Ed Driscoll

The MSM's Growing Bias/Objectivity Split

As we’ve mentioned before, Hugh Hewitt has adopted quite an interesting strategy for interviews with the mainstream media–he plays the interviews on the air, and lets his audience hear the dialogue and read its transcript, which allows them to compare the initial conversation with the finished product.

Earlier today, Hugh ran his taped interview with L.A. Times columnist Tim Rutten, designed to coincide with the publication of Rutten’s article. Of the interview, and Rutten’s take on the media world, Carol Platt Liebau, a frequent guesthost of the show, writes:

What’s most striking about the entire interview is Rutten’s myopia. He reminds me of many of the people with whom I attended college and law school — people who have lived so steeped in liberalism that they don’t even realize that their world view is inevitably infected with it. Obviously, people like Rutten would believe that someone who was raised in the Bible Belt, attended Bob Jones or Liberty University, and then went to work for a religious publication would be biased, albeit perhaps unintentionally. Why can’t he (and other journalists) acknowledge that, conversely, people who are raised in liberal strongholds, attend an Ivy League (or some other thoroughly secular) school, and then work for an a- or even anti-religious publication likewise are biased?

Here’s a theory about why journalists are so deeply invested in the myth of complete objectivity: It’s a marker of professionalism, in their eyes. Journalists believe they are smart, they believe they are performing a high order public service — yet they’re underpaid and underappreciated. And there is no particular degree or certification required to do their jobs. So the only way they can manifest their “professionalism” is through adhering to certain conventions.

But as soon as they admit that true “objectivity” doesn’t exist, in their own minds, they’ve lost any claim to professional status — because then they’re just guys with opinions . . . like everyone else.

Even so, there’s no disputing that the LA Times is infused with a liberal bias that’s all the stronger for its refusal or inability to detect it. Exhibit A is this piece from last weekend’s Magazine. It’s a serious Q & A with a retired Claremont professor of theology who believes that the United States government perpetrated 9/11. What’s the motivation? Global domination. Please. This is wing-nut weirdness.

If some retired professor believed that the government was placing fluoride in the water to facilitate mind control for nefarious left-wing purposes, surely The Times wouldn’t give them the time of day. Yet they print this. But there’s no bias. No, sireee.

Well, to be fair, these days, the fellow ranting about the evils of fluoride would probably be Ralph Nader–and him, they’d print.

Seriously though, what I find interesting is the split that’s appeared in journalism since the Blogosphere took off: while the vast majority of newspaper and TV journalists still use the “we’re not biased–we’re totally objective!” cant, a growing number are now willing to admit to some form of bias, if it’s safe for them to do so–in other words, if they’re very secure in their jobs, or approaching retirement.