« The Dichotomy is Dead, Long Live the Dichotomy! | Main | One Last Times »

May 16, 2005

Ideas Matter (Randomly)

You're about to hear a lot of whining and high-pitched indignation about this paragraph from an Editor & Publisher survey:

Asked who they voted for in the past election, the journalists reported picking Kerry over Bush by 68% to 25%. In this sample of 300 journalists, from both newspapers and TV, Democrats outnumbered Republicans by 3 to 1 -- but about half claim to be Independent. As in previous polls, a majority (53%) called their political orientation "moderate," versus 28% liberal and 10% conservative.

Okay kids, listen close and listen quick: if the majority of the folks spending day after day and night after night observing, analyzing, and judging politics are breaking heavily Democratic, that's not prima facie evidence of bias. Indeed, it may be evidence that the facts of contemporary politics break down in such a way that most rational observers in command of all, or almost all, of the relevant information find voting Republican an irrational thing to do.

The right appears to believe that on any two-sided issue where they support a side, bias is proved when too few folks in this or that industry don't support that side as well. In that way, opinions are a statistical concept, the byproduct product of some divine distribution of arguments rather than the fruit of logical thought and analysis. If journalists don't vote as they do, they're biased, not right. If teachers don't mistrust evolution as they do, they're biased, not learned. If scientists don't doubt global warming as they do, they're biased, not informed. It is, oddly enough, a complete embrace of relativism and a complete rejection of the concept that there can be Truth, two things no self-respecting conservative would be caught dead doing. But I'll stop there, I'm beginning to sound biased.

Also in the survey are these legitimately disturbing results:

In one finding, 43% of the public says the press has too much freedom, while only 3% of journalists agree. And just 14% of the public can name "freedom of the press" as a guarantee in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, in the major poll conducted by the University of Connecticut Department of Public Policy.

Six in ten among the public feel the media show bias in reporting the news, and 22% say the government should be allowed to censor the press.

This country? Not on such a good path. See Kevin Drum for more.

May 16, 2005 in Media | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
https://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d8341c572d53ef00d8342cccf853ef

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Ideas Matter (Randomly):

Comments

Come on... this is the old "the only reason 95% of college professors are leftwing is because being a college professor requires kindness, hard thought, logic & being a nice person - which conservatives aren't" argument.


Besides, trying to explain why most reporters are Democrats is missing the point of the article. The point is that, for whatever reason, Democrats disproportionately make up people in the news media. Which explains why most of the major media sources are liberally biased.


The point is that news media should be objective, and allowing viewers to decide. What good is attacking Fox News for it's obvious conservative bias if you ignore the equal but opposite bias at CNN, CBS, & Newsweek (among many others)?

Posted by: anonymous | May 16, 2005 1:26:31 PM

Two things you've not proven:

1) My argument is, on some level, incorrect.

2) The media is liberally biased.

Thanks for playing, though.

Posted by: Ezra | May 16, 2005 1:39:04 PM

Whatever--the officer corps of the armed services is really Republican. If the media's disproportionately voting Democratic is a threat to American democracy, I think the armed forces' disproportionately voting Republican is a much bigger threat.

Call me wacky, but willfully partisan guys with pens are far less frightening than willfully partisan guys with Sherman Tanks.

Posted by: theorajones | May 16, 2005 2:39:40 PM

Along with theorajones' excellent point above, there is another contrarian point to be made here. TV news, which is by far the most influential with the general public, has a clear and obvious Republican bias--just randomly turn on any cable news outfit and watch for a few minutes, if you don't believe me. I'm talking about all of them, not just Fox. The views of street reporters are inconsequential next to that.

Posted by: Rebecca Allen, PhD | May 16, 2005 2:57:08 PM

I think all of the liberal posters are tapdancing just as fast as they can over this telling report.

Good luck with that.

Posted by: Robert Zimmerman | May 16, 2005 3:46:07 PM

You can't just turn on television and be able to tell the bias. That's because everyone views "objective" television as showing their point of view. A liberal will think that tv is "obviously" conservatively biased. While a conservative will think it "obvious" that tv is liberally biased.


What you have to do is look at objective media watchdogs. Those showed that John Kerry received the best media coverage of any Presidential candidate in 20 years. There were approximately twice as many positive stories on the major networks about him as negative stories. Versus, of course, overwhelmingly negative stories about Bush.


Now, of course, if you are a leftwinger then you find this normal - why shouldn't Kerry get all that positive coverage?? He was the better candidate, right?


But television IS to the left of the average American. That gives it a liberal bias, whether you can see it or not.

