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TV network's malfunctioning news

By Alan Caruba
web posted January 13, 2003

There's a reason that CBS, NBC and ABC evening news shows have literally lost millions of viewers. People don't trust them any more.

I was reminded of this when I read the recently published softcover edition of Bernard Goldberg's bestselling book, Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News, ($13.95, Perennial, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers). If you haven't read it yet, you should. Goldberg got in hot water when his opinion editorial on the way the news is slanted nightly by Dan Rather led to his being let go by CBS after nearly thirty years of being one of their star correspondents. His crime was revealing the truth that countless "ordinary Americans" had suspected or known for years.

That's why these same folks had abandoned the networks to listen to Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage, Roger Hedgecock and TV's Bill O'Reilly, and the other conservative talk show hosts who are giving them the news they want, not the news the media elites in New York think they should believe. It's the reason that George W. Bush is president and why the Republican Party again controls Congress; a consolidation of power that hasn't occurred since Eisenhower was president.

In the 1979-80 season, 75 percent of all TV sets that were on in the early evening were tuned to the network news programs on CBS, NBC or ABC. By 2001, that share of the audience had dropped to 43 percent. Along the way, cable and satellite TV, plus the Internet, have provided alternative sources of news, but the real explanation is the growing realization that the networks were distorting the news in order to influence the viewers' perception of America, night after night.

I still watch NBC's Brokaw every night. The only reason I do so is to learn just how the news is being slanted that day. If I want the real news, I watch Fox News, a network that does lean to the right, but which, overall, does an excellent job of just telling you what is happening without distorting it. Think about it, Fox employs Alan Colmes, a liberal, as well as having hired Geraldo Rivera and Greta Van Sustern, giving them both their own shows, and both are certified liberals. "Fair and balanced" is their motto and they work hard to live up to it. The result is you actually stand a chance to hear both sides of an issue.

Goldberg's book makes for wonderful reading. As he says in its new introduction "Before I wrote Bias, I was pretty sure of two things: First, that there were millions of Americans who were deeply concerned about bias in the media. Second, that the geniuses at the networks were convinced that the only people who really cared about the subject were partisan screwballs who had no teeth and were dating their own sisters."

The media elite's fear and contempt of people who hold a conservative point of view is so obvious it is almost laughable. The networks and other leftist media always identify politicians or groups who they deem "conservative" with that label, but never do the same for liberal politicians or the endless parade of "experts" they put on the air to fortify their liberal point of view.

Goldberg cites the New Yorker's film critic, Pauline Kael, who in 1972 couldn't figure out how Richard Nixon had won the presidency. "I can't believe it!" she said. "I don't know a single person who voted for him!" As Goldberg notes, Nixon carried forty-nine states to McGovern's one. This kind of thinking is why Rather, Brokaw and Jennings, along with the news staff that work for them, were astounded that Ronald Reagan got elected. Twice! The joy they greeted the defeat of George H. Bush by Bill Clinton led to eight years of defending the worst president this nation has ever known. They were astounded that George W. Bush got elected. And they immediately set about describing him as a dunce who had lucked into the job. They had done they same with Reagan.

If you want to know what will be on the network news in the evening, just read either The New York Times or the Washington Post in the morning. Both newspapers set the liberal agenda for the day and both are used by network news people to decide which stories get on their disgusting half-hour of distortion.

Goldberg's credentials as a liberal were well established. Despite that, after February 13, 1996 when his opinion editorial about the way CBS reported the news appeared in the Wall Street Journal, his fate was sealed at CBS. As he says in his very entertaining book, "I didn't want to become the darling of conservatives" but he did. They were just about the only friends he had.

I recount this to warn you about the coverage that the President's new economic stimulus package will receive from the networks or the coverage that will be accorded the forthcoming Iraq campaign to rid the world of Saddam Hussein or, for that matter, the campaigns leading up to the 2004 elections.

You will get what they want you to know, what they want you to believe, what they want you to think. It isn't a conspiracy. It is the way they see the world and interpret it. It is the view from the upper West Side of Manhattan or the Georgetown section of Washington, DC.

It is the view the network elites share. And, happily, it continues to lose ground among the ever-increasing number of Americans who prefer to get their news from Fox News or surfing the Internet to visit any one of the many excellent news and opinion websites it provides. This site had more than 530,000 visitors in December!

Any business that had lost nearly a third of its customers would be out of business or close to it. Those running it would seriously restructure their product or the provision of their service. This has not happened at CBS, NBC and ABC. The arrogance of liberals makes it impossible for them to conceive they are doing something wrong.

Alan Caruba writes a weekly column, "Warning Signs", posted on the website of The National Anxiety Center. In February, Merrill Press will publish a collection of his columns. © Alan Caruba, 2003

Buy the paperback version of Bias at Amazon.com for only $11.16 (20% off)

Other related stories: (open in a new window)

  • Telling the whole story by Steve Martinovich (January 7, 2002)
    Steven Martinovich reviews Bernard Goldberg's Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News, an whistleblowing account of media bias
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