Media bias

I’ve written before about the reflexive complaints by some readers that there is a liberal bias in the mainstream media. Today, for a change, you can see what someone else has to say on the subject. At Mr. Vultee’s Headsup blog, which is always informative, you can find a typical criticism and his response.

For the prosecution:

Everyone who cares knows that not only The N&O [News and Observer, Raleigh, N.C.], but almost all of the mainstream media are biased toward liberalism. If Vaden or anyone else would objectively research news coverage, not only for political campaigns but across the board, including the war on terrorism, the economy and other important issues, I think they would find it very difficult to rationalize the obvious bias that exists.

For the defense:

With all due respect there, quite a few people "objectively research news coverage" (as well we should; nobody's ever gotten tenure just by making fun of Mitch Albom). And we know quite a lot about it by now. U.S. newspaper endorsements have traditionally tilted heavily Republican. More people in newsrooms describe themselves as Democrats than as Republicans. News tends to reify not just status quo parties but status quo candidates within those parties. Chief executives get a rally effect from international adventures and misadventures alike. Presidential frames get a better ride in the press when there's a lot of consent at the top of the pyramid, compared with times of elite dissent. (That's why Iraq looked and sounded more like part of the "war on terror" in news accounts after Colin Powell went to the UN than it did before.)

For a lot of reasons, then, it's no surprise that when you ask about what the "war on terror" looks like in the mainstream press, a good place to start is "what does the administration want it to look like?" And since wars on terror are about as old as wars on drugs (both predating the Reagan administration), any such effect is likely to be independent of party affiliation.

By all means read more deeply into Mr. Vultee’s excellent posts.

Oh, and just for clarity. I am not the John McIntyre who runs I suspect that his views might not be entirely congruent with mine.



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