re the media biased? Do they have an agenda?
Are they more concerned with ideology than information? No, say 41 percent of
those surveyed in a recent Gallup Poll. Yes, say others, and by a margin of
almost two-to-one they believe that the bias favors Democrats.
The Media Research
Center is a conservative watchdog group that sides with the majority when
it comes to media bias. It's not really a "watchdog" group so much
as it is a "guard dog" group. Watchdogs are stupid little creatures
who run around the house in the middle of the night barking at innocent sounds
and waking everyone up. The MRC does not bark; it bites, and the sounds that
catch its attention, although often disguised as innocent, often have deeper
In its 13th annual end-of-the-year look at bias
in the press, the MRC cites 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl, who
touted her objectivity last January by insisting that she had "had my
opinions surgically removed when I became a network correspondent."
Was the surgery successful? Apparently not.
Less than two months earlier, Stahl confessed to being "endlessly
fascinated" by Hillary Rodham Clinton. "She's so smart," Stahl
went on. "Virtually every time I've seen her perform, she has knocked my
socks off." Perhaps another operation is in order.
ABC's George Stephanopoulos is supposed to have
put his partisan days behind him. Sometimes they catch up, even sneak ahead. A
few weeks ago, on the network's This Week, he stated unequivocally that
"Al Gore won the votes cast in the state of Florida." Later, in the
same sound bite, he made sure the point was clear. "Listen, if this race
is counted fairly, Al Gore won more votes in Florida." It is not known
whether the opinion-removal surgery also failed for Stephanopoulos or whether
he ever had it in the first place.
Bryant Gumbel of CBS is a favorite MRC target.
The reason is the number of times he opens his mouth and forms his lips into a
bullseye. In August, during an interview with Hadassah Lieberman, he called
the phrase "family values" "a code word for intolerance."
Which, I suppose, makes family abuse or spousal disrespect code words for
But there are targets as well for those who
believe media bias is not so much political as corporate. Two associates of
Fairness and Accuracy in Media, a group of journalist-biters at the opposite
end of the political spectrum from the MRC, have presented their annual
P.U.-litzer Prizes for stinky journalism, and ABC's The View heads the
It seems that the show's panelists, including
Barbara Walters, took to the airwaves on eight occasions in November and
talked about the joys of Campbell's Soup. What they did not talk about was the
check that the show had received from Campbell's to pay for their blather.
What kind of check, you ask? Mm-mmm big!
Then there was the deal that The New York
Times, the Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal
struck with United Airlines. The three papers would get first crack at the
proposed United-US Airways merger if they agreed not to call any other sources
for comment. Sources, for instance, that might say something negative about
The FAIR associates also point out that ABC,
which is owned by Disney, does not want the network to say something positive
about competitors. So in 2000 it killed stories on a cruise ship line owned by
a Disney rival and a movie, Chicken Run, produced by a competing
The moral of the story, I suppose, is that
although bias is sometimes in the eye — or ear — of the beholder, it is at
other times right up there on the screen or on the page, and failing a New
Year's resolution by the media to curb it, one can only hope that the MRC and
FAIR and others will continue their resolve to point it out.