Those of us on the right side of the political spectrum are so very aware of media bias that we are always shocked when our friends and associates on the left fail to recognize or acknowledge it. Recently, I had an exchange with an L.A. Times editor who insisted that his newspaper set the absolute standard for honest and objective reporting. I asked him how it was, if that were the case, that among my wide circle of acquaintances, I didn’t know a single liberal who thought the Times was conservative and didn’t know a single conservative who wasn’t convinced it was a ultra liberal rag.
But when it comes to print journalism, there are other less apparent problems. For instance, as an essayist who occasionally dabbles in short fiction, I’m well aware that rejection slips have gone the way of the dodo. Not too long ago, I asked an old friend, a retired magazine editor, if it was a case of economics or just plain rudeness. His response was to wonder why I thought it was a case of either/or. So even though submitting the same piece simultaneously to two or more markets is still frowned upon, as in the old days, the only way you now know it’s been turned down is when you don’t receive a check within a year or two!
Another pattern I’ve noticed developing is the sheer arrogance of newspaper employees. Some months ago, a mutiny broke out at the Santa Barbara News-Press. Some staff members, already disgruntled by what they felt was too much involvement by the owner, went absolutely bonkers when the managing editor was stopped for drunk driving and didn’t run a story about it. A longtime columnist and several reporters quit in high dudgeon. Clearly, these were people who, one, misjudged the employment opportunities available for self-righteous, small town journalists and, two, confused working for a paper with owning it. To my way of thinking, their worst sin was in attempting to pass off mere peevishness as principles.
Here in Los Angeles, we have a major newspaper, the Times, that’s owned by the Chicago Tribune Corp. One editor after another has been given a shot at improving circulation, if not content, and has managed to fail at both. The last fellow quit because he found it unacceptable to oversee a smaller staff than his predecessor. The fact that the Times has seen its circulation fall from about 1.3 million in 2000 to less than 800,000 today didn’t matter to him. He wasn’t into counting pennies, he wanted us all to know, but he sure became a math whiz when it came to counting noses in his fiefdom.
So pervasive is this journalistic hubris that you even encounter it on college campuses. Recently, you would have thought that the 1st Amendment was going to be scuttled if some 20-year-old editor at USC wasn’t granted free rein to do as he saw fit with the Daily Trojan, the university administration be damned!
An unexplained oddity here in the U.S. is how it is that, with the notable exception of the Wall Street Journal, just about every major newspaper seems to be published by liberals. I mean, it figures that in the wake of Watergate so many young left-wing idiots would be drawn to emulate Woodward and Bernstein. You can easily imagine journalism schools hyping enrollment with ads proclaiming, “Bring down presidents and get rich doing it!!!”
But how is it that the newspaper owners appear to be cut of the same shabby cloth? It’s bad enough that the inmates run the asylum, but where do they get off also owning the mineral rights?