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Media Bias: the more things change, the more they stay the same

by | Sep 9, 2016

By Laura Echevarria

Editor’s note. Elsewhere today I post on what may be (in my humble opinion) the most egregious example of unfiltered, unremitting, and unfair media bias in a year overflowing with unmitigated hostility toward Donald Trump.

I’m reposting a review of Bernie Goldberg’s book, “Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News,” which is, while more than a decade old, more relevant than ever. The bias, alas, is even more endemic and is embraced unapologetically.

Goldberg is now a contributor to Fox News.

media-bias85I remember when CBS News yanked Bernard Goldberg off the air for a few months following his 1996 Wall Street Journal opinion piece on media bias. Then-NRLC Communications Director Michele Allen and I discussed (with shock and something akin to relief) that a well-known member of the media had admitted to the existence of a liberal [and pro-abortion] media bias. What didn’t surprise us was CBS’s reaction to the op-ed.

Now, over five years later, Goldberg recounts his experience and his still-firm belief that there is a liberal media bias in his book “Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News.” His book has become a bestseller and Goldberg is doing interviews on the news programs that will have him.

However, despite the popularity of his book and other obvious clues (such as Fox News Channel’s number one rating), many members of the media elite cry foul when charges of media bias are leveled against them.

Goldberg makes many salient points in his book and in doing so explains why members of the media don’t see the bias or don’t admit to it. Many of his assertions are things you’ve heard before but it’s nice have a self-proclaimed liberal-leaning journalist agree with them.

Goldberg is very up-front with his beliefs. He makes it very clear that he is not a conservative who is trying to paint the media black, as his critics claim. He is pro-abortion “with reservations, especially with regard to minors” and pro-a lot of other things as well.

What he is trying to say with his book is that there is no vast conspiracy in newsrooms to offend and misrepresent conservatives (or, by extension, pro-lifers). He writes that the truth is far worse!

Quoting his 1996 Journal op-ed piece, Goldberg asserts, “No, we don’t sit around in dark corners and plan strategies on how we’re going to slant the news. We don’t have to. It comes naturally to most reporters.”

For those who may not remember, Goldberg’s opinion piece was spurred by an astonishingly biased news segment by CBS reporter Eric Engberg. Engberg’s supposedly “straight” news story mocked presidential candidate Steve Forbes’s “Flat Tax,” which was such a vital part of Forbes’s presidential campaign, instead of providing a serious analysis of a serious presidential candidate’s proposal. Goldberg had not seen the piece when it first aired.

Goldberg writes that he was challenged by a friend named Jerry Kelley, a salt-of-the-earth building contractor, after Kelley saw Engberg’s piece and called Goldberg to vent about liberal bias in the media.

After arguing for a few minutes, Kelley told Goldberg to watch the piece and then “you tell me if there’s a problem.” Goldberg did as Kelley asked, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Goldberg recounts his struggle with CBS management after his opinion piece ran, which included being kept off the air for about two months. (Goldberg is very blunt in his recital of some newsroom conversations regarding this and other instances of newsroom bias. The reader should be forewarned that there are a number of places where the language is offensive.)

“Bias” reiterates that reporters, by and large, rub elbows with other elitist groups, not everyday Americans. (This does not bode well for a Movement such as ours which is most decidedly not filled with “elites.”)

Goldberg says they don’t know that the average American strongly disagrees with nearly everything the average journalist believes. He writes, “[M]ost [reporters] don’t know people like Jerry Kelley…they don’t have blue-collar people like that in their families. They don’t have blue-collar friends, and they don’t want any. They don’t talk to people like Jerry Kelley, and they certainly don’t listen to people like Jerry Kelley.”

He says later in the book, “No conspiracies. No deliberate attempts to slant the news. It just happens. Because the way reporters and editors see the world, the way their friends and colleagues see the world, matters” (italics added).

Goldberg specifically points to significant issues such as abortion that are consistently dealt with in an overtly “liberal” way. (By this Goldberg means that pro-life viewpoints are either ignored altogether or treated as if they were not legitimate, or issues are mischaracterized as “conservative,” as is done with the abortion issue.)

What compounds the problem for pro-lifers is, as Goldberg confirms, that “[n]ational TV reporters, as a group, are lazy,” meaning that there are few-to-no original ideas. Earlier in the book, he points out that if the New York Times doesn’t cover it, then it won’t be on the network news. Basically, if the New York Times is blatantly, consistently, shamelessly biased in favor of abortion, the networks lack the energy to challenge the Times, even if they wanted to.

“Bias” offers many polls and surveys we’ve seen before. To name just to name a few, they include the late David Shaw’s 1985 Los Angeles Times series that documented extensive pro-abortion media bias; the poll published by Brill’s Content in March 2000 that showed the vast disparity between journalists’ beliefs and the beliefs of most readers and viewers; and the 1996 survey of Washington bureau chiefs and congressional correspondents conducted by the Freedom Forum and the Roper Center. From our perspective, what stands out most of all is how overwhelmingly pro-abortion the media are.

The significance of “Bias” is not that what Goldberg says is new, but rather (to quote the New York Post editorial that commented on Goldberg’s 1996 op-ed piece), “[T]his amounts to rehearsing the obvious; it would be of little or no interest were it not for the fact of Goldberg’s standing as a network news employee.”

Will Goldberg’s book change the way the media handles issues they perceive are “conservative” (as they do abortion)? ABC’s then anchor, Peter Jennings, did tell the Boston Globe in July 2001 that “conservative voices in the U.S. have not been present as they might have been and should have been in the media.” Is Mr. Jennings turning over a new leaf or just saying it for effect?

Perhaps there will be journalists who will look at the undeniable facts–Goldberg’s bestseller, the huge drop in viewership at the three major networks, the ascendancy of news sources seen as offering alternative views–and maybe, just maybe they will search for the truth and find it.

Goldberg’s book provides the networks with an accurate diagnosis. It’s up to the networks and journalists to employ the cure.

Categories: Media Bias