WSJ phones in media attack

Being a conservative press critic: Nice work if you can get it.

Published May 19, 2005 3:14PM (EDT)

Is being a conservative press critic the easiest, least taxing job in American journalism? Honestly. So little effort goes into documenting the media's alleged liberal sins that the whole practice has become a bit of a joke.

Today's phoning-it-in award goes to Leo Banks, who wrote an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal complaining about the "elite media" and its skewed coverage of the Minutemen, those southwest volunteers who patrolled the U.S./Mexico border in an effort to keep illegal aliens out of this country. The Minutemen received an extraordinary amount of press coverage and Banks complains the liberal press got it all wrong.

It's an utterly predictable attack from the WSJ editorial page, but what makes the piece so amazing is that Banks doesn't provide a single example to show how the press got it wrong. Not one article is quoted and not one television report is cited. Apparently too busy to do any actual media analysis, Banks simply insists the press did X,Y,Z and expects everyone to believe it.

For instance, Banks writes, "In the view of most of the reporters who parachuted into Arizona for this story and, disturbingly, local ones as well, you'd get the distinct impression that the Minutemen are the problem along the border."

Press examples to back up that claim? Zero.

"[Reporters] wanted to stand up the angle that went something like -- no, exactly like -- this: Gun-toting vigilantes run amok in the desert, hunting harmless illegals who are only looking for work."

Press examples to back that up? Zero.

"These border residents are routinely snickered at and called racist vigilantes."

Press examples to back that up? Zero.

Lastly, Banks argues the press has ignored the issue of illegal aliens: "But you haven't heard much about these problems nationally, because the media soft-pedal them. Why? It's politically incorrect. We've built a new third rail in American life. Leave the harmless illegals alone and go after their victims instead."

No press coverage of illegal aliens? Hmm, for a period covering just the last two months, Nexis can retrieve 246 articles and television news accounts that mention "illegal alien" at least four times.

So where do we apply for conservative press critic credentials? It's nice work if you can get it.

By Eric Boehlert

Eric Boehlert, a former senior writer for Salon, is the author of "Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush."

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