The Corner

Why the Media Can Try Hard and Still Be Really Wrong

I’ve got a confession to make. I don’t hate “the media.” (By the way, I think when most of us use the term, we mean the mainstream media that at least purports not to advance the interests of a particular party or ideology.) Most folks I’ve met are reasonable, at least seem to try to get things right, and sometimes seem genuinely offended at allegations of bad faith or partisan bias. Sure, some are nakedly partisan and don’t care. And yes, some are better than others at holding both parties accountable (Jake Tapper comes immediately to mind). But most are just regular folks, trying to do a good work. So I don’t hate the media. I just don’t trust it. 

I simply don’t believe it is possible to create a truly fair, relatively unbiased institution of any kind while hiring the vast majority of your employees from one side of the political aisle. No newsroom is truly “diverse” if the journalists have different skin colors, genders, and sexual habits but all think within a narrow ideological lane. Outside of the editorial pages, how many New York Times or Washington Post reporters or editors are pro-life? How many believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman? How many voted for Trump? How many supported the Iraq War or believe poor kids should receive vouchers to enable private school choice? How many voted for Mitt Romney, John McCain or George W. Bush? 

Ideologically uniform newsrooms suffer from the same maladies as ideologically uniform faculty lounges. The groupthink colors and distorts everything — from the decision to cover (or not cover) certain stories, to the ability to discern emerging trends, to the ability to even understand your subject. The groupthink doesn’t just breed ignorance and hostility, it also leads to irrational exuberance. Obama inspired reporters from coast to coast. It’s simply hard to expose a person you admire to the same level of scrutiny as a man you dislike. 

Conservatives, largely locked out of the gated mainstream media community, are left to throw stones or build alternative institutions. Institution-building is vital, but it’s time to unlock the gates. I’ll never believe any media outlet is truly interested in objective reporting so long as it shares a hiring philosophy with your standard Ivy League sociology department.