2008/11/17

WaPo frets over allegations of liberal bias

The problem with Deborah Howell's latest attempt to reassure conservatives concerning that ol' boogeyman "Liberal Bias" is that she doesn't appear to understand what journalism is all about. Is the problem she identifies, that conservatives are under-represented in the newsroom, a general across-the-board problem in the news media? Hardly. The Sunday talk shows for November 16th, shortly after a Democratic landslide sweep of the Presidency, the House & the Senate were devoted to..."how does the GOP recover; how does it map out a new future?"

Uh, pardon me, but who gives a rat's $#@?!?!? Why are the troubles of the Republican Party even remotely interesting to a national audience that just rejected the GOP wholesale? Why can't the Sunday talk shows cover, y'know, the upcoming Obama Administration, their personnel choices, their policy preferences, etc.?

Looking at Howell's report on the alleged "bias" shown by the WaPo, she cites a front-page piece on

"Troopergate" -- the allegation that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin fired her state's public safety commissioner because he wouldn't dismiss her ex- brother-in-law from his state trooper's job.

But unlike Whitewater, a story that the traditional media covered obsessively throughout most of the Clinton Presidency, "Troopergate" is actually a legitimate story concerning Governor Palin's abuse of power, a story that was extremely relevant considering that she was applying for a job that would have placed her a 72-year-old's heartbeat away from the US Presidency. It's difficult to understand why anyone would object to this story as an example of mere "bias" without looking at the story itself, how accurate the story was and how relevant it was to the national conversation as a whole. Howell's column makes no attempt to evaluate any of this. Howell simply cites the story as an example of the paper's "Liberal Bias."

The question is, should the WaPo be applying some sort of quota system, so many conservative writers to so many liberal writers or should they simply try to report the facts and try to report on important, relevant stories as they come up? The subsite "County Fair" at Media Matters says:

To [Howell's column], our response is simple: Who's stopping conservatives from being hired in newsrooms? Honestly. If Newsbusters can document how scores of qualified College Republican grads were passed over by local newspapers to poorly paying jobs to cover local zoning commission jobs simply because the applicants were conservative, we'd love to hear about it.

The "problem" in getting conservatives to apply for newsroom jobs is identical to the "problem" in getting them to apply for college professorships. Both of these are poorly-paid jobs that take a lot of work. Yes, ideological motivations are important to both jobs. If one has a liberal worldview, that view will come out in the lectures that one gives or in the articles that one writes. Of course, as America's media as a whole is largely controlled by just six companies, it's not clear why the owners of these six companies can't exert effective ideological control by simply making a few phone calls to their people in the field.

I would suggest that the focus of the Sunday talk shows on the future of the Republican Party is the problem and that the focus of the Washington Post on writing liberal articles is a sign of health. The talk shows appear to be concerned with what the owners of the six media-owning companies want, whereas the WaPo writers are concerned with what actually matters to their readership.

No comments: