Did Fox News make liberal media bias worse?

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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When conservatives used to complain about media bias, I would always tell them: 1). Yes it does exist, but 2.) The answer is not to whine — but to win.

Ronald Reagan was “The Great Communicator” — I would remind them — and he won without having Rush Limbaugh or Fox News or The Daily Caller around to help correct inaccuracies or force stories into the mainstream media. Reagan succeeded in spite of facing a virtual liberal media monopoly.

Lately, though, I’m beginning to rethink the notion that today’s conservatives have it better than The Gipper did. If the 2012 elections taught us anything, it’s that liberal media bias is alive and well — and effective.

David Freddoso is out with a new book on the subject, called: “Spin Masters: How the media ignored the real news and helped reelect Barack Obama.” (Listen to my full conversation with Freddoso here.)

As he notes in “Spin Masters,” the establishment media seemed more concerned about Mitt Romney’s dog Seamus and allegations that Romney gave someone a forced haircut, decades ago — than about Benghazi — or the fact that an Obama-authorized drone strike killed a 16-year-old American.

If the subtitle of Freddoso’s book (which says the media “helped reelect Barack Obama”) is true, it means a couple things: First, the notion that the rise of cable news, talk radio, and conservative websites changed the paradigm, giving conservatives license to ignore the MSM, was a terribly flawed assumption.

And second, because the establishment media is still important and biased, conservatives absolutely must nominate effective communicators like Reagan, and eschew easy-to-caricature politicians, like Romney.

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But there’s another interesting twist. Not only has the rise of alternative media not solved the media bias problem, but it could be that the rise of new media has actually radicalized the establishment media, making them more — not less — liberal.

At least, that’s what one smart observer thinks. Over at Commentary, Peter Wehner says that one of the factors behind the trend of increasing liberal media bias was the “rise of Fox News.” As Wehner writes,

For decades progressives had a monopoly on news, which meant they were content to slant the news but not routinely cross the line into advocacy. But now that Fox News has offered not only a different perspective, but a popular one, journalists may feel they must, in order to compensate for their loss of influence, increase their liberal advocacy.

Some conservatives will argue that this is actually positive. They will say it is nothing more than a return to the way journalism used to be — a return to the days when you had “Republican” newspapers and “Democratic” newspapers. They will say that it is actually better for the liberals to be transparent with their biases, rather than attempting to cloak it as “objective” reporting.

But I’m not so sure. As this post establishes, the MSM still maintains tremendous influence. Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and conservative new media outlets are powerful, to be sure — but can they compete with the evening news, the New York Times, and Hollywood, etc.?

Like the French Revolution, it may be “too soon to say” how this will all shake out.

Matt K. Lewis