Peter Jennings confirms the media's liberal bias?
July 7, 2001 2:49 PM   Subscribe

Peter Jennings confirms the media's liberal bias? Jennings states that "conservative voices in the US have not been as present as they might have been and should have been in the media.''
posted by gyc (31 comments total)
Jennings says that he watches his former colleague on Fox news and does not see any bias in Fox! What a dunderhead. He might begin by checking out the studies done on the tv shows (news) and note what FAIR says about Fox and their heavbily weighted list of GOP Congressmen and spokespeople for the Right as against the much fewer memembers of the Democratic Party.
ABC? Hardly a bastion of middle of the orad and/or left fact, as has been shown, corporations control the TV stations and thus tilt heavily to the Right, as also happens pretty much with other media. Other than Geraldo, how many examples of left of center voices are really present?
posted by Postroad at 3:14 PM on July 7, 2001

Who cares! Peter Jennings is just a talking head. He has miniscule journalistic credentials.

If Dan Rather said this, I'd be more impressed.
posted by dr. zoidberg at 3:39 PM on July 7, 2001

Miniscule journalistic credentials? Try none. He's a high school dropout, for pete's sake.
posted by jennak at 4:04 PM on July 7, 2001

But he's soooooo dreamy! (sigh)

Ever hear him when he's not in front of teleprompter?
It's like listening to an alzheimer's patient read a phone book.
posted by dong_resin at 5:04 PM on July 7, 2001

Personal opinions on Peter Jennings may vary, but his credentials are hardly 'minuscule.'
posted by swerve at 5:45 PM on July 7, 2001

Isn't the dimwit news anchor in the film "Broadcast News" at least partly based on Jennings?
posted by drunkkeith at 7:47 PM on July 7, 2001

Former head of CNN Rick Kaplan has also admitted that the news media is left leaning, citing several obvious examples during the presidential election. What was interesting about his admission was that his network is one of the worst offenders, which he also admitted.
posted by ljromanoff at 8:45 PM on July 7, 2001

Jennings strikes me as the only remaining real reporter out of "the big 3", even with Rather's 'Nam credentials
posted by owillis at 8:52 PM on July 7, 2001

I argue that there's a conservative media bias, and Jennings' comments are part of a right-wing conspiracy to ameliorate that bias.

Or something like that.
posted by jpoulos at 9:08 PM on July 7, 2001

Miniscule journalistic credentials? Try none. He's a high school dropout, for pete's sake.

Jesus, this statement is so ... distastefully, pompously elitist. I don't know which is worse, the implication that someone who's a high school dropout can never really make something of himself, or the implication that someone who didn't go to J-school should never be considered a real journalist, no matter how much on-the-job training he may undertake.

Yes, PJ is a high school dropout. Yes, he's a liberal. But anyone who questions his journalistic credentials doesn't have a clue what journalistic credentials are. After a disastrous stint as "boy anchorman" for ABC back in the 60s, he realized he didn't have what it takes, and then spent the next couple of decades busting his ass off to make sure that he did.

Former head of CNN Rick Kaplan has also admitted...

Though ljr didn't mention it, Kaplan is also a Friend of Bill, and several times during his tenure as CNN prez he personally ordered that news which portrayed Bill Clinton in a negative light be kept off the air.

in fact, as has been shown, corporations control the TV stations...

True, but then I don't recall anyone ever questioning this.

...and thus tilt heavily to the Right.

Untrue, as there are exceedingly few examples of corporations directly interfering in the actions of journalists under their employ. The few examples that do exist almost always have something to do with stories about the company itself, and in such cases the story always ends up getting reported by outlets belonging to the companies' competitors anyway.

Other than Geraldo, how many examples of left of center voices are really present?

Well, herein lies the rub. If your own personal politics are somewhere over in Socialist Workers Party territory, then yes, everything you see and read in American mainstream journalism is probably going to be "right-wing" by your standards. But by the standards of mainstream American opinion, 90% of the reporters personally identify themselves as left-of-center, and that comes out in their reporting ... without any interference from their corporate ownership.