Posted by: anonymous | May 16, 2005 3:48:31 PM

Dr. Allen, I don't understand your point. Soldiers follow orders. They're not just going to start shooting liberals....

Soldiers don't have the power to influence minds like the media does. Soldiers only do what the citizens want them to do (since politicians don't start wars unless the public wants a war). That is why the media bias is more worrisome.

Posted by: anonymous | May 16, 2005 3:50:39 PM

It appears that since Pandagon has shut down their RTPTrolls, they've all moved to Ezra's place. Predictable and sad.

Posted by: paperwight | May 16, 2005 4:17:01 PM

What you have to do is look at objective media watchdogs.
These guys are such comedians!

Posted by: michaelw | May 16, 2005 5:07:15 PM

Okay Anon, let's see the studies. I'm quite sure they're bullshit, but I'll let you produce them before I tee off. Also, whether or not the media is to the left of the country (I would argue they're not and are, instead, in some weird fetish of opposition category) doesn't make them biased. What would make them biased is if they misreported or ignored facts in order to present their case. It looks to me that the situation is the opposite: conservatives upset that the media is reporting facts (not to mention voting based off them) rather than kowtowing to notions of balance.

Posted by: Ezra | May 16, 2005 5:17:02 PM

That's some way you look at issues, to just assume that your side is right before you even start. It's important not to be completely partisan, and to view things with an open mind. I hate Republicans even more than Democrats, but I understand that neither side has the moral high ground. Both sides pander to special interests, both sides cheat, both sides focus mostly on getting re-elected. That's just the way that politics is. To close your eyes to what people in "your party" do is really naive.


You want a media study? How about this one:
http://www.cmpa.com/documents/04.09.08.Summer.Campaign.pdf

From the Center for Media And Public Affairs, at George Mason University. Rather than just subjectively try to watch tv for a few minutes and jump to conclusions on bias, they simply counted up the number of positive & negative stories for each candidate.

Fox was, obviously, biased towards Bush. The other media sources were biased towards Kerry. Of all, ABC was the most fair, and Newsweek was the most biased. That's no surprise if you consider the recent Quran scandal by Newsweek...


Anyway, while simply reporting on an issue is not bias (is reporting on Enron's scandal anti-Enron? Of course not, it's simply important news), what is bias is leaving out important articles. For example, in the run up to the 2004 election, negative job numbers were always splashed on the front page of newspapers, and they'd be the first stories. If the numbers were good, you wouldn't see them - because it "wasn't news." That is bias, leaving out the good news. Among many other things, of course...

Posted by: anonymous | May 16, 2005 5:25:55 PM

Wow, there are so many things wrong with anonymous's posting. I'll just take three.

One.

they simply counted up the number of positive & negative stories for each candidate.

Huh. So stories about the country reflecting negatively on Bush couldn't have had anything to do with him running the country, could it? Seriously, when someone is the President, and the country is in the dumper, it's not bias against the President to run bad news.

He's not just "some candidate" in that situation, he's the damn wartime President. That has lots of advantages, like the bully pulpit, the wartime rally-round effect. It's pure hackwork to identify as bias that he also suffered the effect of stories about the bad news in the country when he was running the country.

Two.

Anonymous entirely fails to mention the founder's connection with AEI, and the funding sources of the CMPA. CMPA is not nonpartisan; they looked around for a metric they could use to attack the media for liberal bias, and (assuming their work can be trusted, which I do not), they found one, worthless though it is.

Three.

That's some way you look at issues, to just assume that your side is right before you even start. It's important not to be completely partisan, and to view things with an open mind.

And that's exactly the assumption that Republicans make about the media. Modern Republicans can't look at anything without an ideological lense: their answers are predetermined by their ideology, facts be damned. So when they hear that some large percentage of reporters (or academics) are Democrats, they assume that the ideology drives the reporting and study, not the other way around because that's how a Republican would have to do it.
-----
Anonymous is not an independent, and I don't believe a word he/she/it says about hating Republicans. Anonymous is spouting Republican talking points, and is covering with the classic Republican Talking Points Troll tactic of "But I hate both parties". BS.

Posted by: paperwight | May 16, 2005 5:50:19 PM

You can try to disparage me personally, and that's fine. It just means that you are ignoring the main issues at hand. Personally, I've voted for more Democrats than Republicans, and I rooted for Gore over Bush in 2000 (in 2004 I had to vote 3rd party, cause I couldn't stand either of them)


The negative coverage towards Bush is not what I was referring to. Obviously that will be affected by things like negative news from Iraq.

However, if you look at Kerry. Despite the Swift Boat stuff, he received the best coverage in that report's history (going back to 1988).


