Friday, May 05, 2006

Liberal Media Bias Exposed! And Explained

Being that I am of limited imagination, I don't have anything interesting to say about fiction at this moment, not that I ever did. But, unfortunately for the souls who have wandered here in search of "entertainment" or "enlightenment," I have something else to say.

It's about the media. Specifically, so-called "liberal media bias." And why, to a limited extent, for perhaps the only time in my life, I agree with Rush Limbaugh. (That druggie.)

I agree with Rush and his conservative cohorts Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly on one thing. Most journalists are liberal.

There. I said it. I need to go shower with tomato juice.

If you were to poll every scribe in America, from the New York Times to the Podunk Tribune, from The Nation to The National Review, from Vogue to Hustler, I'd bet that over 75 percent voted for John Kerry.

As someone who has dabbled in the dark arts of the Fourth Estate, I can say with 100 percent certainty that there is a simple reason for why most media types are indeed liberal, a reason that is so damn obvious that nobody seems to have picked up on it:

Journalism is a crappy way to make a living.

The vast majority of jobs in journalism offer lousy pay, no security, and just about no glory. To generalize in the crudest sense, those market conditions aren't amenable to attracting Republicans.

Or think of it this way: you're a recent college grad, a campus conservative, you wrote for the college paper, and have some good clips. You get two job offers.

Dig the threads

Job Offer A, from the 46,000-circulation Daily ButtNut-Observer Journal, gives you the opportunity to cover the county water reclamation board at $16,500 a year, which rises to $18,000 after finishing a six-month probationary period. Job Offer B, from Big Corporation, gives you an opportunity to move your way up the corporate ladder, starting at $44,500 per annum, with much more later on. Plus benefits, stock options, and a 401(k) that would make your parents cry.

This is what those who rail against the liberal media don't talk about, because they probably don't want to admit that conservatives won't work for bupkus simply to have his or her voice heard. The vast majority of entry-level journalism jobs are for the Daily Butt-Nut-Observer Journal or smaller. Even if you went to J-school at Medill or Mizzou or Columbia, you'd be thrilled to start out at a medium-sized daily, say in Miami, Seattle, or Dallas. And you're still going to start out covering those water reclamation boards.

Of course, this pits the vision of a brash, idealistic liberal taking the job where she "thinks she can make a difference" against a greedy, mean-spirited conservative taking the job where she thinks she can make a pile of cash. They're stereotypes, of course, but while there are arch-conservatives toiling away at tiny media outlets and hyper-liberals who lust for investment banking bucks, it's mostly the reverse.

If the end goal of journalists was to become rich, I promise you that the New York Times would read like it was written by Fox News.

Yeah, I know the usual counter-argument: an express elevator runs from Harvard and Yale to the halls of power, and that the "media elites" are a self-perpetuating group of pointy-headed liberals that keeps out conservatives. There is some truth to this, particularly at opinion magazines.

To which this unbiased observer says, "Who the hell cares?"

You see, the journalists who count the most are the rank-and-file reporters who are the primary media prism through which we view political and cultural events. They're the national White House correspondents and the local Joes covering the local VFW. A reporter at any level is concerned with three things: getting the facts right; scooping the competition and not getting scooped; and making deadline. That's it.

Now, the fact that most journalists lean to the left doesn't mean that there's a massive liberal media conspiracy or that journalists are inherently biased against Great American Conservative Values.

Sure, a reporter may let bias creep into a story. But most ink-stained wretches are extremely scrupulous — they are aware of their bias, and try to cover both sides of an issue. Sometimes an editor will have a liberal bent, evidenced through assignments, heavy-handed editing, or even headlines and photo captions. Still, editors who let their political leanings influence coverage too much usually find themselves out of a job or on the op-ed pages.

Deep in the heart of Texas

Then there's the oft-repeated charge that TV talking heads are paid plenty good but are still holdout Marxists. But consider the career paths of the three most recent network anchors who have left their posts.

The late Peter Jennings started his career at a radio station in Brockville, Ontario. Tom Brokaw was a college radio reporter in South Dakota, then worked in Sioux City, Iowa. And Mr. Dan Rather, the target of much conservative ire, began his career with the AP in Huntsville, Texas.

Brockville, Ontario, Sioux City, Iowa, Huntsville, Texas: these are not what I would call glamorous places to start one's career, and I doubt Dan Rather was summering in Martha's Vineyard back then.

What I find doubly humorous is that in the old days, the media was really unbalanced. Col. McCormick's Chicago Tribune and the pre-Otis Chandler days of the L.A. Times, for instance, based their news coverage largely on the whims of their conservative owners. William Randolph Hearst, after all, basically started the Spanish-American War.

Maybe that's the point. Rush and Sean and Bill O' want the good old days to come back, when media bias was everywhere and obvious. It just happened to be conservative bias.

Whew. There. I've said it. I'm done.

Care for an after dinner mint? No? It is waf-er thin. Just one, monsieur. Just one.