Why the Media Lean Left – A Personal Perspective

After the 2008 election, the right-leaning Washington Examiner learned through a records search that 88% of the campaign donations made by network news employees, including writers, producers, reporters, and executives, went to Democrats. Just 88%, huh?

Not coincidentally, a Harvard study conducted during the 2008 election found that 47% of the print and broadcast stories about Barack Obama were overtly positive vs. only 12% positive for John McCain, while the Washington Post’s own ombudsman acknowledged that Obama received three times more front-page coverage than McCain, and that reporters went over the top in their scrutiny of Gov. Palin compared to then-Sen. Biden. Fair and balanced, my friends!

And file this under the obvious, but a Media Research Study further confirmed the bias, studying every mention of Barack Obama since his appearance on the national stage in 2004, concluding:

The networks downplayed or ignored major Obama gaffes and scandals. Obama’s relationship with convicted influence peddler Tony Rezko was the subject of only two full reports (one each on ABC and NBC) and mentioned in just 15 other stories. […]

The networks minimized Obama’s liberal ideology, only referring to him as a “liberal” 14 times in four years. In contrast, reporters found twice as many occasions (29) to refer to Obama as either a “rock star,” “rising star” or “superstar” during the same period.

In covering the campaign, network reporters highlighted voters who offered favorable opinions about Obama. Of 147 average citizens who expressed an on-camera opinion about Obama, 114 (78%) were pro-Obama, compared to just 28 (19%) that had a negative view, with the remaining five offering a mixed opinion.

For the longest time, I never understood conservative complaints about media bias. I was blissfully unaware of liberal media bias, much like a submerged fish is blissfully ignorant of the presence of water. That is, of course, because I was liberal. And a journalist.

Why is it, in fact, that so many journalists are liberal?

I have to go back to my own training and career in journalism. I was raised in a conservative-leaning home in Northern Utah, by Mormon parents. Then something radical happened. I went to college and decided to major in journalism and political science. Each of my journalism and political science instructors even at a red state public university were hardcore liberals. Many of my classmates, and best friends in college were liberal. I came to adopt the assumptions and worldviews of those around me. I don’t think my experience is unique.

What is it about journalism that attracts — and breeds — liberals?

For one, I’d have to concede that journalism is not a mainstream major or career.  It’s akin to majoring in art history or sociology. When you tell most “normal” people you’re majoring in journalism, they immediately give you a look of complete pity and apprehension, as was the case when I told my mother that I planned to become a newspaper reporter. She asked: “Can you make a living doing that?”

No doubt, Mom, a savvy businesswoman, was doing the math: There is usually only one newspaper and very few broadcast affiliates in town, and what if they’re not hiring? Where do you find a job in journalism? Wouldn’t you have to live in a major city and move around quite a bit? And aren’t journalists notoriously poorly paid?

Indeed. Of course Mom was unaware of the myriad writing positions available in trade journalism or technical fields, which is where I ended up, quite by accident, writing feature articles for business trade publications for 15 years – not a bad career, although some journalism majors wind up going to law school or returning to academia, which I considered as well.

Because I wrote for Wall Street publications, later earning an MBA, I was exposed, perhaps more than most journalists, to the entrepreneurial spirit of true capitalists, not to mention a slightly higher pay scale. That gave me a fighting chance to overcome my radical liberal instincts (which I finally kicked in 2004). I think my traditional moral views — ever at odds with the Democrat party — also played a role in my “conversion” to conservatism, along with the fact I was married to a pro-life Catholic, and lived for a decade in America’s heartland.

Looking back at the journalists I’ve worked with over the years, however, most remain in their liberal bubbles, surrounded by likeminded liberals, convinced that they alone are doing idealistic work for the mythically oppressed – sometimes even as they “sell out” for media-related jobs in corporate America. They often wear their distain for Republicans, capitalists, corporations, the military, and organized religion on their sleeves, as if religious Republicans or the American military are the source of all oppression and injustice. Hey, we’re all products of our prejudices.

Even the business press is not immune. The last editor I worked for refused to let our staff portray Social Security negatively or refer to its ponzi scheme characteristics. He must be doing his best to cover up news that Social Security is now running a permanent deficit. I am so not missing being under his thumb.

In journalism school, Republicans are viewed largely as caricatures: heartless and greedy, and as always attempting to shove religion down people’s throats by opposing legalized abortion.

If you step foot on any major college campus, you will gain an insight into why journalists are liberal. Colleges bring together large numbers of people who run to the ideological left. Indeed, universities (especially humanities and communication departments) are havens and hotbeds for people who don’t fit in ideologically with the larger community or the center-right country at large. They are mini-Berkeleys and Haight Ashburies.

And so are newsrooms. For three years, I worked for a daily newspaper in Logan, Utah – one of the most conservative cities on the planet. But you’d never know it from the newsroom, which was filled with environmental extremists, hardcore feminists, and leftover 60s radicals. This small-town newsroom was so disconnected from the community it served, it still blows my mind. It was like a time warp. Outside the newsroom it was 1990 … Inside, 1970. Newsrooms, in general, are filled with iconoclasts, curmudgeons, and cultural rebels, even in small towns – and perhaps, especially in small towns. While a whopping 80% of my community was Mormon, I can only recall two reporters out of a dozen or more I worked with who were active members of any faith, let alone the predominant religion. I would dare say 80% of the newspaper staff was either agnostic or atheistic, especially among the editor ranks. Most of the staff, in fact, were secular East Coast and Upper Midwest transplants who flocked to Utah for the outdoor environment, not the cultural landscape.