Also recently, Newsweek managing editor Evan Thomas admitted the national press is liberal:

We launder our views through, quote, ‘objective critics.’ And certainly the press is pretty green, the press is pretty pro-environment and I don’t think there’s any question that they, as a body, feel that Bush is wrong on the environment ... I’m excluding the conservative press — the Weekly Standard and so forth — but generally the press is pretty green and they’re going to use the Europeans to take the Bushies to task."

posted by aaron at 10:33 PM on July 7, 2001

Closing tag.
posted by aaron at 10:34 PM on July 7, 2001

I will just offer this data point from the tipping point:

in 1984, Brian Mullen of Syracuse University led a study in which Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw, and Dan Rather were taped as they anchored their nightly newscasts. All references to candidates were excerpted, and these segments were shown to randomly chosen people, who were asked to rate the facial expression of the newscasters.

'The subjects had no idea what kind of experiment they were involved with, or what the newscasters were talking about. They were simply asked to score the emotional content of the expressions of these three men on a 21-point scale, with the lowest being "extremely negative" and the highest point on the scale "extremely positive."'

'The results were fascinating. Dan Rather scored 10.46 -- which translates to an almost perfectly neutral expression -- when he talked about Mondale, and 10.37 when he talked about Reagan. ...Brokaw...scored 11.21 for Mondale and 11.50 for Reagan. But Peter Jennings of ABC was much different. For Mondale, he scored 13.38. But when he talked about Reagan, his face lit up so much he scored 17.44.'
posted by rebeccablood at 10:52 PM on July 7, 2001

Other than Geraldo, how many examples of left of center voices are really present?

Jesse Jackson, Chris Matthews, and Tim Russert just to name a few...
posted by gyc at 11:43 PM on July 7, 2001

If Tim Russert is liberal, he exceeds at being exactingly fair. For instance, his withering interview of Al Gore last summer (can't find link) convinced me I wasn't voting for him. His "color commentary" on election night was disappointingly neutral.

Jesse Jackson has a show?

Has anybody actually met an anchor person? Local or otherwise? We're dealing with a pool consisting of the cheerleaders and wrestlers in high school who got straight As because they performed without true query. For the most part they're drunk, womanizing (men), fashion queen (women), who drive Lexi and have the curiosity of a Texas fratboy.

But, if you don't buy my argument. Have a problem with it or anything, don't blame me, blame yourselves O conservatives here. You're arguing from equally as fallacious an angle.

Peter Jennings said the media's liberal.

Rick Kaplan said so too. Na nee na nee na na.

I also went to high school. I know the type.

Jesus Christ says the corporate media sucks all around.
posted by crasspastor at 12:20 AM on July 8, 2001

aaron:Also recently, Newsweek managing editor Evan Thomas admitted the national press is liberal:[link to Media Research Center site]

First, the quote as it appears on MRC's site- they selectively misquoted him- suggests that the Newsweek editor acknowledges the press' general 'green' slant- a slant shared by a significant majority of the country it might be noted. Also note MRC's extremely biased diction in framing those excerpted quotes (shaggy-haired enviro-wackos, et al). However, even if Thomas is saying what MRC wants you to think he's saying, being personally slanted on one issue does not a liberal bias make. But as for what Evan Thomas actually said: the general topic of discussion this quote was taken from was the European media. Howard Kurtz, a moderator of the discussion (and IMO biased right-ward and Bush-friendly) on CNN's Reliable Sources made a digression to ask Evan Thomas of Newsweek if the US media was using their coverage of European coverage to take Bush to task on the environment. Evan Thomas appears to conced that as opposed to the US media directly criticizing the president themselves, they've opted to use coverage of European press reactions as a sort of shield to indirectly criticize the president. Now, to my reading, this hardly argues as bias but rather argues that the press has become too fearful of directly confronting or challenging those who occupy the corridors of power- a detriment to democracy no matter who's particular agenda benefits. Oh, but don't take my word for it, or MRC's- just read the transcript here.

