Conservatism can survive despite liberal bias

Posted: May 07, 2002 12:00 AM
Of course the news media are liberal. A survey of the Washington press corps found that 89 percent of them voted for Bill Clinton in 1992, while 7 percent went for George Bush. When I'm with my brethren in the news biz, whether in the newsroom or at a press conference, I know two things: I'm the freak; and 90 percent of the people around me didn't vote for George W. Bush and hate Attorney General John Ashcroft for not letting medical marijuana clubs flout federal drug law, but were furious that the Gonzalez family didn't rush to pack Elian off to Cuba after then-Attorney General Janet Reno told them to. About the only journalists who won't admit that the news media are filled with liberals are lefties whose big beef is that the media are liberal, instead of ultra-left. I'm not whining, because I know that conservatism can thrive despite liberal bias. Nor do I respect those who quit reading newspapers because of the bias. After all, savvy readers can see through the gauze. Better to get the facts with a little bias than no facts at all. Besides, most reporters -- not columnists, who are paid to be opinionated -- try to keep their ideology under wraps. Most also strive for balance within a story. It's in the story ideas, however, that the bias really shows. Here are some stories that you are very unlikely to read in a mainstream newspaper, and certainly not on the front page: -- Gender gap hurts Democrats. (The better half of the gender gap is that men vote Republican.) -- Illegal immigrants cashing welfare checks hit record high. (That's not the case now, but when it was, you really had to dig to read it here.) -- Parents and students support standardized tests. (Only stories against testing need apply.) -- Alaskan caribou herds thrive near oil pipeline. (If there were a 10 percent decline in the size of the herds, you know that there'd have been a front-page story heralding ecological disaster.) -- Senate panel rejects Kyoto global warming pact. (Last year, a Senate committee voted to urge President Bush to return to the Kyoto negotiations, but to reject any treaty that exempts developing nations, which Kyoto does.) You also see the bias in the stories that papers report on ad nauseum. When California Proposition 209, which ended racial preferences in state hiring and admission, was on the ballot in 1996, The San Francisco Chronicle ran more than 250 pieces (including letters to the editor) on the measure from July to December. Repetitive stories chronicled the fears of minority students, with next to no recognition of students who might be helped. Poll stories reported that women "surprisingly" supported the measure. The reportage was similar for Proposition 187, the 1994 measure that denied health care and schooling for illegal immigrants. I voted against 187, but still was appalled at journalists' frequent failure to report relevant information, say, on the costs of illegal immigration. Proposition 209 won 54 percent of the vote, and 187 garnered 59 percent. Go figure: Many reporters write that support for either measure is politically risky. Too many reporters saw it as their mission to defeat Propositions 209 and 187. In the end, the constant droning of the same arguments revealed a pitiful lack of imagination, and a herd mentality, in a profession that prides itself in its independence and intellectual curiosity. The mantra at the modern journalism conference is diversity; but practitioners don't really understand what diversity means.