Media Blog

Liberal Bias in Story Selection

John Tierney’s column on Tuesday was excellent. I’m getting to it late because of all the travel the last few days. Here’s the key quote:

I realize, from experience at six newspapers, that most journalists try not to impose their prejudices on their work. When I did stories whose facts challenged liberal orthodoxies, editors were glad to run them. When liberal reporters wrote stories, they tried to present the conservative perspective.
The problem isn’t so much the stories that appear as the ones that no one thinks to do. Journalists naturally tend to pursue questions that interest them. So when you have a press corps that’s heavily Democratic — more than 80 percent, according to some surveys of Washington journalists — they tend to do stories that reflect Democrats’ interests.
When they see a problem, their instinct is to ask what the government can do to solve it. I once sat in on a newspaper story conference the day after an armored-car company was robbed of millions of dollars bound for banks. The first idea that came up for a follow-up story was: Does this robbery show the need for stricter regulation of armored-car companies?

We kicked this idea around until I suggested that companies in the business of transporting cash already had a fairly strong incentive not to lose it — presumably an even stronger incentive than any government official regulating their security arrangements. That story idea died, but not the mind-set that produced it…[snip]
To some extent, this is a problem of self-selection. Journalism attracts people who want to right wrongs, and the generation that’s been running journalism schools and media businesses came of age when government, especially the federal government, was seen as the solution to most wrongs. These executives, like the tenured radicals in law schools and the rest of academia, hired ideological cronies and shaped their institutions to reflect their views.
But those views are no longer dominant outside newsrooms and academia. A lot of young conservatives and libertarians have simply given up on the traditional media, either as a source of news or as a place to work.

Instead, they post on conservative blogs and start careers at magazines like The Weekly Standard and Reason [and, ahem, National Review], knowing these credentials will hurt their chances of becoming reporters for ”mainstream” publications — whereas a job at The New Republic or The Washington Monthly wouldn’t be a disqualifying credential.

Right on. Why couldn’t Tierney have written this column before the Times locked him away in the TimesSelect dungeon with the rest?


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