The “liberal media” shibboleth redux – Part 2


The latest claim for press liberalism came in a long piece by MSNBC reporter Bill Dedman, seconded in an article by Twin Cities journalist Eric Black, who says that anyone who has spent many years in newsrooms “knows” that most journalists are liberals. Well, I have 10 or 15 more years in newsrooms than Black, and what I “know” is quite different from what he seems to “know,” and what Dedman claims to have shown.

Opinion: The “liberal media” shibboleth redux – Part 2. The “liberal media” shibboleth redux – Part 1 was published yesterday.

I’ll give them this: A majority of journalists think of themselves as liberals or, more often, “centrists.” That’s even with the unstated distinction between various groups within any newsroom. A sports department in any fairly large newspaper is going to have a much closer balance between liberals and conservatives, for example. Copy editors, who do have considerable influence on what articles say and who write the headlines and also have a voice in placement of stories, tend on average to be considerably more conservative than, say, arts critics and features writers, who have no voice in political coverage.

In any case, given what newspapers or magazines print, you have to ask what kind of “liberals” are those in that self-proclaimed liberal-center majority? In my 40-plus years in the business, I’ve seen a considerable move to the right -– they’d say toward that elusive, indefinable “center” — over the past two-plus decades. The “center” also has been moved to the right with their active help, by the way.

Today’s journalists are solidly upper middle class. Like the vast majority of Americans, they are deferential to those in power and firmly believe that this is pretty close to the best of all possible worlds –- that it just needs a little tweaking. They call rich guys in suits “Mister” and the people who speak for peace organizations and neighborhood groups by their first names.

A majority, but on some of these issues a slim majority, believe in abortion rights, civil unions if not the right of marriage for gays, and that it’s time for a woman president.

If some candidate now were to push an agenda containing the major goals of Franklin D. Roosevelt, they would consider that candidate “extreme” or “fringe,” and their coverage, what little was granted, would clearly convey their opinion.

(Remember, like Black and Dedman, I’m talking majorities here. There are, to my certain knowledge, journalists who feel differently on all of the issues I mention.)

A very large majority of today’s journalists are, without question, “against” the Iraq war at this point -– but don’t look for much in the way of passion on that score, or so much concern that it might slant coverage of the war or the Bush propaganda machine’s output.

Very few of today’s journalists have served in the military — almost all of my generation did – and it is extremely unlikely that their children will serve. They tsk, tsk at the war, but it doesn’t affect them personally any more than it does their fellow upper middle class suburbanites. Their objections are distantly intellectual.

All of those attitudinal quirks play out in the news you see.

The unchanged attitude in the news racket these days is that balance in the news means giving a liar equality of coverage with a truth-telling opponent, even when the lies are easily demonstrable. Reporters simply don’t point out even the most blatant of lies, especially from the intimidating right, and when they occasionally slip on that point, the editors see that such “bias” is taken out before a story is printed or broadcast.

Deference to power also means that virtually every issue and every argument is couched in terms chosen by the political right, and especially by the White House.

Recently, an escalation in troop numbers in Iraq is routinely called a “surge,” simply because that’s what White House spinners settled on.

Every time the White House and the right wingers in Congress want to make another change to favor their rich individual and corporate sponsors, they call it a “reform.” They have pushed bills to “reform” the electoral system by purging the rolls of minority voters, and many bills to “reform” the tax system, and national land management policies and countless other systems.

The press always –- always — refers to those moves as the this-or-that “reform” effort, because that’s what those with the power call it.

Note over the next months how those “liberal” journalists refer to people who intend to, and will, protest during the Republican National Convention in St. Paul.

A recent story by two Star Tribune staff writers began this way:

“Anarchists and antiwar organizations preparing for the Republican National Convention are planning dozens of traffic blockades, are targeting perceived vulnerable spots in the Twin Cities metro area and are readying to spring from Internet promises to real-world action.”

Anarchists? If there are more than two dozen actual anarchists in the entire country, I’ll eat raw toad. In going “Boo!” about their supposed plans, the Strib writers deeply color the public’s perception of all protests and demonstrators even though they undoubtedly know that 98 percent of those who show up to protest the Bush/Cheney actions against this country will be peaceful, average Americans.

And a St. Paul Pioneer Press story on the probability of convention protests said in the third paragraph that the anti-war coalition planning at least some of those protests is made up of 1,400 organizations “– from activists to communists to pacifists.”

Activists, of course. Communists? Not one in 10,000 likely protesters, but it sure will widen the eyes of readers. Pacifists? Some undoubtedly, but, again, a small percentage of those likely to demonstrate against Bush/Cheney in St. Paul. The focus is on a tiny minority; one would think Karl Rove sent in the notes for the stories.

People who are angered by our illegal and immoral invasion of Iraq are not necessarily or even mostly pacifists in the true sense of that word. A majority of the older male anti-war folks I know, and there are many of them, are veterans of the American armed services, and we’re anything but ashamed of that fact.

But undoubtedly the worst characteristic of our supposedly liberal news media these days lies in what it doesn’t cover. Story after story showing the effects of White House actions, actions by the Republican-led Congress and the powerful corporations that now control large segments of our government as well as our economy go unpublished in most of the corporate media, though they can be found elsewhere.

The latest celebrity scandal or personal tragedy gets play that used to be reserved for declarations of war, but the real stories are ignored or buried.

There’s your liberal news media, folks, and the 144 contributors to politicians or social causes cited by Dedman as evidence for media’s liberal bias haven’t made the tiniest dent in the real nature of the corporate media today.