Duncan Black, a noted internet blogger, recently offered his “liberal critique of the mainstream media” at the “Take Back America 2007” progressive conference. A member of the panel speaking on the topic “The Mainstream Media: Fair and Balanced?” Black dictated his reply to the complaints of American conservatives about liberal bias in the media. “Please do a better job,” he summarized his position on the mainstream media of today. The panel gathered to discuss the problems of truth and accuracy in the media, and counter-attacked the conservative movement to balance the media.
He illustrated the conservative argument as “liberals are biased, conservatives are not,” and then stated three key points of his “liberal critique of the mainstream media.”
First, he spoke of an unwritten rule in the mainstream media of “no liberals allowed on TV.” He cited news anchor and commentator Keith Olbermann as a possible exception to the rule, but added that the number of extreme liberal views he has promoted has been few, and MSNBC has not replaced him and his highly-rated broadcast with a more moderate candidate.
Secondly, Black revealed that there exists a fundamental belief in the mainstream media that the country is politically “center-right.” He gave examples of this widespread “bias,” stating that today’s media abandons the “religious left” while equating “values voters” with the right side of the political spectrum. The nation also has a massive anti-war movement, he said, which has yet to be fully covered by the mainstream media.
Black argued that in present-day media coverage “the trivial is elevated” in politics. Instead of covering important policies of the government, the conservative media trivializes politics “like a show.” Black cited an example, where political commentator Chris Matthews remarked that Presidential candidate Fred Thompson “smells nice,” instead of commenting on what Thompson’s true political agenda is. Conservatives, he continued, were worried sick about John Edwards’ $400 haircut, and were thus distracted from the pressing issues of the moment.
Richard Wolffe, Newsweek’s senior White House correspondent, seconded Black’s argument. He argued that the conservative base in America consistently complains of a liberally-biased “imbalance” in press coverage. The role of the journalist, he stated, is to see all the sides, present all the sides, and then guide the reader through this complicated world, adding “the world is big enough for all of us.” The truth in news must be objective, not conceptualized as “balanced,” added Craig Crawford, contributing editor for Congressional Quarterly.
“Fairness and balance are not the same,” noted Dan Froomkin, writer of washingtonpost.com’s “White House Watch” column. “In the mainstream media, fairness is a virtue, balance is not.”
Matt Hadro is an intern at the American Journalism Center, a training program run by Accuracy in Media and Accuracy in Academia.