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Vatz makes a baseless attack

I was almost tempted to admire both the irony — to say nothing of the audacity — of being accused of producing work flawed by "evidentiary problems" in a newspaper column ("Liberal media bias is beyond doubt," March 18) by a professor who cannot be bothered to produce a single scintilla of evidence to support his claim. But since it's my reputation at stake, my amusement was minimal.

For the record, the work to which your guest columnist, Richard E. Vatz, refers: "What Liberal Media? The Truth About Bias and the News" (Basic Books, 2003 and 2004), was meticulously fact-checked and contains fully 43 pages of source notes. I do not deny the possibility of error. It's almost impossible to write a work of over 350 pages without them, though I am aware of none that have survived beyond its first printing. I also do not deny the likelihood that many people will disagree with my arguments. That is, after all, what honorable public discourse is all about. But I do deny both Mr. Vatz's and, by extension, The Sun's right to cast aspersions on my scholarship by throwing out casually derogatory accusations without making any attempt to support them.

I hate to sound defensive, but it so happens that The New Yorker magazine, which is considered to be an authority on such matters, noted the "meticulous care with which [Mr. Alterman's] arguments are sourced and footnoted." The Los Angeles Times called the book "well-documented" and "even-tempered." The Columbia Journalism Review said the "research really is excellent." The Orlando Sentinel called the book "thoroughly researched." The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel termed it "masterful, painstakingly documented." Publishers Weekly thought it "well-documented" and "well-argued." Providence Journal: "Exhaustively researched." The Boston Review: "Exhaustively researched." I could go on, but my point is not to brag, but merely to point out that Mr. Vatz's opinion is a lonely one, and requires, at the very least, significant supporting evidence to be taken seriously as anything but an ideologically motivated ad-hominem attack.

Such baseless accusations may be the appropriate manner to conduct oneself in the on Fox News or right-wing talk radio, but Sun readers deserve better, and so do I. I look forward to both an apology and a retraction.

Eric Alterman, New York

The writer is a CUNY Distinguished Professor of English and Journalism at Brooklyn College and the author of nine books.

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