First, let me tell you I am a die-hard liberal. This is not a conservative rant, nor an attempt to binge and purge the negatives of the American press (of which there are many, but I will leave that to a later date). This is to confirm what so many try to ignore. Don't worry, I am not going to rip The New York Times from your young, idealistic fingers and discard it without remorse. I love The Times and would read it everyday, if only I could afford a subscription. It is time to point out what so many of us ignore: some of the best reporters and publications in this country swing to the left.
It is important to note that I am not on Ann Coulter or Bernie Goldberg's side. I do not believe the media in this country have a clandestine agenda to manipulate and misinform the American people. But in the details and in between each source, paragraph and tease lays a subconscious subtlety that hints at who the reporter may support come November.
Most reporters in this country vote with the Democratic Party. In 1996, The Freedom Forum and the Roper Center conducted a poll of 139 Washington bureau chiefs and reporters questioning their personal political leanings.
The results of the poll concluded that 89 percent of journalists said they voted for Bill Clinton in 1992. Virtually every media critic cites this study to explain how liberal partisan journalism is initiated; however, some critics, like Eric Alterman, in What Liberal Media? have concluded that not all of the participants took the study seriously and may have passed it off to an intern.
This study does not reveal whether or not there is a liberal bias in the media, but it does prove that most journalists are liberals.
What is especially imperative is human nature and the possibility that one's political position could slip through the cracks of his/her objectivity.
I would like to think that journalists, as a group, are informed and often opinionated people who try to do their best to be objective and fair. It is a difficult task to separate your own ideals when reporting on something you wholeheartedly disagree with.
Moreover, no matter how much a journalist can scrutinize his or her work or how carefully an editor can fact check, certain personal opinions may inadvertently rear their ugly heads through the sourcing and framing of issues. Journalists, after all, do not write in a vacuum.
Sourcing is the crux, the essence and the quintessential core of journalism. Without it, we might as well speculate and call ourselves Fox News. But it is how often and whom we choose to quote or attribute our information to, that can lead to a liberal bias. Many stories on a daily basis put liberal voices closer to the lead and unconsciously tip the scale of balance by using an unequal variety of sources, according to Jim Kuypers, author of Press Bias and Politics: How the Media Frame Controversial Issues. A conservative source is often found buried at the bottom of the story, regardless of its relevance.
In a page one story by The New York Times on Wednesday, Sept. 21, entitled "Top Democrat Says He'll Vote No on Roberts," a response from the White House to Senator Harry Reid's decision to not support the confirmation of Judge John G. Roberts Jr. was not found until the 20th paragraph of a 25-paragraph story. Balance is a priority in the newsgathering process and readers should not be expected to find it buried in the conclusion of the article. Considering the continuous decline of readership in most of America's prominent dailies, we are lucky when someone even buys the paper, nevertheless reads the entire story.
Which brings me to another way the media may involuntarily frame an issue: labeling. When the Brookings Institute is quoted by the media, in some stories it is labeled as "liberal," in others, the institution stands alone.
But whenever anyone quotes The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, it is labeled that way. Some organizations, such as Planned Parenthood, are called advocacy groups, while others, like the American Life League are often seen with the "pro-life group" label. If a media outlet is inconsistent in the labeling of sources, it gives its audience a skewed interpretation of the validity and bias of the source. When writing a news article, just like anything else in life, it is about choice.
A journalist must choose which source to put where. He or she must choose who to call for one last comment before deadline and which words describe that source. All of these habitual, inherent actions of a journalist play into the illusive bias we see in the media everyday.
All of these daily choices can slant the balance an article should have. When a journalist chooses to put certain viewpoints adverse to his/her own sandwiched between complimentary opinions, it instills an inaccurate interpretation of the facts and can give the audience a blurred depiction of the real story.
This liberal bias is not as blatant as Fox News' conservative bias, nor as widespread as the bureaucracy of Rupert Murdoch, but it certainly does exist.
In March, Dana Milbank of The Washington Post wrote: "Reporters aren't machines and some prejudice inevitably finds its way into print or on the airwaves." Although this bias can be seen as subtle and you may have to read between the lines, I know through my progressive platform I can recognize it. Can you?