The Press: Ideology vs. Incompetence

From dated 11/17/06

In our increasingly polarized political atmosphere, I live in two very different worlds. Iíve spent much of my life in show business (and the news business), so I tend to have a lot of liberal-leaning friends, and, when it comes to politics, I travel in mostly conservative circles. I have no problem with that; heck, I was a fan of both the Cubs and White Sox when I was growing up in Chicago, and that was practically against the law.

The biggest difficulty for me is I always seem to be making someone angry. Most of my liberal friends donít understand why I rub shoulders with people they consider to be the equivalent to gibbons on the evolutionary scale, and the bulk of my conservative friends stare in disbelief when I so much as suggest not everyone in Hollywood has a statue of Satan by his bedside.

Many of the pieces Iíve written on this site have troubled the Left side of my world; this time, however, Iím sure the Right side might be a little annoyed. The subject is the press and its politics. Let me start by saying I think itís indisputable there is a liberal bias in our journalistic institutions. Studies have repeatedly shown journalism as an area that tends to attract those of a liberal bent. There are a lot of theories as to why this is so, but Iíll leave that for another time.

The trap for conservatives is the tendency to blame all their problems on the press. After a while, it begins to sound like whining, and, perhaps more important, it provides a crutch enabling the Right to overlook other factors which contribute to their difficulties.

Now hereís where I really start to lose my conservative base. As shameful as the press might be in the way its ideology affects the stories it covers, that often takes a back seat to an even greater tendency in both the broadcast and print media; namely, the urge to focus on the sensational, the controversial or the trivial. And that dereliction of their duty is often bipartisan.

What got me thinking about all this is Nancy Pelosiís troubles in the race to choose a House Majority Leader. I wonít rehash it here, but it involved what many considered an unnecessary controversy caused by her endorsement of her chosen candidate, and the fact that her fellow House members voted against her wishes by a very wide margin. Inside-the-beltway tongues wagged, countless stories were written and broadcast, and many questions were raised about her leadership abilities.

Does this story deserve all this attention? I donít know about that, but I do know this: if Pelosi were a Republican, and the same events had occurred, conservatives would have been wailing about it all as a plot to undermine the party by concentrating on a relatively trivial matter and blowing it out of proportion. In other words, when they do it to our guy (or gal) itís a plot; when they do it to the other side, itís a deserved criticism.

My personal belief is the press in this country is in terrible shape. The new technologies have them running scared, and objectivity, for the most part, has been traded for advocacy. And while their often thinly-disguised ideology is shameful, when it comes to shallow, personality-driven stories, they are non-partisan.

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