The so-called mainstream media have an obvious leftward political bias, and have had for decades. Either disingenuously or naively, publishers, editors, network heads and reporters deny this, although the evidence is overwhelming. Sometimes, as when supposedly objective reporters are openly adversarial to conservatives while covering news events and there is no discipline by their bosses, the evidence is also embarrassing.
Fox News, which was launched to counter balance this tendency, has at least been relatively open about its conservative slant: “fair and balanced” was always intended to convey Fox’s efforts to balance the scales, not to suggest that Fox News by itself was balanced.
Nonetheless, it is rare to see any of the liberal-oriented news organizations, even the most undeniably biased of them, like NPR, admit its objectivity problem—never mind surveys that show that journalists are far more liberal than the U.S. population, and regardless of the media’s repeated tardiness in covering legitimate “conservative news stories” like the New Black Panthers controversy and the ACORN “sting”( CNN, ABC, CBS and NBC are in the process of ignoring the similar Planned Parenthood videotapes). The journalistic establishment has closed ranks on this issue, consistently arguing that the “myth” of liberal bias arises from a right-biased perspective.
Thus it was striking and refreshing to see Marvin Kalb, a member-in-good-standing of the liberal journalists’ club confronting the most prestigious and perhaps the most egregious of left-biased media, The New York Times, with the truth it routinely denies.
Moderating a discussion at George Washington University including New York Times Editor Bill Keller and the Times Washington Bureau Chief Gene Backay that was broadcast on C-Span, Kalb visibly upset Keller with this exchange:
Kalb: “On the Times you have news and then you’ve got opinion. Now there should be a wall between the two. Your ombudsman Arthur Brisbane says, and I quote, ‘the news pages are laced with analytical and opinion pieces that work against the premise that the news is just the news, unquote. Many conservatives as you well know, criticize the Times as being a liberal, left-wing newspaper, and that those views get into the news part of your newspaper. Why do you allow this to happen?”
Keller: “We don’t allow it to happen. I mean–”
Kalb: “But it happens almost every day.”
Keller: “According to Art Brisbane or according to you?”
Kalb: “No, well, according to people who have read the Times for many many years. There’s more, what I’m getting at here Bill, is that there’s more analysis dipping into commentary and the editorial side of reporting than a straight hard news story.”
Keller continued to deny Kalb’s indictment of persistent bias. Nonetheless, Marvin Kalb, no conservative warrior, demonstrated his courage and integrity by confronting one of America’s greatest journalistic weaknesses directly. Kalb almost certainly agrees with most of what the Times prints as well as its point of view: he began the program by singing the paper’s praises in exalted terms. But agreeing with the mainstream media’s view of the world and approving of how they practice journalism are two very different things, and in the incestuous world of the mainstream media, it takes an Ethics Hero to admit it.