You can try to disparage every report as some right-wing crackpot scheme, but it's just you trying to pretend that something's there that's not. You desperately WANT there to be a conservative bias. But how could that make sense since, as was posted, reporters are more than 3 times as likely to be Democratic as Republican.


Also, it's not only about the issues. It's about the candidates. Take the NY Times or LA Times. In the past 40 years, those two papers have endorsed thousands of Democrats, and I doubt they've ever endorsed a single Republican (they certainly haven't as long as I've been paying attention). Now, you say that's not bias, because all Democratic candidates are better than Republicans. Well, fine, but that's not "objective" in the true sense of the world. A newspaper is not supposed to present only the Democratic Party side of the issue (even if the Democratic Party is right on the issue!). It needs to present both sides.

Posted by: anonymous | May 16, 2005 5:56:10 PM

It appears that since Pandagon has shut down their RTPTrolls, they've all moved to Ezra's place.

Actually, the discussion seems to be lively, cordial and reasoned. If you want monotone yes-men comments or "men suck" feminist vagina monologue rants with a lot of "fuck this" and "fuck that", then go to pandagon. You will fit right in.

Posted by: Robert Zimmerman | May 16, 2005 6:16:45 PM

I'm afraid I'll have to join in with my fellow trolls Zimmy and er "anon".

I've heard and read this argument countless times before and the most interesting point raised was about red and blue spectacles.

I'm a conservative so "wear" red spectacles and so don't notice any bias in red media but immediately spot all the bias in blue media.

Ezra et al wear blue spectacles and regard blue media as normal and red media as out of place.

That said I still know that I'm the one who is correct ;-)

As to most journalists being libs how about this for a possible suggestion:

"Scientific" people are conservative.
"Artistic" people are liberal.

Journalism being literary is an artistic profession.

Clearly from my clumsy writing style you can see I'm scientific and therefore conservative.

Posted by: Boethius | May 16, 2005 7:43:45 PM

You can try to disparage every report as some right-wing crackpot scheme, but it's just you trying to pretend that something's there that's not. You desperately WANT there to be a conservative bias. But how could that make sense since, as was posted, reporters are more than 3 times as likely to be Democratic as Republican.

What? Every time someone who isn't funded by Scaife et al actually looks at this, they find that the whole liberal bias canard falls apart. I pointed out the bias of the report anonymous cited. CMBA is funded by people who have spent enormous amounts of money working to destroy liberalism for the last 30 years. Forgive me if I think their methodology and motives may be suspect.

Also, I don't think I said there was a conservative bias in the corporate media or that I wished there to be. That's not my view, no matter how much Anonymous WANTS it to be.

Also, it's not only about the issues. It's about the candidates. Take the NY Times or LA Times. In the past 40 years, those two papers have endorsed thousands of Democrats, and I doubt they've ever endorsed a single Republican (they certainly haven't as long as I've been paying attention). Now, you say that's not bias, because all Democratic candidates are better than Republicans. Well, fine, but that's not "objective" in the true sense of the world. A newspaper is not supposed to present only the Democratic Party side of the issue (even if the Democratic Party is right on the issue!). It needs to present both sides.

Anonymous is confusing the editorial page with the reporting. Reporting is not supposed to be about sides. Reporting is supposed to be about facts. For example, the WSJ's editorial board is largely composed of people with a really distant and somewhat hostile relationship to the truth. The WSJ's reporting, however, is generally very good about getting facts right.

The whole notion that there are Republican and Democratic *facts* is a Republican attempt to destroy reporting generally. It's laziness and spinelessness on the part of the corporate media which has reduced them to he said - she said reporting in the face of that demand by Republicans for balanced facts. That's what I think the bias is -- for cowardice.

Posted by: paperwight | May 16, 2005 9:18:52 PM

paperwight, you should read what Boethius wrote. You don't see problems in the media because you are wearing blue spectacles. When news is tilted to the left then you think it's normal, you don't see anything wrong. All you notice are conservative biases, cause that is what strikes you as wrong.


Think about this: newspapers hire minority writers specifically to bring diversity to the writing. In other words, just your skin color is enough to affect the content of your stories... apparently. So you're telling me that someone's political party doesn't make a difference?

One thing I always do on issues is to go to conservative websites and liberal websites to get both sides of each story. And then I try to hit some objective sites also. So, you can do that on media bias. Extreme Leftist sites (like this one) consider media conservative. All conservative sites consider the media liberal. All objective sites and all moderate Democratic websites acknowledge that it's liberal. That should show you something.


Walter Conkrite was always the mouthpiece of liberal bias, arguing vehemently that the media was not liberal. Then, after he retired, he acknowledged that it was true that the media was liberal. But that he just didn't realize it while he was apart of it. And Cronkite is a hardcore Democrat - he posts on Arianna Huffinton's blog...

