Bernard Goldberg isn’t the most popular name in today’s newsrooms, and that was before he wrote A Slobbering Love Affair: The True (and Pathetic) Story of a Torrid Romance Between Barack Obama and the Mainstream Media. Goldberg reinvented himself from long-time CBS newsman — with six Emmys to his credit — to liberal media bias detector with bestsellers Bias and Arrogance. Needless to say, mainstream media types didn’t take kindly to his criticisms. CBS mainstay Bob Schieffer echoed the thoughts of many of his colleagues regarding Goldberg’s complaints, rejecting his arguments and stating the former CBS employee now makes a living off of criticizing his old network.
See no bias. Hear no bias. Speak no bias.
Today’s MSMers may be a lost cause. But what about journalism school professors? What do they think of Goldberg’s books? Do they take his criticisms to heart? Or can they successfully poke holes in his arguments? These professors are molding the minds of tomorrow’s media gatekeepers. What could be better than for them to engage their students with Goldberg’s thesis? Even if they disagree with Goldberg, they could spark the kind of healthy debate all budding journalists should consider.
So I decided to ask some journalism professors myself. I spent the last month directly reaching out to more than 20 professors from across the country, as well as several university PR divisions, to get their take on Goldberg’s critiques. I even turned to my Facebook and Twitter accounts to seek out anyone who might comment for this article. I should have expected the result.
In one case, multiple professors from a single university declined to comment. In another, a university contact said that not only was he unfamiliar with Goldberg’s books but that none of his fellow faculty members knew enough about the media critic to comment. Shouldn’t a journalism professor be a mite curious about Goldberg’s highly publicized critiques? To be fair, one professor — Craig Allen at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in Phoenix — responded:
Basically, we take the Goldberg books with a grain of salt. Some good points are made but he provides nothing original. “Sour grapes” accounts of the news media by disgruntled former employees go all the way back to Fred Friendly. They say the same things about bias-this, bias-that, corporate greed, pandering to the public time and time and time again. I prefer more penetrating works, such as those written by my scholarly colleagues, that pursue not the “what” but the “why.”
Actually, Goldberg’s works don’t speak about corporate greed or pandering to the public. They describe an insular community, which delivers its groupthink to media consumers. But since Professor Allen was the sole person to respond, I’ll applaud his willingness to at least join the discussion.
Having struck out time and again, I went back to the source. Goldberg wasn’t surprised by my anecdotal findings. “Academia is probably the most left-wing institution in all of America, and journalism professors are among the worst. And by ‘worst’ I mean closed-minded,” Goldberg said. Slobbering actually opens with Goldberg recalling the time he spoke to a university class and reminded the professor that journalists who seek to “change” society do so from their own viewpoint.
Goldberg said he rarely reaches out to universities these days. Why bang his head against the wall? “There seems to be an underlying unease with me [amongst professors]. I come off as reasonable, I think — and that throws them,” said Goldberg, who has won three more Emmys since joining HBO’s Real Sports program. “I’m not a right-wing ideologue. I get the impression they wish I were. They could dismiss me more easily that way. But there’s this feeling that they are not buying anything I’m saying.”
Goldberg said his first book, Bias, is on several college curricula but they remain the exception. “If journalism professors aren’t eager to explore my ideas — despite the fact that I’ve been a full-time journalist since 1967 and was never, repeat, never, accused of having a conservative bias … and if journalists [as you say] can’t be bothered … then the problem of bias in the media will continue.” he said.
So the next time you read about another round of newspaper layoffs, consider the following. Folks like Goldberg insist news outlets are disrespecting roughly half their audiences with their consistent bias. That’s hardly a way to run a business, especially one dealing with devastating market forces brought on by the Internet.
“[The MSM’s] demise will be the result of one too many self-inflicted wounds. Even if they are too clueless to understand that,” said Goldberg.
He could write another book on that topic alone, but it’s a pretty safe bet few journalists — or journalism professors — would bother to read so much as the jacket.