Why the disconnect? Why don’t more conservatives go into journalism? Why are the devoutly religious severely under-represented in newsrooms?

I think it’s because conservatives have tended to pursue more traditional careers, jobs that pay better or that would lend themselves to family life in suburban or rural settings — closer to home. Even Governor Palin was forced to give up her career in sports journalism for family life. She no doubt would have had to relocate from Alaska to pursue her dreams of working for ESPN. She would have had to have been willing to move wherever the job took her,  and that, often, I believe influences the transitory and cosmopolitan nature of the newsroom. So few of the people covering the “locals” are themselves “local.”

For whatever reason, journalism is still not the cultural equivalent of a career in accounting. Journalism is predominantly of, for, and by liberals – a career for those who either eschew normalcy, lean urban, or prefer the counter culture, kinda like a career in graphic arts or jazz.

Will this ever change?

Not likely. Especially as newsrooms are increasingly hit by economic reality. But I think we’ve reached a tipping point. I think it is now liberals who have become the establishment, and conservatives are the new rebels. Liberals dominate the culture: schools, media, courts, entertainment, some churches, and most of the federal government. How can they claim to be counter cultural when they run the culture? Moreover, just as fish don’t notice water, liberals in newsrooms don’t notice when nearly nine out of ten of their colleagues share their same  liberal world view, the same view they perceive as “mainstream.”

We may very well see a conservative Woodward and Bernstein emerging from the right as a new generation rebels against their Baby Boomer predecessors. The pro-life and Tea Party movements are fertile ground for young conservatives to rock the liberal establishment.

That being said, thankfully, liberal journalists have lost their monopoly power on information. We may never see a rightward shift by the “mainstream” media. But conservative consumers are voting with their feet, their ears and their eyes – getting their news elsewhere, including talk radio, Fox News, and the blogosphere, where conservatism thrives.

As much as it pains me to say this about my former colleagues, I long for the day when much of the liberal “mainstream” media is rendered irrelevant, a footnote in history, an aberration in the long flow of human communication. I long for what Dan Calabrese at North Star National sees as an impending Berlin Wall moment for the mainstream media.

To those in my profession who still cling to the notion they are fighting a protracted battle with the “oppressive” right, I invite them to examine their own ideological pathology: are they projecting their own demons onto an entire group of people with whom they disagree? Are they still rebelling against their conservative parents or fighting the conservative church they were raised in? Isn’t this new generation of leftists simply regurgitating the nostalgic talking points of failed 60s radicals?

The best way to combat the liberal media is by going around them, ignoring their pathological hatred for all things conservative. This is what Governor Palin does, and it drives them batty. She defies their attempts to classify and caricaturize her as a dangerous “other” … when she clearly represents the common sense, balanced views of most Americans.

For much of journalistic history in this country, newspapers were balkanized into political categories. In the late 1800s, opposing party papers battled it out on equal footing. That is why we still see legacy papers with names such as The Fresno Republican or Hunterdon County Democrat. The notion of media “objectivity” is a relatively recent phenomenon coinciding with the emergence of radio and TV news, and a pure myth, at that.

In an ideal world, nobody would believe in media objectivity. We would have enough ideological competition among news providers that bias wouldn’t be a problem. Because biased reporters would not be able to pass themselves off as objective, as MSNBC attempts to do when its unhinged liberal commentators are allowed to host election night coverage. Even Fox News, much-maligned by liberals, doesn’t surrender its news coverage to hardcore partisans, unless you think mild-mannered Brett Baier qualifies as a rightwing flamethrower.

My goal is to shatter the illusion of objectivity far and wide, to affix a metaphorical consumer warning label on liberal news. Nobody should sit down to watch the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, for instance, expecting to receive “objective” information from a radical pro-abortion Upper West Side Manhattan liberal. And the Associated Press might as well rename itself the Angry Progressive for its role in defaming conservatism. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a list of all the “reporters” with their backgrounds and political contributions right out in the open? If a reporter like Rachel D’or of the AP wants to pass herself off as a legitimate reporter, we should paste a warning label to every one of her articles, exposing her ties to radical environmentalism.

Perhaps if she runs for president, Governor Palin could start calling liberal reporters the “Obama Media.” I like that better than “lamestream,” in fact. Nobody should suffer the illusion that they’re not his paid shills. In Obama, they have the ultimate radical realization of all their counter-culture dreams. He is the “mainstream” vision of liberal bliss. With anger simmering just beneath the surface, Obama is the media. Just as he cynically pretends to be a centrist, they pretend to be objective – while sending their money to the cause.

I say bring on the revolution. We in the conservative blogosphere don’t pretend to be centrist. We don’t pretend to be objective, though we do traffic in facts. And we can pursue our writing from the hinterlands, children in tow, loosed from the media’s Coastal urban groupthink. The new media is gonna drain the murky swamp, and leave the Obama Media “fish” out of water, exposed and gasping for breath.

Which is what aging rebels should expect. Everything old is new again, right? The times, indeed, are changing. Spread the news!

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I'm a mother of three, and devoted Palin blogger.

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