests who agree with him, focus more than seemed justified by their importance on stories that would be of interest to a typical liberal, and so on. (I'll let you guess how I know what his political views are.) He's a little better now, and thankfully now seems to trade off a fair amount with another host who doesn't have those same biased habits, at least not in such a noticeable way.

Posted by: Sanpete | Feb 10, 2007 3:47:06 PM

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