Media bias 101

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on August 19, 2007

No one should be surprised. When presidential adviser Karl Rove announced last week that he would be leaving at the end of August, people attending the news (not editorial board) meeting of the Seattle Times cheered.

Don't think that this was the only newsroom where this sort of thing happened. It may not have happened in every news meeting, but you can bet there were wide smiles and little high-fives in just about every newsroom in the nation. (Disclaimer: I wasn't in the Union-Tribune newsroom when the Rove announcement occurred -- it was my day off. I have no knowledge, first-, second-, third-hand or otherwise that any similar thing happened.)

Liberals don't like Rove. The majority of journalists are liberal. The majority of journalists don't like Rove. This isn't rocket science.

The Seattle Times became a story, however, because the editor there -- and the mainstream media as a whole -- still have an interest in maintaining the facade that American journalists are neutral and unbiased.

A couple of things to note: First, there's this bit in a blog post by the paper's political reporter, David Postman:

I wasn't there, but I've talked to several people who were. It was only a couple of people who cheered and they, thankfully, are not among the people who get a say in news play. But obviously news staff shouldn't be cheering or jeering the day's news, particularly as Boardman points out, "when we have an outside guest in the room."

The outside guest was a job candidate. If this person was a conservative, how would they feel about the cheering? For you liberals, say the cheering was over the announcement that Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, a gay man, was retiring and the job candidate was gay.

So much for that cuddly liberal tolerance, huh?

Postman said that none of the cheerleaders has "a say in news play."

Well, yes and no.

One of the cheerleaders outed herself -- she's local news columnist Nicole Brodeur. She may not have a say in "news play," but she gets to write about whatever she wants two days a week.

The hallowed halls of journalism that I was privileged to enter more than 20 years ago are looking more and more like the New York subway. The walls covered in bloggers' scrawl, the platform crowded with any yahoo with a camera and an open mike. All are headed to your computer screen or television for the 15 seconds you'll give them before moving on to the next hot spot.

Ohh....bloggers are to blame! What a load of idealistic garbage that anyone with half a brain dumped after working for three months in a newsroom. Hallowed halls my butt -- an adult book store is more honest about what's going on within its confines than is your average newsroom.

That's not how we do things at this newspaper.

Here, every morning, some 20 smart, educated, well-read and diverse people gather around a table and talk. We offer opinions on how stories were approached, written and presented. We say what worked, what didn't, and how we can do it better next time.

Smart? Maybe. Here's a survey I'd love to have done: What is the average high school GPA of individuals with journalism degrees working in newspapers, radio and TV? I'd be willing to bet that newspaper journalists GPAs are higher than their radio and TV counterparts, but I'd be shocked if the average GPA was in the 3.5 range and mildly surprised if it was over 3.0.

Diverse? How many of those "some 20" are conservative? Evangelical Christians?

Just for giggles, here's a page that has all of the Seattle Times columnists listed -- how many of them voted for President Bush in 2000 or 2004? I don't know the answer, but if that paper's newsroom is as "diverse" as most newspapers in this country, the answer is probably somewhere close to two.

Can we drop the facade yet? When things like this happen in newsrooms -- and the word gets out -- it's fodder for bloggers, media critics and anyone else who's sick and tired of the liberal media.

Think of the alternative. A newsroom where people are open and honest about their biases, yet vow to do their very best to be fair and unbiased in their reporting. Still, there would be appearances to maintain; appearances that would force serious "diversity" efforts to bringing in conservatives and evangelical Christians of any skin color.

Who knows, it may just improve American journalism.

But I trust you're not holding your breath.


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