Well, it was enough to make a cat laugh, as Mark Twain says. Normally, I don't like to write about "media bias." You can't have an argument with someone who doesn't argue in good faith, and those who deny the charge of bias are nearly always doing so in bad faith. The privileged position occupied by the media in the national debate depends absolutely on frequent and vehement official insistence on their neutrality and "objectivity"--even though these ritual and unbelievable assertions fly in the face of the obvious truth that .everyone is biased except those who simply don't care. Apologists for "objectivity" acknowledge this fundamental truth on the one hand while insisting on the other on their "professional" qualification not to be affected by it, an absurd position. But if their refusal to see that the media are not just sometimes but always biased disqualifies them from having anything further to say of interest on the subject, it also means that they are not infrequently good for a laugh when the absurdities of their position are made manifest, or when they charge someone else with bias.
As a rule, the guardians of journalistic purity are too busy denying bias in themselves to be quite comfortable saying tu quoque. It might almost seem like a confirmation of their own bias to accuse someone else of it. Thus Tom Brokaw on the "Donahue" show last summer when asked about bias on the network news preferred to change the subject, replying: "I don't think it's a liberal agenda. It happens that journalism will always be spending more time on issues that seem to be liberal to some people; the problem of the downtrodden, the problem of civil rights and human rights, the problem of those people who don't have a place at the table with the powerful." But, Tom, as Phil Donahue did not say, how are we to regard this attempted justification of bias as a denial of bias? Isn't there a logical difficulty there? Isn't it just a little bit like the killer with the smoking gun in his hand who says: "I didn't do it, and, anyway, he had it coming"?
But the humor of Mr. Brokaw's remark was as nothing compared to that of various post-election charges of bias emanating from those who are usually loudest in their proclamations of journalistic objectivity. Needless to say, when The New York Times levels the charge of bias it is not against anyone whose biases are shared by The New York Times. Even other progressively disposed news organizations such as The Washington Post were shocked when the Times spiked the columns of two of its own sportswriters who did not toe the party line that Tiger Woods ought to boycott the Masters golf tournament because of the Augusta National Country Club's exclusion of women members. The news pages, happily, were otherwise in full agreement with the paper's editorial policy on the matter and ran over thirty stories in the space of a few weeks, all with the purpose of treating Augusta's decades old men-only rule as a newly revealed scandal. Thus the paper thought it newsworthy if not scandalous that CBS, broadcasters of the Masters, did not share their editorial opinion either, which may explain the outrage that led to the censoring of the authors of two signed columns.
In the end, the Times was embarrassed into reinstating the columns, though not before Gerald Boyd, the paper's managing editor, explained the decision to kill them in a memo to staff. "Part of our strict separation between the news and editorial pages entails not attacking each other," he wrote. "Intramural quarreling of that kind is unseemly and self-absorbed? Wouldn't you just know it? The New York Times finally comes out against self-absorption and it's on behalf of self-censorship and self-conceit! But the incident only illustrated what should have been clear in any case, which is that the official fiction of journalistic "objectivity" and high-mindedness has bred in the editorial staff of the Times--among other …