Downplaying Another Poll on the Liberal Media
by L. Brent Bozell III
April 3, 1997
The American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) has
released a new "workforce survey" of newspaper reporters, in which
61 percent of those surveyed identified themselves as "Democrat or
liberal" or "leaned" toward that view, while only 15 percent
called themselves "Republican/conservative" or "leaning"
In their magazine "The American Editor," ASNE
stressed the findings were "similar" to a 1988 survey. But those
results pegged the liberal-to-conservative ratio was 62 to 22 percent.
That means conservatives at newspapers have declined by a glaring one-third in
These numbers will surprise no one, given the performance of
the so-called news media the last couple of years. Will this survey
get journalists to finally confront the problem? Yes, and Webb Hubbell puts in
a honest day's work for $100,000, too.
To deal with the public-relations problem this represents,
ASNE splashed its American Editor cover with the headline -- are you ready for
this? -- "The Myth of the Liberal Slant." Its designated damage
controller and whitewash artist was Everette Dennis, a senior Vice President
of the Freedom Forum, created out of the profits of the Gannett newspaper
Mr. Dennis presented a long list of reasons why the ASNE
poll should not be taken to mean these liberal reporters are guilty of bias.
He's right that polls alone do not demonstrate bias, but wrong about
How's this for wrong: "Perhaps most importantly, they
[conservatives] ignore the conspicuous paucity of research demonstrating a
pervasive bias in news content." What?! Accuracy in Media's been putting
out reports since 1969; Dr. Robert Lichter and his retinue have issued one
devastating study after another since 1981. In its first decade, the Media
Research Center has produced thousands of pages of newsletters and four books
full of proof, all with empirical data. As if to acknowledge the silliness of
his argument, Dennis later condescendingly admits some research exists -- but
he has an answer for that, too: "While a few [!] studies suggest such a
link, most are the handiwork of right-leaning groups and critics whose
research methods can't withstand scrutiny."
Nowhere in his article does he present one solitary attempt
to prove how our content analysis cannot withstand scrutiny. I'd like to see
him try. But he doesn't. Because he can't. All that's left is a smear.
Worse than that, he then proceeds to make his own assertions
of a conservative bias without a scintilla of evidence. "These critics
ignore the political predilections of publishers and media owners, which are
and always have been overwhelmingly conservative." But Dennis doesn't
cite a single poll -- and in all the times I've heard liberals make that
statement, I've never seen them use one.
He added: "They ignore the tilt of newspaper editorial
endorsements, which frequently favor Republican candidates, often in the face
of popular sentiment." Now, if you're going to use this sorry measure
(which says nothing about the hard-news content of newspapers), you ought to
know what you're talking about: in 1992, more editorial page endorsements were
given to Bill Clinton than to the Republicans.
The rest of his claims are laughable. Why, the media
wouldn't be biased, because "owners wouldn't allow it...bias is bad for
business"! (No argument that media outlets are losing audience -- but
that hasn't stopped ABC or CBS). Why, "accuracy, impartiality, and
fairness are at the very core of the journalistic craft"! (Certainly: ask
General Motors. Or Food Lion. Or Richard Jewell.) Why, "partisan
journalism died in America with the 19th century"! Could this guy be any
Dennis also resorted to the hackneyed approach of taking the
focus off the "objective" news media and spreading "media"
around to include conservative commentators on talk radio and editorial pages.
So, the number of conservative reporters may have been cut by a third, but
Dennis claimed: "So, not only are the number of liberal media voices in
the media dwindling, their influence is actually being eclipsed by their
In perhaps his most unintentionally hilarious passage,
Dennis complained: "To the apparent over-supply of liberally inclined
journalists, little is said about the neutrality of hiring policies." So
how does he explain there are four times as many liberal newspaper reporters
Dennis concluded his pathetic piece: "The press can't
sit back any longer while the public is inundated with suspect research
figures and convoluted conspiracy theories showing bias in the press. The
credibility of the media is not suffering because of a liberal press bias;
it's suffering, in large part, because of the continuing charge of bias that
has gone unanswered for too long." But Dennis did not create an answer.
He merely embarrassed himself.
Reporters groan in disbelief when they hear tobacco industry
flacks deny there's any credible research proving cigarettes cause cancer.
Can't supposed academics like Dennis see that to the public, there's no
difference between that, and this?
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