Saturday, 25 May, 2002

Book Review: Bias

People have been pointing out a decided liberal bias in the media for years.  Especially television news.  And for years, news anchors, liberals, and others have dismissed those complaints as radical right-wing conservative rhetoric.  Admittedly, Rush Limbaugh screaming "liberal bias" has a certain hollow ring to it, but when a self-described "old-fashioned liberal" like Bernard Goldberg documents it, somebody's got to take notice.  Bernard Goldberg is a 30-year veteran of CBS News, an Emmy Award winner, and well respected in the television news business.  In his book, Bias, he gives very strong evidence showing how your evening television news is slanted towards the liberal viewpoint.

I picked up the book out of curiosity, and approached it with some skepticism.  Something in me automatically distrusts "whistle blowers," perhaps because so many of them are blowing the whistle just because they have some bone to pick with their employers.  The book is very readable, and Goldberg's points very well supported by the evidence.  The primary point is something that I hadn't considered.  Goldberg points out that the liberal bias in the media isn't some master plan conceived by television journalists or politicians who are hell-bent on furthering their agendas.  Rather, the bias is a natural product of the media types' personalities.  Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of journalists have liberal leanings.  For example in a 1996 survey of 139 Washington bureau chiefs, "89 percent said that they voted for Bill Clinton, compared with just 43 percent of the nonjournalist voters."  As Goldberg points out: "There's hardly a candidate in the entire United States of America who carries his or her district with 89 percent of the vote."  61 percent characterized themselves as "liberal" or "moderate to liberal."  9 percent said they were "conservative" or "moderate to conservative."  These are but two examples from the many that he presents in the book.

All that would be okay, provided that journalists recognized their own biases and made a concerted effort to present real balanced reports.  Sadly, they don't.  It's the dishonesty that's the real crime.  At least I know, when I listen to Rush Limbaugh and his ilk, that I'm going to get a one-sided view of the world.  For journalists (especially television journalists) to pass their lopsided views off as balanced reporting is just short of criminal.

Goldberg's book is an easy read, and quite worth the time, regardless of your political leanings.  Highly recommended.