About that liberal media

Published June 4, 2004 6:54PM (EDT)

The new Pew survey of U.S. journalists has mainly received attention for its findings that just over a third of journalists describe themselves as "liberal." This was supposed to prove the existence of a liberal-controlled media. But Eric Alterman, author of What Liberal Media?, looks at the same survey and points out the much more interesting -- and troubling -- findings about the state of media, including that the vast majority of journalists believe increased financial pressure is "seriously hurting" the quality of news coverage and that journalists who fear their stories are increasingly full of factual errors and sloppy reporting rose from thirty percent in 1995 to forty percent in 1999 to forty-five today.

Alterman's also surprised the O'Reillys and Hannitys of the world are trying to get so much traction from the survey. "True, thirty-four percent calling themselves 'liberal' is a bit more than the national average, but if I'm not mistaken, these same right-wingers have been crowing endlessly that the entire media was controlled by liberals. If the number is only a third  with fifty-four percent calling themselves moderates, then just what's the problem?"

" ... while journalists are a bit more liberal than the rest of this country on social issues, they are generally more conservative on economic issues, as befits their elite status. You can say the same about just about any group of well-educated urban professionals. So what? Is the news liberal? Combine the sensitivities of those in the executive suites who actually determine what is covered  with the constant pressure of the White House and its many right-wing allies in the foundation world, and journalists' alleged liberalism hardly counts for much when the media rubber hits the road. The fact that Mr. Bush was able to push his phony agenda for war through the New York Times, NPR and the rest  with a considerable assist from the far-right dominated cable talk world  to say nothing of talk radio  implies conservatives are either paranoid or dishonest when they complain about the evils of so-called 'liberal media.' Either way, it's time they hung it up."

By Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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