[internetworkers] Republican controlled media

Michael Czeiszperger michael at czeiszperger.org
Sun Sep 19 09:56:02 EDT 2004

On Sep 19, 2004, at 3:25 AM, Don Rua wrote:

> There's something about the comments on this thread that brought 
> questions to mind:
> Summary assertion: The 'republican controlled' media is 
> de-legitimizing journalism by labeling it "the liberal media".
> Q: If the media is republican controlled, why wouldn't they label 
> themselves as objective. Why trash what they own?
> Q: Or, if the 'republican controlled media" is just a small percentage 
> of media, how is it that their voice can be heard over the majority? 
> Why wouldn't the majority of media voices effectively earn our respect 
> by doing good work objectively, at a much greater volume than a 
> minority group? Are the republican voices just smarter?

There are two types of media outlets. The first are  the three 
broadcast networks, "liberal" newspapers and magazines which employ 
professional journalists trained on an ethic of objectivity who bend 
over backward to avoid even the appearance of bias.  The second are 
conservative broadcast networks such as Fox, newspapers and magazines 
which are mostly staffed not with trained journalists, but rather with 
employees who come from conservative lobbying groups and think tanks.

The movement to label objective journalist as having a "liberal bias" 
started in the 70s by political operatives of the Nixon administration 
who sold conservative business interests on the goal of bullying the 
media through constant criticism to provide incentives to induce the 
media to give equal time to heavily subsidized pro-business and pro 
Vietnam-war commentators on the air. This work was implemented with 
hundreds of millions of dollars in donations from businesses to groups 
such as Accuracy in Media and the Media Research Center.  Any broadcast 
in the objective media that didn't include a conservative point of 
view, however implausible, was met with an angry, coordinated attack.  
To make a long story short, over 30 years this has forced the objective 
media to gradually shift from the role of objective reporting into the 
role of providing media time for "commentators". Instead of objective 
reporting, where the goal is the find the truth, we are simply given 
two opposing viewpoints.

The reason the conservative movement decided to go this route rather 
than create conservative media outlets with journalists is object media 
outlets give equal scrutiny to all points of view, something that does 
not fit in with their political goals. Your typical "liberal" newspaper 
for instance can't be controlled--  it will tend to report both the bad 
and good about an issue, which is at odds to the conservative 
propaganda agenda.  The other problem with using journalists is the 
conservative establishment doesn't have any, and they tend to believe 
that everyone else is like themselves, i.e. one-sided partisans who's 
only goal is to push a certain agenda.

> Q: Thirdly, it seems as if these assertions assume the masses are 
> ignorant, and can't tell opinion from logic. I guess with Bush in 
> office, liberals on this list would say EXACTLY!, but then what do you 
> say when Clinton or Kennedy is in office? Do the masses become smart 
> only when your party is in office?

I'm not sure of your point.

> Q: If people admit that there are 'right wing' media outlets doing all 
> this nasty business, isn't it a bit naive to assume that all of the 
> other media outlets are objective? I think that there are too many 
> examples of liberal media bias to say the label is the fault of 
> republican strategy. I don't need a 'cue' from the right to know that 
> Maureen Dowd is liberal, or to question why the media still puts 
> Carvel on screen, etc. I don't see any paper's editorial boards 
> writing that abortion is horrible and should be overturned, so where's 
> the right-wing domination?

There are of course partisan lobbying organizations for a huge range of 
issues.  Unfortunately there is no underlying liberal agenda as there 
is on the right, so while the right has groups such as the enormous 
Heritage Foundation, where the public relations staff alone has 80 
people, the left is stuck on single agenda issues and organizations 
such as the environment, pro-choice, etc.  When the media decides do 
have "balanced" reporting they just grab a commentator from both sides 
rather than give an objective assessment.  This goes hand-in-hand with 
the conservative movements distrust of science, wanting to lend equal 
importance to opinion as they would towards peer-reviewed research.

I see you're interested in newspaper editors. An extensive study by 
Harvard's Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy looked at 
the partisan nature of the four leading editorial pages, The New York 
Times, the Washing Post, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington 
Times.  The research found that "conservative editorial boards are far 
less willing to criticize a Republican administration than liberal 
pages are willing to take issue with a Democratic administration".  
Outside of the editorial pages the research found that liberal papers 
criticized then president Clinton 30 percent of the time, while 
conservative papers criticized President W. Bush only 7 percent of the 

Another example of a partisan network is the Fox News Network, which is 
run by Republican party consultants and echos the RNC's talking points 
on a daily basis.

> By the way, for the past three months I have been working in news 
> rooms while I hunt for a product marketing position in my area. I run 
> production teams that put out several papers, and work with 5 
> editors-in-chief. While they all try very hard to make sure they don't 
> APPEAR biased (all employees are forbidden to have political bumber 
> stickers on their cars), I hear their true comments in the newsroom. 
> They share their frustrations, exasperations, and political thoughts 
> freely as they are banging out stories or looking over letters to the 
> editor. There is NO objective media as far as I can tell, as they are 
> all human and subject to what grabs their attention as 'newsworthy'. 
> They try, on the whole, to be honest and fair, but they don't go 
> looking for stories that conflict with their beliefs, and they run 
> fast after those that align with their beliefs.

The main books on media bias have pretty much the same thing, that 
journalists try to be objective, even to the point of not being able to 
put bumper stickers on their cards, but yet can't help for subtle bias 
to creep in since they are human.  Compare this, then with conservative 
media outlets such as Fox news who totally reject even the concept of 
objective reporting in favor of a top-down controlled propaganda.  That 
is why "media bias" is so important to the conservative movement. 
Without it, they wouldn't have an excuse to broadcast their own 
propaganda.  They get to criticize objective reporting by providing 
political commentary that don't meet even the most minimal journalist 
standards. For example,  when a journalist such as Jason Blair at the 
NYT is found to make up stories, he or she is fired.  Contrast this 
with Fox News, which tolerates reporters who regularly broadcast easily 
refuted falsehoods, and even edit recordings to make it seem like 
public figures said something they didn't.

michael at czeiszperger dot org
Chapel Hill, NC

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