Conservatives need not apply: The search for un-biased media

The media are biased. OK, conservatives cry about this as oftenas liberals call conservatives stupid for doing so. But the mediaare biased.

These days, liberals are once again preaching one thing andpracticing another. They always want diversity, but that idealnever seems to carry over to diversity of opinion.

When I was applying for reporting jobs after graduation lastyear, I felt obligated to tell editors that I am a Republican. Why?Subconsciously, I think it was a test. My test would determine themedia bias once and for all.

It worked.

When I applied for an arts and entertainment section, the editorasked me how I could objectively report on art if I didn’t agreewith the National Endowment for the Arts. My rationale stemmed fromcore beliefs involving conservative theory; nonetheless, I told herthat art is a necessary component to our culture. It didn’t matter.It was no interview, but rather an attack. I had to defend mybeliefs, not my capability.

The anecdotes could go on and on. My conclusion: The media arebiased.

Now, to the credit of my current employer, who hired me knowingfull well that I am a Republican, I still feel like part of theminority of conservatives in the media. And it turns out thatstatistically I am.

The most recent study from the American Association of NewspaperEditors (ASNE), which surveyed 1,037 newspaper reporters, found 61percent identified themselves as leaning “liberal/Democratic,”compared with only 15 percent who identified themselves as leaning”conservative/Republican.”

Some other disturbing facts researched by the – some would say -“conservative” Media Research Center, a media-bias watchdog,compiled the following from various surveys:

-In 1981, S. Robert Lichter from George Washington Universityand Stanley Rothman of Smith College found that 56 percent ofjournalists from the most renowned publications and broadcastmediums such as The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Timemagazine, ABC, CBS and NBC said the people they worked with weremostly on the left, and only 8 percent on the right – a margin of7-to-1.

-Kenneth Walsh from U.S. News & World Report found that nineof the White House correspondents surveyed in 1992 voted for BillClinton, two for George H. W. Bush and one for independent RossPerot.

-Editor & Publisher in 1988 found that in the 1996 election,a majority (57 percent) of the editors voted to re-elect Clinton,compared with only a minority (49 percent) of the Americanpublic.

I’m often astounded at how subjective newspaper editors can bein creating the daily paper. For example, bias in newspapers isrepresented by selection of editorial columns. Fourteen columnistsnext to two doesn’t seem objective.

I’ve heard editors say this selection is done in order toreflect the demographic of the area. So if there are moreDemocrats, then there should be more liberal columnists.

What? How is that fair?

Even in this freelance job writing for NEXT, there are only fourconservative writers out of 23 on the NEXT team. It may be truethat most young adults are liberal, but it’s because they don’thear the other side – whether it’s in college or fromnewspapers.

Another form of bias I’ve observed is labeling. Editors oftenlabel conservative think tanks as “conservative,” whereas liberalorganizations, such as the Sierra Club or Planned Parenthood, arenever labeled “liberal.”

Labels are fine, as long as it’s done both ways.

There are many other forms where bias can seep into newspapers,such as reporters/editors purposefully omitting the other side of aperspective; placing stories in order to downplay the conservativeperspective; and unfairly selecting sources.

This is actually “media fraud” rather than bias, as one of myfavorite “conservative” columnists, Thomas Sowell, would say.

This is a dangerous practice. Journalistic integrity is based onstriving to be objective. And if that is too idealistic, at leastdiversity of opinion should be welcome.

Vanessa Pierce is a writer for NEXT, a Sunday opinion page inThe Seattle Times, and a 2003 University of Washington graduateworking in Aspen, Colo. Distributed by Knight Ridder/TribuneInformation Services.