Yesterday, part of my substitute teaching gig at the local high school was basically monitoring study hall for a couple periods and making sure that the classroom doesn’t turn into “Lord of the Flies.” As I monitored the class, I also continued looking for something resembling full-time work. Writing, reporting, public relations, marketing, editing, photography are all things I can do. For 15 years I went to work five days a week—and sometimes more—at a newspaper. But as I research possibly getting back into journalism after 10 years out of the business, I’m beginning to wonder if there is a place in the MSM for conservatives.
That prompted a 22-tweet thread on Twitter that you can find here. For posterity—and easier reading—what follows is a slightly edited reproduction of that thread. (I used some abbreviations I normally would have spelled out to meet the Twitter character limit and there was one misspelling.)
I’m continuing to look for full-time employment, and since I have a journalism degree and 15 years experience at newspapers, I’m looking at newspapers and online media. However, sometimes I wonder if it’s even worth applying when I see the ostensibly unbiased journalism they’re producing is biased.
And it’s not what I would call “normal” bias. It’s like the CNN chyrons that “fact check” only one side. It’s the lack of skepticism to claims by politicians on one side, while doing a “reality check” for the other side that ignores some real, valid concerns.
Case in point. A potential job I am looking at has a staffer currently doing the job I would be applying for now. It’s a newsletter editor for a nonprofit journalism site covering California. (You can probably figure out which one.) The day before the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, the writer quotes a state senator recalling that in the days before Roe there were entire hospital wards full of women who were being treated for botched abortions.
I’m sorry, but that smells fishy to me. So I start googling for sources. I find a couple sources that seem to echo the claim, but they don’t have any real specificity to them. One is an abortionist, the other a socialist worker magazine that doesn’t actually cite any primary source. So this sounds fishy.
I sent the quote to @CaPolitiFact, but I’m skeptical they will follow-up.
What I do find is this site which actually points to a primary source that casts a lot of doubt that there were so many women suffering from botched abortions that they could fill hospital wards. This also seems to jibe with some stats from NARAL’s Guttmacher Institute helpfully collected here.
This speech collected by the National Institutes of Health puts the maternal deaths due to abortion in 1957 at just 260 for the entire nation. Hardly enough to fill entire hospital wards.
But this claim is repeated uncritically by a journalist who is supposed to be part of the next wave of journalism in this country. And if I applied for and got this job, this individual would be my boss. How would he react if called BS on a quote like this? Would I have the freedom to write a story about what appears to be obvious lie by abortion proponents in this state? If, as an editor, I wanted to delete this claim from the newsletter in the first place, what would the reaction be?
If Kevin Williamson can’t be tolerated at the Atlantic then what is the likelihood that a comparative nobody like me would be tolerated at this media outlet? They say they’re nonpartisan. They claim to be unbiased, but to me this looks like there’s a serious case of liberal groupthink in the newsroom. What are the odds that my input would be respected at this publication?
It’s not just this one quote. I want to make that clear. As part of the reading/research I’ve done before considering whether to apply, I’ve found this same journalist, again, who would be my boss, injecting opinion, or purposefully obfuscating facts to the benefit of what obviously seems to be his political side.
An earlier article on the @daviddaleiden case noted that Daleiden claimed Planned Parenthood was selling baby parts. Something that was pretty obviously true from the videos and the fact that Congress referred Planned Parenthood affiliates for prosecution. At the very least, there is still a dispute over what happened.
Yet, in an article on the case, it includes this:
[Daleiden] then edited and released [the videos], saying the tapes depicted Planned Parenthood selling fetal “body parts.” They didn’t.
The “They didn’t” wouldn’t have passed muster in any journalism class I ever took or at any newspaper I ever worked at.
Finally, in an article about the Trump administration’s threat to withhold public health funding because of California’s law which requires abortion to be covered by health plans in the state, the journalist includes this among his bullet points:
- Reality check: In California, companies that self-insure need not offer abortion services. Nor do churches.
Is that all of the story? No, it isn’t. Why is Trump doing this? Politics obviously. But who’s being impacted by California’s law? Not the self-insured. Not churches.
Well, it turns out at least two Catholic universities and a group of nuns are currently being forced to cover abortion in their health plans. The story takes on a little bit different cast when you find out it’s not a business like Chick-Fil-A or Hobby Lobby that’s impacted. [For the record, I discovered some of this information in The New York Times reporting. If they can do it…]
So, what are my odds? Should I bother applying? I’d enjoy the job, but this thread is an outline on how I’d do it differently. Is removing his bias comparable to inserting mine?
The last journalism job I had was over 10 years ago. I got that job 9 years before that; long before I started wearing my politics on my sleeve. From what I’ve seen over the past decade, it doesn’t seem to hurt to be a SJW or on the far left of the political spectrum when seeking a “mainstream” media job nowadays.
My politics are not much different than more than a third of American people, yet every job I look at in journalism seems to give off this vibe that I would be unwelcome.
For the record, I have no problem dealing with people whose politics are vastly different from mine. I encountered that nearly every day of the 15 years I spent in the newsrooms of four different newspapers.
I’m happy to call many of those people friends.
It just seems that there’s far less tolerance nowadays, not just in newsrooms. Neither journalism, nor society is better off for it.
End of Tweetstorm.
Is there a place in the MSM for Conservatives? I’d like to think so, but that may just be wishful thinking.
Once upon a time, Media Research Center Founder L. Brent Bozell published a book called “Weapons of Mass Distortion: The Coming Meltdown of the Liberal Media.” One of his main points in the book was that the liberal media (aka the MSM), was losing viewers, readers and credibility among the large part of the American public that considers themselves conservative and would have to start recruiting conservatives to maintain their standing.
At the time, I questioned where the media would find qualified conservative reporters; most journalism schools weren’t turning them out. In the decade-plus since that book was published, the MSM by and large haven’t been hiring a bunch of Hillsdale graduates. Instead the media has become more segregated ideologically. Conservatives go to The Daily Wire, The Federalist, The Washington Free Beacon and others for their news. That’s not good for the American body politic. I wish Bozell had been right, but I don’t think it’s turned out that way.
Update Feb. 20, 2020: First, a correction it appears as though the individual currently writing the newsletter would not be the boss of the person they hire to take over the newsletter. That individual is leaving CalMatters.org. Second, the individual they have hired for that new position is leaving a copy-editing position at … Vox.