What Liberal Media?: The Truth about Bias and the News by Eric AltermanWidely acclaimed and hotly contested, veteran journalist Eric Altermans ambitious investigation into the true nature of the U.S. news media touched a nerve and sparked debate across the country. As the question of whose interests the media protects-and how-continues to raise hackles, Altermans sharp, utterly convincing assessment cuts through the cloud of inflammatory rhetoric, settling the question of liberal bias in the news once and for all. Eye-opening, witty, and thoroughly and solidly researched, What Liberal Media? is required reading for media watchers, and anyone concerned about the potentially dangerous consequences for the future of democracy in America.
Political media's bias, in a single chart
What Liberal Media?
The charge that the media slant to the left has been a right-wing staple for more than five decades. Implied in the charge is a remedy: Liberal media need countering by conservative media. Bad ideology produced distortion, which in turn hijacked public judgment and undermined righteous leadership. The right's attacks on liberal bias intensified during the Vietnam War. By the fall of , the right was transfixed by the belief that a major reason why America was failing to win the war was that journalists, especially on network television, had misrepresented the war. Agnew had a theory of the origin of this bias. The press, he maintained, was run by a nasty elite fraternity, a.
Everyone loves to hate the media for its supposed liberal bias but Donald Trump , never one to lose at things, has taken it to new heights. Like so much of what he says, his claims need fact-checking, all the more so because the myth has been around much longer than Trump. Trump just did what he does best : supercharge the myth. To the extent the claim has truth, it is limited to the political persuasions of editorial staffers, many of whom exercise relatively little editorial control. The more salient questions around bias, then, have little to do with staffer headcounts, and more with the allegiances and affiliations of owners. They also, in this increasingly polarized news environment, have to do with the sources where Americans get their news. Television remains the dominant source of political news for Americans, and conservatives, through Trump-friendly outlets including Fox News on cable and Sinclair Media Group on local broadcast, dominate the space.
Only a liberal would be dumb enough to title a book, What Liberal Media? Listen to just about anyone and the answer is obvious: "What, are you stupid? Just pick up a newspaper or turn on your TV. The right argues that the media is biased toward leftists. The other side responds, to quote David Broder, "dean" of the Washington press corps, "There just isn't enough ideology in the average reporter to fill a thimble. Social scientists talk about "useful myths," stories we all know are not necessarily true, but that we choose to believe anyway because they seem to offer confirmation of what we already know which raises the question, if we already know it, why the story? Think of the wholly fictitious but illustrative story about little George Washington and his inability to lie about that cherry tree.
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While the idea that a liberal bias pervades the mainstream media has been around for years, it gained new currency with the publication of Bernard Goldberg's Bias and its successor, Ann Coulter's Slander. His chapter on business journalism, for instance, is a thrill-ride through the excesses of late s optimism and the subsequent crash in stock valuations and mood. But he also counters that while the economy was peaking, major media outlets virtually ignored traditional left-wing issues like labor rights, which had been neglected, and income inequality, which was growing.
The question of whose interests the media protects—and how—has achieved holy-grail-like significance. Is media bias keeping us from getting the whole story? If so, who is at fault? Is it the liberals who are purported to be running the newsrooms, television and radio stations of this country, duping an unsuspecting public into mistaking their party line for news? Most of the criticism and anger has so far emanated from the political Right, which has offered us the rather unconvincing argument that a systematic Left bias is destroying the quality of news and debate in our country today.