Posted by: anonymous | May 16, 2005 10:36:34 PM

Anon -- I can't seem to find the report on the CMPA's website. I need more than the graph of findings to decide whether or not it's worth trusting. Indeed, my feeling is that we're seeing a conflation of stories about the country's poor condition (bad job market, things going to hell in Iraq, stagnating wages, rising deficit, etc) than bad coverage of Bush personally, but I need to see what they're evaluating in order to judge that. Beyond, I happily reject any accusations of liberal bias in the news. I also find conservative bias silly. The media is biased in favor of confrontation, opposition, and ratings.

As for editorial boards, they are indeed liberal in the nation's largest papers. As well they should be. The economic indicators show that the country's economy has fared better under every single Democrat than every single Republican over the last 40 years. I think we're running into a problem here, but this is the core of my argument: if you pay close attention to politics and really weigh the outcomes of Democratic v. Republican administrations, it's not bias but good judgment to vote Democratic. That the nation's political set leans left thus doesn't surprise me one bit.

Posted by: Ezra | May 17, 2005 12:31:12 AM

Ezra you say:

"As for editorial boards, they are indeed liberal in the nation's largest papers. As well they should be. The economic indicators show that the country's economy has fared better under every single Democrat than every single Republican over the last 40 years. I think we're running into a problem here, but this is the core of my argument: if you pay close attention to politics and really weigh the outcomes of Democratic v. Republican administrations, it's not bias but good judgment to vote Democratic. That the nation's political set leans left thus doesn't surprise me one bit."


I'm sorry, but that's your OPINION that Democrats are better. I mean, if it's such a fact that Democrats are superior, then why even hold elections? Why not just make all office-holders Democrats?

Newspapers should not be making these decisions. Newspapers should present both sides of the story, and allow the reader to make their own decisions.

Talking about the economy? That was a perfect example of media bias in 2004. Everytime bad economic numbers came in they were front page story. If numbers were mixed, you'd see the bad information first (i.e. if 400,000 jobs were added but the unemployment rate didn't drop, the story title would be "unemployment rate stays stagnant".

That's why the majority or Ameicans mistakenly think that the bad recession we had started under Bush, when it actually almost entirely occured under Clinton. And it's also why most Americans thought the economy was bad in mid-2004, when it was actually just as healthy as it was in mid-1996, when Clinton won re-election on "economic prosperity."


Misinformed Americans is not a price I want to pay to get more Democrats in office...

Posted by: anonymous | May 17, 2005 7:36:14 AM

Like him or not....he's good.

Posted by: Robert Zimmerman | May 17, 2005 8:14:38 AM

Yeah, that's your OPINION that that's my OPINION. . .and its only looks red because you are wearing blue spectacles. . .and my ideas are simply a collection of muddled arguments that you can't "know" anything, that there are no objective truths, that it's okay because I say its okay, that newspapers should not express an opinion unless it supports my opinions that everyone who I deem is objective and moderate, surprisingly, in agreement with me and, did I mention, that I'm right. Best of all, I am stupid enough to think that this line of reasoning is a smackdown.

Posted by: Roberta Zimmerman | May 17, 2005 1:53:53 PM

Hi, Michael....

Posted by: Robert Zimmerman | May 17, 2005 3:47:48 PM

Boethius,

My entire academic career has been in the sciences, and the great majority are either liberals, or dedicated pragmatists. I have known a small minority of conservative scientific types. That's ranging from top-notch schools to... not-so-top notch schools.

In my brief time in industry, I found that the chiefs were slightly less liberal and the indians slightly more pragmatic than liberal...

I don't know about the arts. They scare me.

Posted by: TJ | May 17, 2005 4:35:24 PM

Extreme Leftist sites (like this one) consider media conservative.

And thus, anonymous again betrays his true (deep, deep red) colors (as he does in every post). Ezra is not an "Extreme Leftist"; he's not even close. For that matter, I'm not even close. This site is not an "extreme leftist" site. There are almost no "extreme leftists" in the United States. Those are RNC talking point words used to demonize. Trolls would do better in pretending they're actually not trolls if they were smarter about the language they used.

Posted by: paperwight | May 17, 2005 5:50:16 PM

And just one more thing. Some of the "hardcore Democrats" (whatever that means) who contribute to the Huffington Post would be surprised to learn that anonymous has changed their party affiliation. For example: Eugene Volokh, John Fund, Roger Simon, and Tony Blankley.

Posted by: paperwight | May 17, 2005 5:59:29 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.