Walter Cronkite, once called America's most trusted man, once disagreed with me when I called most journalists "liberal." "If by liberal," he told me, "you mean open-minded, then, yes. This is true."
Cronkite, no longer constrained by the journalistic creed of non-partisanship, now writes a weekly column. About liberal reporters, he now pleads guilty: "I believe that most of us reporters are liberal, but not because we consciously have chosen that particular color in the political spectrum. More likely it is because most of us served our journalistic apprenticeships as reporters covering the seamier sides of our cities -- the crimes, the tenement fires, the homeless and the hungry, the underclothed and undereducated."
Last week, I interviewed Mr. Cronkite and questioned him about his rationale behind journalists' liberalism. If, I asked, journalists become liberal because they see the underbelly, the downtrodden, the miscast, how do you explain the conservatism of police officers, who, after all, see exactly the same things? Cronkite, apparently uncomfortable with the question, simply said, "Why should I?"
Liberal bias matters.
This bias affects consumers of "news" in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Here are some recent examples:
C-SPAN, last week, listed with voice-over the top best-selling non-fiction books: "'Living History,' the memoir by Hillary Rodham Clinton is first on the list. It is followed by 'Treason,' conservative pundit Ann Coulter's book. . . . Barbara Ehrenreich looks at the unskilled labor market in No. 3, 'Nickel and Dimed.'" Hold the phone. As to Hillary Clinton, C-SPAN neither called her "liberal," nor "extremely liberal," nor "leftist," nor even "progressive." Barbara Ehrenreich writes for a number of publications, including one of the country's most liberal periodicals, The Nation. Indeed, Ehrenreich is honorary chair of the Democratic Socialists of America. Yet while C-SPAN correctly identified Ann Coulter as "conservative," Ehrenreich just got the good ol' Barbara Ehrenreich -- no adjective necessary -- treatment. But it gets worse. C-SPAN also said, "Author and filmmaker Michael Moore comes in at No. 6 . . . " Moore just received funding for his newest documentary, "Fahrenheit 911," its apparent premise that the Bush family and the Osama bin Laden family, both in the oil business, combined somehow to create September 11! Moore, of course, castigated the Bush administration when he won Best Documentary Oscar for his liberal, anti-Second Amendment, anti-American documentary "Bowling for Columbine." Yet C-SPAN simply called him "author and filmmaker" Michael Moore.