Liberal Press: '96 Edition

By Alterman, Eric | The Nation, June 10, 1996 | Go to article overview

Liberal Press: '96 Edition


Alterman, Eric, The Nation


The jig is up. We might as well stop pretending. Washington Post pundit James Glassman has revealed the "shameful open secret of American journalism." Ready? We're liberals. How does he know? The very fact that anyone denies it--or rather, unlike Glassman, lacks the courage to point it out--is proof enough. "That the press itself (along with the whole hand-wringing professional apparatus of our trade) chooses to gloss over it, is conclusive evidence of how pernicious the bias is."

It's hard to argue with a man who interprets your disagreement as proof that he's right, particularly one who takes conservative Representatives like John Kasich to be "garrulous and endearing" when they have the good sense to call Glassman to ask why Republicans are not getting sufficient attention for their "historic achievements of the past year." When Newt Gingrich immediately commends Glassman's article to "every reporter and every editorial writer in America," one is forced to inoculate commonsensical readers, in the event it poisons the well of conventional wisdom and spews forth one day from the likes of Sam Donaldson or Morton Kondracke as proven fact.

Among the elements of Glassman's evidence is a poll published by S. Robert Lichter, Linda Lichter and Stanley Rothman in their 1986 book, The Media Elite. The authors found 54 percent of journalists called themselves "liberal" and 19 percent "conservative." "Even in the 1972 Nixon landslide," Glassman notes, "81 percent of journalists (me, included) voted for McGovern." Glassman does not appear concerned that the data upon which he so heavily relies are older than a generation of practicing journalists and were taken during a period when even Gingrich was a liberal.

In the same column Glassman notes, "In a new study of the Republican primaries, Lichter's Center for Media and Public Affairs found media coverage relentlessly hostile. The tone of 75 percent of the campaign pieces on the NBC Nightly News, for example, was negative." Glassman's reliance on the Lichters to demonstrate liberal bias in the media is a little like relying on the Unabomber to prove the evils of technology. A 1992 Lichter study, for instance, coded all critical reference to the apartheid regime in South Africa as a hostile criticism of U.S. foreign policy. The same study treated the belief that "racial discrimination was a condition of American society" as further evidence of liberal bias.

This horse is so tired I'm amazed it's still standing for Glassman to flog. …

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