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

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

These days, liberals are once again preaching one thing and practicing another. They always want diversity, but that ideal never seems to carry over to diversity of opinion.

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

It worked.

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

The anecdotes could go on and on. My conclusion: The media are biased.

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

The most recent study from the American Association of Newspaper Editors (ASNE), which surveyed 1,037 newspaper reporters, found 61 percent 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 University and Stanley Rothman of Smith College found that 56 percent of journalists from the most renowned publications and broadcast mediums such as The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Time magazine, ABC, CBS and NBC said the people they worked with were mostly on the left, and only 8 percent on the right – a margin of 7-to-1.

-Kenneth Walsh from U.S. News & World Report found that nine of the White House correspondents surveyed in 1992 voted for Bill Clinton, two for George H. W. Bush and one for independent Ross Perot.

-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 American public.

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

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

What? How is that fair?

Even in this freelance job writing for NEXT, there are only four conservative writers out of 23 on the NEXT team. It may be true that most young adults are liberal, but it’s because they don’t hear the other side – whether it’s in college or from newspapers.

Another form of bias I’ve observed is labeling. Editors often label conservative think tanks as “conservative,” whereas liberal organizations, such as the Sierra Club or Planned Parenthood, are never 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 a perspective; placing stories in order to downplay the conservative perspective; and unfairly selecting sources.

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

This is a dangerous practice. Journalistic integrity is based on striving to be objective. And if that is too idealistic, at least diversity of opinion should be welcome.

Vanessa Pierce is a writer for NEXT, a Sunday opinion page in The Seattle Times, and a 2003 University of Washington graduate working in Aspen, Colo. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

end of article dingbat

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