Answer: Read the Letters to the Editor.
I now subscribe to the New York Times, and the uniform one-way slant of the Letters to the Editor is palpable and fascinating. I’ve been tempted many times, including today, to do a post critiquing the biases in all the Times letters in a single edition. Maybe some day.
80% of the letters list progressive or Democratic talking points, either because that’s the approximate proportion of liberals among the Times readership, or because that percentage (it is remarkably consistent, day to day, paper to paper) reflects the bias of the editors choosing which letters to print. I have concluded that the letters are probably even more weighted to the left than the reader opinions published reflect. The Times just feels obligated to include a non-conforming, aka “conservative,” view here and there so its bias won’t be screamingly obvious. It’s an objective paper, after all.
Today’s mail call was dominated by one letter after another excoriating Donald Trump’s cabinet appointments, which was also the theme of today’s Times editorial. In particular, the appointment of Exxon Mobil’s chief executive, Rex Tillerson, as Secretary of State was a target of the correspondents’ disgust. The majority view was stated in one letter this way:
“Like Donald Trump, Mr. Tillerson has no experience in the delicate and sensitive art of diplomacy.”
It wasn’t until the fourth letter (out of five: 80%!) that a commenter mentioned the obvious, and exactly what I was thinking as I read all the expressions of horror:
“As to Mr. Tillerson’s experience, how much diplomatic experience did Hillary Clinton have?”
Before being appointed Secretary of State? Virtually none, except for a smidgen as First Lady. How much diplomatic experience did Barack Obama have? Less. Trump and Tillerson have far more practical experience in negotiation abroad than either Clinton or Obama in 2009, and yet Hillary and Barack’s deficiency didn’t spark anguished editorials and letters to the editor then. Go figure.
This is the dominant pattern in the mainstream media, and on particularly ugly display right now. (Naturally, I’m a partisan shill for having the bad manners to mention it.) Another example: when the Democrats in the Senate were blocking Bush appointments, the Times defended, vigorously, the Senate filibuster. When Obama’s legislative agenda was stalled before a Republican Senate majority, the Times called for an end to the filibuster as an outdated and destructive maneuver. Soon, if the Republicans do as outgoing Democratic Party Senate leader Harry Reid threatened to do when he thought a Senate majority would follow President Hillary into the White House and gut the device, the Times can be counted on to wax patriotic about the value of this weapon against an oppressive majority. (The Republican would be fools to kill the filibuster, just as Democrats were fools in 2013 to employ the so-called “nuclear option,” as if the Republicans would never be in a position to nuke them. But then, Republicans are often fools….)
Is it too much to ask for the news media to apply a single standard consistently and fairly?
Apparently so. To be fair to the Times, however, that’s not what its readers want. They want bias their way.