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State of the media address
By Steven Martinovich
Following the publication of Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News in 2001, his peers in journalism dubbed Bernard Goldberg nothing less than a traitor. The mainstream media, he argued, is far from objective in its reporting on the major issues of the day and in fact tilts towards the liberal worldview. It was a pronouncement, though hardly original, that angered many in the media world and led to Goldberg to be ostracized by many of his former friends but resonated with millions of Americans tired of slanted reporting. It's unlikely that Arrogance: Rescuing America from the Media Elite will win him any new friends in the mainstream media.
Arrogance sees an exasperated Goldberg accuse the mainstream media of being out of touch with the American people. Repeating a charge he made in Bias, Goldberg argues that many journalists -- particularly those of prominent stature -- live in a world that most Americans wouldn't recognize. Thanks to a cocoon of like-minded people, writes Goldberg, the average journalist at the New York Times or CBS can go the average day never meeting someone who disagrees with them on fundamental issues. Bias isn't the result of a vast left-wing conspiracy, Goldberg argues, but the result of journalists who fail to see there is a world outside of New York or Los Angeles.
This disconnect from the American public, he writes, has produced arrogance in many journalists. With their opinions validated by their membership in a largely self-contained society, journalists often begin to see any worldview that deviates from their own as not just wrong but even morally reprehensible. Inevitably that begins to play a role in the decision making process in choosing which stories to cover and color how they report on the issues of the day.
"What media bias is mainly about are the fundamental assumptions and beliefs and values that are the stuff of every day life. The reason so many Americans who are pro-life or anti-affirmative action or who support gun rights detest the mainstream media is that day after day they fail to see in the media any respect for their views. What they see is a mainstream media seeming to legitimize one side (the one the media elites agree with) as valid and moral, while seeking to cast the other side as narrow, small-minded, and bigoted."
To illustrate his argument Goldberg examines how the media covers stories as diverse as abortion, minority issues, feminism, gay issues and gun control and the pressures -- both external and internal -- which influence journalists. Goldberg demonstrates, without having to work terribly hard, that the media largely reports these stories from the perspective of the political left. Many journalists, in the belief that their values are moral, automatically assign the role of the villain to those on the right. Unfortunately for those in the mainstream media, a large swath of the American public -- perhaps best represented in the famous electoral map of the 2000 election -- are tired of being declared morally repugnant every time they open a newspaper or watch the evening news.
Even more unfortunate, writes Goldberg, is that the media simply refuses to believe that they are out of touch with the American public -- and if they are it is the public that is on the wrong side of the debate. It's clear that Goldberg is irked by the refusal by many journalists to step out of their self-enclosed world and challenge their assumptions by meeting with the average American who doesn't live in Manhattan or Georgetown. Instead, the latest line out of newsrooms -- one that earns nothing but contempt from Goldberg -- is that if there is a bias in the media, it is towards the political right.
"This is what you say if you're a media liberal who is not only tired of playing defense but wants to put his critics on the defensive for a change. This is what you say if you're trapped in a corner, and you don't know what else to do and you think you're fighting for your life," responds Goldberg.
It's clear that Goldberg, who identifies himself as an old-fashioned liberal, is having a lot of fun in Arrogance. After suffering a few years of relentless attacks, many by his former friends in the industry, Goldberg obviously is enjoying the opportunity to fire some shots back. While you can occasionally detect a hint of anger, and given what Goldberg has gone through since the release of Bias that's understandable, for the most part his tone is light -- even including a 12 step program to help the media recover from bias. That said, Goldberg also has an agenda that he reiterates constantly throughout Arrogance. It is time for the media become fairer in its coverage of conservatives and the issues that they -- and tens of millions of Americans -- care about.
Given the reception that Bias received it's a little hard to imagine that Arrogance will have any greater impact with the people who need to read it the most. The mainstream media is faced with a difficult choice today. They can continue to operate with their ideological blinders and shed readers and viewers to cable television, talk radio and the Internet or they can begin to fulfill their mandate of objective and fair reporting. If their previous response to Goldberg serves as an example, however, it appears that it will be business as usual.
Steven Martinovich is a freelance writer in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada.
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