"What Liberal Media?" blared the monster headline atop the full-page ad in The New York Times. Its author was Eric Alterman of The Nation, who has a book out of the same title.
There was a touch of irony in Alterman's choosing the Times to place an ad declaring liberal bias to be a "myth." For that paper has lately been embroiled in the greatest scandal in its history, the Jayson Blair affair, caused by its almost blind devotion to liberalism's god of "diversity" in the newsroom.
And, as a judge of bias, Alterman is poorly situated. He is so far left he considers network anchors Dan Rather and Peter Jennings to be conservatives. Moreover, he argues from exceptions to prove his rules. Because the Times endorsed New York Gov. George Pataki over a hapless black Democratic nominee, Alterman argues, the Times is not really reliably liberal.
If this issue of media bias is to be discussed, there is a need for some standard of left-to-right. Let me suggest a simple one. If Al Gore is center-left and George Bush center-right, one measure of whether a publication is liberal or conservative would be whether it endorsed Gore or Bush -- and which party's presidential candidate it almost always endorses. And if being pro-life and in favor of Bush's tax cuts is conservative and being pro-choice and against the Bush tax cuts is liberal, what then constitutes the liberal press?
Answer: All three major networks, PBS, NPR and virtually all major U.S. papers -- Boston Globe, New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun, Washington Post, Atlanta Constitution, Miami Herald, Chicago Tribune, Denver Post, Los Angeles Times. While the Wall Street Journal editorial page is neoconservative, USA Today -- the nation's largest newspaper -- is left of center.
Not only are the editorial pages of most major papers liberal, the news staffs are overwhelmingly so. At the annual White House correspondents dinners, conservatives are a tiny minority. Opinion surveys of the national press found 80 percent to 90 percent voted for McGovern and Mondale, though Nixon and Reagan both carried 49 states. How many celebrity journalists can you name who support Operation Rescue?
If the network news anchors are liberal, so, too, are the hosts of the morning shows, Matt Lowry, Katie Couric, Diane Sawyer and Charlie Gibson. The anchors of the Sunday interview shows are Tim Russert, off Pat Moynihan's staff, and George Stephanopolous, from Bill Clinton's staff, and Bob Schieffer of CBS, whom no one has ever accused of being a Dixiecrat.