Gregory Gilbert’s February 25th article entitled “Right Wing Media: the Victimized Majority” contained several unsettling points that warrant a response.
First, I wish to clarify the source of the statistic given in my article “Meditations on Ward Churchill, Bill O’Reilly, and the Liberal Media,” that sixty percent of newspaper journalists identify themselves as liberal/Democrat, while only fifteen per cent identify themselves as conservative/Republican. This information was obtained from a 1997 survey conducted by the American Association of Newspaper Editors, published by the Media Research Center (mediaresearch.org).
Despite attempts to find more recent data, I consider these figures relevant for several reasons: First, the results from similar studies in 1980 and 1988 returned nearly identical numbers, which is significant because newspaper journalism is a territorial and traditional field that does not fancy change. Second, newspapers are not driven by the same short-term pressure for ratings and dollars as the news media is on television, the internet and radio. Although I cannot formally prove that these numbers are factually true in 2005, I am willing to put my name behind the idea that within the last decade journalists have not changed significantly in political orientation from the statistics cited.
I stand firmly behind all figures used in my columns; they are the result of exhaustive research and daily reading from multiple sources. Had Gilbert asked, I would have been happy to provide him with the source of this data and the justification for its use had he taken the time to contact me before implying that I was wrong or misleading. It seems he launches the same style of attack for which he condemns the Right.
As an aside, Gilbert wrote that on inauguration day “Fox had 19 conservatives and 7 progressives on; MSNBC had 13 conservatives and 2 progressives; and CNN had 10 conservatives and 1 progressive.” I contend that if a Democrat would have won, the numbers would be reversed in favor of the winning party. The inauguration is a celebration of the winner of the election; it is not a campaign event. There is no injustice in strategists and members of the winning party speaking about the past and upcoming terms of President Bush.
To revisit the issue of media bias, I think that Gilbert misses the boat with the theory of the “victimized majority.” Yes, Fox News (one channel) often has a conservative slant and there are a number of popular conservative figures selling many books. However I will stand atop the Colgate hill and give examples of how CNN and MSNBC are slanted left until I am blue in the face. The only majority on those two stations is that of viewers and listeners who tune in to conservative television and radio. The popularity of the conservative voice does not mean that it constitutes the majority of all media sources.
Although the news media landscape is changing with the growth of internet media sources and the popularity of conservative thought, the reality remains that the most permanent media sources in America – newspapers, other printed media, and network news programs – exhibit a liberal slant. It seems liberals are frustrated because their decades-old bias has been minimized by newer, outwardly conservative news sources in the last decade (Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, Bill O’Reilly) that continue to clean up in the ratings.
I happily concede Fox News’ conservative twang, but I will continue to point out the dominant liberal biases throughout American media without asking for sympathy.