While more and more journalists are now going on the record about their biases (or simply going on the record as being an out and out cheerleader for Barack Obama, either as a candidate or as the president), because journalists understandably don’t want to risk job security, there’s often very little talk about bias until they retire. And then they’ll spill the beans surprisingly often. In 2003, long after he left the airwaves, Walter Cronkite told readers of his syndicated column, “I believe that most of us reporters are liberal”. And as the Washington Post’s Thomas Edsall admitted to Hugh Hewitt in 2006, shortly after retiring from the Washington Post, but before becoming an editor at the Huffington Post (and gosh, there’s a surprisingly lateral move):
HH: A proposition. The reason talk radio exploded, followed by Fox News, followed by the center-right blogosphere, is that because folks like you have been the dominant voice in American media for a long time, and you’re a pretty thoroughgoing, Democratic favoring, agenda journalist for the left, and you’ve been the senior political reporter of the Washington Post for a very long time. And people didn’t trust your news product…not you, personally, but the accumulation of you, throughout the L.A. Times, the Washington Post, the New York Times, and they got sick and tired of being spoon fed liberal dross, and they went to the radio when an alternative product came along.
TE: To a certain degree, I agree with that.
In his farewell column yesterday, Bill Steigerwald of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review approached the matter from the other direction:
As a reporter, I’ve tried my best to be accurate, fair and truthful. I’ve always been aware of the difference between news and opinion, between balance and bias, and between being a government watchdog and a government lapdog. And I have always known that every journalist and every editor I have ever worked with was helplessly subjective in their politics and in their definition of what news and bias were and were not.
Trust me, big-city daily newspapers don’t go out of their way to achieve ideological diversity. About 90 percent of my work mates over the years were either avowed liberal Democrats or didn’t know it. Reagan Republicans were virtually nonexistent. Until I got to the Trib, I was always the staff’s lonely libertarian.
Ideological diversity? Well, about as much as your nearest elite university.
(Via Newsbusters, which asks, “Surprised?” No, not really. Disgusted? Well, I used to be, but now I’m just amused. Must be those red state shoes I’m wearing.)