Another outraged libbie from the pages of the Seattle Times is the target of my ire today, as he mindlessly rages against Michael Kelly's column of last week in which Kelly discussed the absurdity of Al Gore's claim that the media is biased in favor of the right. Here is the letter, in all its glory:
Syndicated columnist Michael Kelly seems to have done his usual 10 seconds of research for his latest column ("The liberal media trumpet their demise," Opinion, Dec. 11). True to form, Kelly reacts to suggestions of the truth about media "bias" with an ideological outburst and a flood of poorly arranged numbers. He didn't happen to mention that daily newspapers in major U.S. cities overwhelmingly endorsed Bush in the 2000 election, but my favorite is his suggestion that conservative journalists are brave, vastly outnumbered warriors in a liberal "symphony."
Really, Michael? There are "precisely three" major conservative media outlets? One wonders if you have read the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, Human Events, Newsweek or the National Review. Just because you are not familiar with them does not mean they are not major outlets, and just because they aren't as blindly partisan as you doesn't mean they aren't conservative.
James Zetlen, Shoreline
Hmmmm, where to begin? Yes, it is true that a vast majority of the newspapers in the US supported Bush over Gore, but what Zetlen glosses over is the impact of which papers are doing the endorsing. Of the 10 largest papers in the United States, precisely two (the New York Post and the Chicago Tribune) endorsed Bush. (Two others, USA Today and the Wall Street Journal, did not endorse a candidate, although if they had, they likely would have balanced each other.) Three papers which endorsed Gore (NYT, LAT, and WaPo) are extremely influential, and their articles carry a tremendous amount of weight. Neither of the big papers that endorsed Bush are considered journalistic heavy-hitters; articles from the Post and the Tribune are not often carried by other papers, whereas the other three are linked with regularity.
Next, he trots out National Review and Human Events, two magazines which clearly spell out their ideological points of view, and attempts to use them as straw men to demolish the liberal bias argument. It would be more accurate to compare these two magazines with The Nation and the Utne Reader, magazines with comparable circulations and liberal biases.
He also, inexplicably, throws in Newsweek, which is not at all conservative (Evan Thomas, their managing editor, is a red-diaper baby, and their coverage is nearly as slanted as Time). Perhaps he is hoping nobody will notice the discrepancy, as Newsweek's circulation dwarfs the other two magazines, and might be used as a buttress to support his allegations. It simply cannot stand up to the facts.
His whole argument misses the wider point of the bias discussion, which is what Kelly is actually discussing. Despite the editorial positions of the papers for which they work, reporters are, as a group, markedly more liberal than the population as a whole. Simple assumptions (often unconscious decisions) can frame the story from a liberal point of view; look at how the major media treat topics such as gun control, abortion, cigarettes, and taxes. That involuntary bias, coupled with the more deliberate bias from editors and headline writers, is what those who complain about media bias refer, not the rantings of the openly partisan. While I despise Carville and Begala, I don't mistake them for reporters; similarly, nobody listens to Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh for straight news. NPR, which is decidedly liberal in its coverage, is not only supposed to be non-partisan, but it is funded by tax dollars, which cannot be said of Rush or any of his conservative cohorts.
(As an interesting aside, a Google search of "James Zetlen" reveals only four citations, all linked to Shoreline, WA. It appears that Mr. Zetlen is just out of high school. Perhaps his views have been shaped by the notably unbiased views of one of our university campuses.)
posted on December 16, 2002 08:08 PM