On Media Bias
by Jeff Williams
Media Bias is a myth.
Oh, how naive, you say. OK, then. Let's set the record straight.
When we say there is a bias in the "media," then what exactly is the "media" which we are referring to? Are the newscast of NBC, ABC, CBS and CNN skewed towards the liberal persecptive. Yes, of course. Almost 90% of the press corps of those organizations admitted to voting for Democratic candidates, including Bill Clinton. When we speak of bias, there are two ways of showing your true colors, choosing which stories to run or not to run, and choosing from which angle to slant the stories that you do run. It doesn't take a Bachelor's degree in political science to recognize the bias in today's major television news broadcasts.
But is the media limited only to the television news broadcasts of those four networks? Of course not. When we say the word "media" today, we have to refer to television, radio, newspaper, magazines, books and the internet among others. In the Information Age, we are literally given the choice of thousands of sources of information. And using that defintion of the word "media" one simply has to conclude that there is no overall bias in the media.
Well, of course there IS bias in every single media source out there. Who is to say that National Review or The New Republic does not have a particular political philosophy? Each individual media source has a particular bias. The bias may be conservative or liberal, and it may be strong or weak, but the fact is that bias exists. Some media outlets may try to be as objective as possible, but let a little bias show, while still others will openly admit that they have no objective but that of one particular philsophy. However, when we examine the sum total of all media sources that are available, it can be said that no bias exists in the media, because the combined biases tend to cancel one another out. A newspaper stand that sells copies of The New York Times and the The Wall Street Journal can hardly be called biased. Bookstores selling Newt Gingrich's To Renew America and Hillary Clinton It Takes a Village can hardly be accused of pandering.
Besides, isn't a criticism of media bias simply a misunderstanding of, or an attack on, capitalism itself? It makes perfect economic sense that if a demand exists that a supply will be created to meet that demand. If a particular political philosophy is not being represented or is being under-represented, then into that void will spring a range of talk shows, magazines and web sites to meet that demand. Not only is Rush Limbaugh a pillar of conservative thought, but he is a very rich man for recognizing the basic wants and needs of a capitalist society. Every political viewpoint can be expressed by anybody with a pen and paper, or by anybody with a typewriter, or by anybody with a modem and a basic knowledge of HTML. And as long as somebody else is willing to listen to those viewpoints, there is a market that exists.
So it would make sense that if the viewpoints on television news was held by liberal thought alone, that there would be a demand for more opposing viewpoints. Into this market void comes Fox News Sunday, hosted by conservative Tony Snow. One would expect Fox News Sunday to soar in the Nielsen ratings, given the number of conservative complaning about the liberal bias in television news. If Fox News Sunday succeeds, we can finally end the media bias debate forever. But if Fox News Sunday fails in the ratings, it can easily be attributed to one of three reasons: 1) the show wasn't very good 2) the market wasn't as big as expected or predicted and 3) conservatives prefer to get their news from other media sources other than television.
The third reason is a very important point to consider. Conservatives complain loudly about liberal television news bias, but isn't that more of a factor of the market? If liberal prefer to get their news from television in overwhelmingly larger numbers than conservatives do, then why fault the networks for trying to maximize market share and therefore profits?
Do liberals complain about the bias in newspapers? Even though the newspaper with one of the largest circulations in print is the conservative The Wall Street Journal, nobody complains about the bias in that paper. In newspapers, the number of selections is much larger, and therefore the number of choices in political commentary is also much larger. In Washington, both the liberal The Washington Post and the conservative The Washington Times are available side-by-side on every street corner. Who can be blamed if the circulation of one paper is larger than the other? The only possible explanation for circulation size must be the market. If Washington D.C. is predominately either a liberal or conservative town, then it stands that the newspaper than best reflects and represents the majority political viewpoint will have the highest circulation.
So, is there really a bias in the media? If conservatives prefer the medium of newspapers and magazines to television, then why all the complaints about the liberal bias in television? Why exactly are they complaining? Are they afraid that the liberal bias on television will sway or affect the political views of the people viewing? Well, the question is simply. Are people liberals because they are watching liberal media programs, or do the programs have a liberal bias because the audience themselves are liberal? Someone who reads the Wall Street Journal every day would hardly be swayed politically by watching a half-hour of Dan Rather one night. And a liberal would not suddenly switch their political views overnight by accidentally tuning in to The Rush Limbaugh Show. To assume that the American people are such sheep that will believe anything they read, see or hear is a misguided and pessimistic thought. It would make sense is there was only one source of propaganda, such as Pravda in the old Soviet Union. But with so many resources available in this country, one must conclude that people have the opportunity to seek out their own media sources and therefore to make up their own mind based on their own chosen sources. To claim a bias in the media is nothing more than simple laziness.
Let's face it. The bias in media is a myth. It's nothing more than an simple excuse for politicians to explain their failures and political defeats. A scapegoat. If you want to convince more people that your political philosophy is the right one, then stop blaiming ABC for your failures. Start handing out copies of The Wall Street Journal.