Ramesh, Cathy Young scores some points against Alterman, but her desire to seem even-handed goes overboard into insulting those of us who get to critique the media for a living.
Start with the sentence: “Right-wing diatribes against the ‘liberal media’ often have an unpleasant whiff of whining.” This is the first refuge of every talk-radio scoundrel. But it’s ridiculous, unless every NAACP complaint, every Sierra Club study, every Heritage Foundation report on educational progress, in short every investigation of a policy shortcoming, is similarly dismissed with the “whiff of whining” line of argument. I imagine this is how King George greeted the Declaration of Independence, suffused with the “unpleasant whiff of whining.”
Young also feigns balance by saying Bernard Goldberg’s Bias and Ann Coulter’s Slander are “seriously flawed,” that Goldberg had too much overwrought rhetoric and Ann Coulter is somehow Michael Moore. I would agree that both books overstate, probably in an attempt to move the merchandise. But that’s not a “serious” flaw, unless you’re serious about convincing your friends that Katie Couric is roughly comparable to Eva Braun. Anyone looking for evidence to sustain a persuasive conservative media critique will definitely get find their money’s worth in either of these tomes.
Finally, Young annoys by giving credence to the old media professional’s spin that “bias is in the eye of the beholder.” While it’s true that liberals are more upset about criticism of liberal ideas and leaders, and conservatives the opposite, some facts about media coverage cannot be spun with “beholder” arguments. Young cites that “Alterman is exercised over the rough treatment of Al Gore during the 2000 campaign but oblivious to the rough treatment of Newt Gingrich after the Republican takeover of the House.” But Young does not consider that the liberal case about “rough treatment” of Gore is much more debatable than the treatment of Gingrich. For starters, Gore was never mocked as Ebenezer Scrooge or the Grinch on the cover of a news magazine. Hard facts about coverage, not mugwumpish spin about beholders and whiners, ought to win the day.