Monday, September 29, 2003

Here's my moderate bias: I'm rather entertained by the liberal-media conspiracy theorists out there. As a journalist, I just can't buy the argument that the news media is intentionally pushing a liberal agenda. I personally know way too many conservative news reporters in the business for such a conspiracy to thrive.

I will concede that the major newspapers and magazines I read -- The New York Times, The Washington Post, Newsweek, et al -- will slip from time to time and fall to the left when reporting issues. The Washington Times tends to land on the right, probably intentionally, but still subtly. The overall coverage, however, tends to be objective or, at the very least, tends to balance subjectivities.

I will recuse myself from evaluating broadcast networks because I rarely watch them unless a major event is happening, at which time I usually stay on CNN. Occasionally on quiet nights I'll flip among some of the shows on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC. But it won't be long until the sound of people simultaneously screaming at each other taxes my sanity.

Still, from what I've seen I haven't sensed an overbearing liberal push on news networks. Again, they may slip a little left at times, but that's not a conspiracy. Fox does have more conservative pundits, but they are open about their opinions just like liberal columnists are. But you can't call one network conservative and another liberal when talking heads, such as Geraldo Rivera and Greta Van Susteren, jump between networks.

That's not to say that news shows are completely innocent. I was utterly amazed by ABC's decision to hire Democratic partisan hack George Stephanopoulos as an "objective" journalist. And it bugs me how Fox adopts the rhetoric of the Bush administration, such as echoing the president's term "homicide bombers" for Palestinian suicide bombers. The truth is, all bombs are meant for homicide. What sets a suicide bomber apart from B-52s is that the assailant is taking his or her own life just to make sure that the bomb kills as many people as possible. Part of the job of the news media is to cut through political rhetoric and describe reality objectively.

But when somebody pegs the whole news media with a liberal bias, that person is only revealing his or her own conservative views. A perfect example of this is found in Bush's chat with Brit Hume on Fox News.

HUME: How do you get your news?
BUSH: I get briefed by Andy Card and Condi in the morning. They come in and tell me. [It's assumed that this next comment is a side, apologetic comment to Hume] In all due respect, you've got a beautiful face and everything.
I glance at the headlines just to kind of a flavor for what's moving. I rarely read the stories, and get briefed by people who are -- probably read the news themselves. But like Condoleezza, in her case, the national security adviser is getting her news directly from the participants on the world stage.
HUME: Has that been your practice since day one, or is that a practice that you've...
BUSH: Practice since day one.
HUME: Really?
BUSH: Yes. You know, look, I have great respect for the media. I mean, our society is a good, solid democracy because of a good, solid media. But I also understand that a lot of times there's opinions mixed in with news. And I...
HUME: I won't disagree with that, sir.
BUSH: I appreciate people's opinions, but I'm more interested in news. And the best way to get the news is from objective sources. And the most objective sources I have are people on my staff who tell me what's happening in the world.
Bush's staff members can be called a lot of things, but I'm sure objective is not one of them. But to conservatives like Bush, only other conservatives seem fair and balanced. The rest of us can and should continue to take a critical look at what the news media serves us. But we can throw our tinfoil hats in the garbage.

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