One of the many problems with modern media is that nuance doesn’t play well on television. For example, I’ve been saying that the vetting of Ben Carson is appropriate and that liberal media bias exists (the answer isn’t to give Carson a pass, it’s to properly vet all politicians running for president).
These things are not mutually exclusive, and yet, it has been hard for some in the media to wrap their heads around these two things. If you believe that liberal media bias exists, you’re supposed to circle the wagons around Carson; if you believe that it’s appropriate to ask questions about Carson’s biography, then you’re supposed to deny that there are media double standards where liberals tend to get favorable treatment.
By arguing both these things are true, I seem to have astounded some of my friends in the media. Ironically, skepticism about media bias has recently been voiced on mainstream media cable outlets where I am generally outnumbered by liberals (but again, I repeat myself).
Here’s the deal: As Bernard Goldberg famously told us years ago, liberal media bias is real and insidious. Most mainstream media journalists are personally very liberal, yet do not even realize their worldview influences their coverage. Media bias is rarely overt; there’s no conspiracy. It usually shows up in subtle forms.
There is selection bias (which stories get covered) — as well as placement bias (which stories are on the front page driving the news cycle, versus which stories are buried on A-13). Sometimes the bias is as subtle as the way a newscaster arches his eyebrow when talking about Republicans.
There’s also the fact that “media” transcends news media. Culture is more important than politics, and liberal media bias extends to The View and late night comedy shows. But let’s stick to news media. In recent days, some are pushing back on the notion that liberal bias is a problem by pointing out that there were X number of critical stories written about Barack Obama before he was elected.
But again, what is missing is the context. We don’t know how the stories were framed — if they were were greeted with breathless reporting, or with merely a perfunctory yawn. We also don’t know if these stories came about organically, or if conservative media pushed the mainstream media to cover them.
You’ve probably heard the saying about lies, damned lies, and statistics. It’s possible to cite misleading statistics. An example: Did you know Peyton Manning holds the Super Bowl record for the most completed passes? It sounds impressive — until you realize that his record-setting performance occurred while his team was being killed…
Yes, liberal media bias exists. But like pornography, it’s hard to define. You just know it when you see it. And even I — a man who thinks whining about media bias is the last refuge of a losing campaign — see it all too often.