This headline notwithstanding, I have nothing against small-town columnists. I was one myself early in my five-stop newspaper career before coming to The Heartland Institute. The scope of one’s circulation is not necessarily indicative of one’s talents as an observer of the passing political and media scene. The blogosphere — and, heck, the rise and use of Facebook and Twitter — is proof enough of that.
But, as a former small-town columnist at the dawn of the Internet age, I have to chuckle at this column by Kevin Frisch at the Daily Messenger, which is apparently based somewhere near Rochester, N.Y. Sorry, Kevin, but not only is your theory that the mainstream media (MSM) is not actually not liberal — but aggressively conservative — total bunk, you don’t even attempt to make anywhere near a compelling case for your argument.
I was drawn to this column because Kevin cited a Heartland staffer — Bruce Edward Walker, managing editor of InfoTech & Telecom News — as an example of those who cling to the supposed fallacy of a MSM dominated by liberals.
“We get it,” wrote Bruce Edward Walker of the Heartland Institute in an essay last month. “Fox leans right and most other outlets tilt left.”
(Buzzer!) False, Mr. Walker.
Fox leans right — and conservatives have successfully spread the big lie that the mainstream media leans left to justify the Fox agenda. It’s convenient, it has even become ‘common knowledge,’ but it isn’t the case.
There are some examples of a true liberal media, no doubt. The New York Times editorial page is proudly so. Garrison Keillor’s “Prairie Home Companion” is probably the most subversive liberal program out there, presenting, as it does, a left-wing ideology enmeshed in other liberal values: home, community, church, song and celebration. And, until Friday night, MSNBC’s “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” showed what a true liberal news and opinion program looked like.
After years of conservative examples of liberal media consisting of arguments like, “Dan Rather raises his right eyebrow whenever he mentions George W. Bush,” a robust and enthusiastic liberal telecast seemed to be off the charts.
Sheesh! Where to start. How about with Dan Rather? He didn’t just “raise his right eyebrow” when he mentioned George W. Bush. Rather, and his producer Mary Mapes, produced and aired a story in the middle of the 2004 campaign that claimed Bush did not fulfill his Air National Guard duty during the Vietnam War. That’s a very serious charge. And Rather and Mapes made it with their only proof being obviously fabricated documents provided by a crank who hated Bush.
I was a reporter for The Washington Times when all this was going on. And it was my luck to have it be my turn in the White House press “pool” when the real documents outlining Bush’s Air National Guard duty were released. I was among a handful of folks to see them first hand, and they revealed that Bush fulfilled his duties as required — making what Rather and Mapes aired on national television a lie.
When the truth was known to the world, CBS denounced Rather, who then was forced to admit: “If I knew then what I know now — I would not have gone ahead with the story as it was aired, and I certainly would not have used the documents in question.” It cost Rather and Mapes their jobs at CBS. Oh, and Mapes, by the way, has revealed herself to be a flaming liberal at The Huffington Post (as if anyone had any doubt).
Do more research on this saga, if you wish. But the “journalism” Rather and Mapes exercised on behalf of CBS was so sloppy that the only explanation for this is that their liberal bias disastrously clouded their judgment — they so strongly wanted to believe the worst of a non-liberal president that they figured it just must be true. The fact that the words “fake, but accurate” now largely define the Dan Rather’s legacy is justified.
Aside from the glaring example above, I suggest that Kevin Frisch visit the Media Research Center and NewsBusters to get daily examples of liberal bias in the MSM. It’s not that Garrison Keillor has “the most subversive liberal program out there,” let alone the absurd notion that “home, community, church, song and celebration” are values that liberals embrace. (I’ll grant the last two items on Kevin’s list as being OK with liberals, long as they are secular.) It’s not that the editorial pages of the “major” newspapers in this country are almost universally liberal. It’s not that MSNBC has prime time hosts offering opinions to counter the much more successful Fox News Channel line up. It’s about institutional and unconscious bias.
The endless examples the Media Research Center and NewsBusters document every day prove the case. But as someone who spent several years in the “belly of the beast” of the MSM, I have a pretty good perspective. It’s not even that most journalists for the MSM are liberals. It’s that they can’t help but let their liberal framing of the world infect the way they present their supposedly objective stories. They commit sins of commission (such as framing every reduction in federal spending as a calamity), and sins of omission (such as not mentioning that Obama’s “spending freeze” proposal from his State of the Union address locks in a historically high level of federal spending).
I was there. I saw it. It’s real. Liberal bias in the MSM exists, and it’s killing the genre. Any commentator (from a small town or a “big” media outlet) makes a fool of himself by denying it. Liberals dominate in academia, Hollywood and the MSM. But because liberals can’t compete in the arena of ideas on talk radio — and a single cable network among many is non-liberal with its prime-time shows — somehow there is no “liberal media,” and liberal values aren’t sufficiently presented.
Only in the minds of some — including, it seems, in the mind of Kevin Frisch (and, certainly, many liberal commentators).