FINAL WORD ON MEDIA BIAS: For the record, I’m not a fan of the fake posing as “unbiased” that characterizes both the New York Times and FoxNews. Journalists should have a philosophy, something that they believe to be true, something that can guide their actions. That philosophy will almost certainly have some controversial elements. Those controversial elements will color what journalists think is newsworthy (as in the famous NYT headline that went, approx., “Crime Falls, Though Jails Still Full”) and how they cover events. Lots of readers will disagree with those judgments. None of this is a problem.
The problems enter in two ways: First, journalists can deny that they actually hold beliefs (as with Fox’s denial that it’s more conservative than ABC). Even if this claim were true, which it virtually never is, why on earth should amoeba-like intellectual shapelessness be a good thing in a journalist?
The second problem occurs when journalists ignore stories that, if they were being honest, they’d have to admit were “real news,” even though it might make their side look bad. The two links I posted below, on coverage of guns and abortion, offer many egregious examples of this kind of team-playing. To come at it from the other side, FoxNews should have done a segment on the fact that many of Al Gore’s “lies” actually weren’t lies. (Love Canal, inventing the Internet, etc.) Journalists shouldn’t fall into the mindset of the “team,” whether consciously or unconsciously; they should pursue even stories that are harmful to the political parties or candidates that they favor. You can do that, and still produce “slanted” news. Both the general rightward slant and the particular pro-Gore segment (in the Fox-Gore hypothetical) would be consistent–the Fox stance would be, essentially, “Most of the time, promoting the truth means reporting in a right-leaning way. We wouldn’t be conservatives if we thought the left or liberal worldviews were more accurate. But that should never lead us to ignore stories that don’t ‘slant right.’” The same pursuit of truth can lead to both a general right or left slant, and particular stories that go against that slant.