Bernard Goldberg's specter of a powerful, liberal "media elite" reminds me
of the old notion that women sleep their way to the top: If such a ploy
actually worked, wouldn't there be a lot more women in high places?
A liberal-biased national news media? Instinctively skewing TV, radio and
print stories toward their leftist agenda? In my dreams, baby, in my dreams.
Like my esteemed colleague Debra J. Saunders, I have not read Goldberg's
best-seller, "Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News."
Lest we jump to conclusions, I have not read Michael Moore's "Stupid White
Men" or David Brock's "Blinded By the Right" either.
I do not have time to read many books these days because I am hard-pressed
to keep up with hundreds of stories from alternative, left-wing news Web sites
and periodicals ranging from mediawhoresonline.com to the Nation.
From where the reporters, editors and pundits of these outlets sit,
Goldberg's despised liberal news media have become the lapdogs of George W.
Bush and corporate America (two allegedly separate entities). Daily, these
real liberals crank out angry, detailed dispatches about corruption, deceit,
manipulation and law breaking by folks in high places.
But Goldberg tells me I must buy Dan Rather as the liberal enemy of a free
nation? Dan Rather? Who used his daily CBS Radio spot on International
Workers' Day to discuss the ancient tradition of the Maypole and renewed hopes
for a more peaceful future?
Everything I have read about "Bias" (excerpts, debates and town hall chats
from left, right and center) says Goldberg does offer some specific examples
of sloppy journalism by people with a nonconservative bent.
(I say "nonconservative" because "liberal" has been slapped on so many
people, the label now stretches over everyone from moderate Democratic U.S.
Dianne Feinstein to Larry Kramer, the anarchistic founder of ACT-UP.)
But to extrapolate from some examples, a "media elite" that pushes its
liberal agenda at all turns is to take a mighty big leap. Besides, at least
one of Goldberg's premises has had a few holes shot in it with actual data.
"Bias" claims that TV newscasters "pointedly identify conservative
politicians as conservative" but do not do the same for liberal pols. Allowing
as how it's not easy to review the words of electronic news types, the
American Prospect's Geoffrey Nunberg ran a data base search of the other arm
of the media elite, the nation's 20 major newspapers, to see if Goldberg was
What he found in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles
Times and The Chronicle, among others, was the opposite: liberal politicians
such as Sen. Barbara Boxer and Rep. Barney Frank had "a better than 30 percent
greater likelihood of being given a political label" than did such
conservatives as Rep. Dick Armey or Sen. Trent Lott. When Nunberg screened out
editorials and commentary, the labeling was dead even.
Over the past 25 years, the folks at Project Censored at Sonoma State
University have published an annual list of 25 important news stories the
mainstream news media never got around to reporting. From where they sit, any
bias in the upper echelons of journalism looks to be skewed toward established
political, economic and social power bases.
From where I sit -- a grouchy member of mainstream journalism for 30 years -
- it looks like a dozen giant, for-profit conglomerates now own most major
print and electronic news outlets. The day that their agenda is to pander to
welfare moms, labor unions, peace and affirmative action advocates,
environmentalists and enemies of unbridled capitalism -- well, that's the day
I'll be the happiest damned liberal in the whole global village.
©2002 San Francisco Chronicle