Paul Jacob

Ideally, news should "slant" to the truth. Practically, the presentation of news usually skews towards sensationalism. As news consumers, we accept this, though too rarely compensate for it.

But it is isms other than mere sensationalism that actually worry us. To what extent does ideology skew the news?

In my last column I discussed the ways the structure of the journalism industry itself, and not any ideologically driven bias, can paint grossly inaccurate pictures of reality. I also wrote how economic factors can induce a pro-establishment, pro-government stance in journalists without much ideological pressure at all. Now it's time to confront the issue of pure ideological bias head on.

Managing Bias

Most journalists, along with most professors of literature, the humanities, and social sciences, lean left. They are overwhelmingly liberal, or at least Democrat. This is almost impossible to deny.

But it is possible to deny that it makes much difference. Leftists also proclaim that the media is biased, only towards the right. They stress the ownership of the television stations, the cable channels, the major newspapers. Big money. Big conservatives. Big difference.

What they don't often explain is how this makes a difference.

"Major media" is in the business of making money by appealing to their clients, which means, mostly, the readers and viewers. The stockholders, owners, and managers have no reason to aggravate their customers.

It's true that their customers do tend to come in two major categories: the news consumer and the advertiser. But advertisers are usually just another conduit to the news consumer, a conduit that accentuates the fear of giving offense; understandably, advertisers generally don't want to turn off clients. So, the main concern of management tends to be fear of annoying blocks of news consumers.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.