And just what is the "Media Research Center", and what drew Aaron to visit that site for the link he provided?

Opposes any traces of liberalism on TV or in films. Chairman L. Brent Bozell III [William Buckley's nephew- Hal] publishes the newsletter TV, ETC., with an advisory board that includes Elliot Abrams, Mona Charen, Pete DuPont, and Rush Limbaugh.
Source: Media Transparency

Also, check out the sources of funding for MRC- a veritable Who's Who of the purse string holders for the right-wing "think"-tank conglomerate, such as the Sarah Scaife Foundation, the Olin Foundation, and the Bradley foundation, which also fund such pillars of unbiased agenda-less "research" and "activism" as the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute. Not to mention the Scaife Foundation's involvement with the Arkansas Project at the American Spectator... hmmm... could it be a Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy at work? :)
posted by hincandenza at 1:34 AM on July 8, 2001

[He's a high school dropout, for pete's sake]

Hey Jennak! I'm a high school dropout who's done damn well for myself. Traditional education isn't everything, or for everyone.

If you have a point about Peter Jennings then by all means make it. His tolerance level for pseudo-intellectual catechism doesn't really enter into it.
posted by revbrian at 3:05 AM on July 8, 2001

> Peter Jennings confirms the media's liberal bias?

Peter Jennings, one newsreader, can neither confirm nor deny anything about "the media," by which I presume he means the US media industry as a whole. He has opinions. So do we all. He says that, long before most of you were born, some liberals went into the industry to change the world. Perhaps. I say it's still an industry that they went into, a commercial enterprise driven very much by market share and advertising money. It's not the Peace Corps, it's a business, and news sellers have to give news buyers (the viewers) what news buyers want: simplistic, sensationalist tripe. If it (or any part of it) leans slightly to the left or the right, then that must be what consumers want.

And when Jennings says that for "[t]hose of us who went into journalism in the '50s or '60s," it was "sort of a liberal thing to do," he doesn't mention that the intervening years have turned many of those idealists into cynical overstuffed suits worried only about paying for the family trip to Disney Land. (By the way, Jennings probably gets a special deal there.) The 1960s of course became the 1970s, the 1980s, the 1990s, and the 2000s, and those idealist kids straight out of J-school have changed with the years.

> Hey Jennak! I'm a high school dropout who's done
> damn well for myself.

That should be damned well for himself, Brian. You would have known that if you had ever shown up for my damned class.
Mrs. Grundy

posted by pracowity at 4:58 AM on July 8, 2001

"Is there a liberal bias in the media?"

lagado's answer: no, on the contrary.

Talk about flogging a dead horse. Are we going to discuss this daily or only weekly on Metafilter?
posted by lagado at 5:13 AM on July 8, 2001

But by the standards of mainstream American opinion, 90% of the reporters personally identify themselves as left-of-center ...

How many times are you going to toss out this bogus factoid, Aaron? The study you're trying to quote here is a 1996 Roper Center/Freedom Forum survey of 139 Washington reporters and bureau chiefs.

In that survey, 61 percent identified themselves as liberal or liberal to moderate, not 90 percent. Also, 89 percent supported Clinton in 1992 and 7 percent supported Bush.

Conservatives love to claim that 89 percent of journalists voted for Clinton, but it's highly dubious to assume that 139 journalists in Washington are indicative of the journalists in the whole country.
posted by rcade at 11:18 AM on July 8, 2001

There is a liberal media bias, but it surprises me that this should outrage anybody. Did you expect a 50/50 split? Do you honestly believe that the media could ever not be biased? Or is it just that you're t'd off that it's not biased the other way? Hmm?
posted by Hildago at 12:19 PM on July 8, 2001

Well, you don't hear much complaining about the conservative bias on the parts of captains of industry and heads of corporations. Why not? As hidalgo suggests, we should expect those who get into journalism to tend to be left-of-center in their personal beliefs; probably why they got into journalism, no?

Besides that, 3 critical points need to be made:

1) There is a big distinction between bias and belief- belief is a personal creed, while bias is the acting on that creed. For example, a particular ER doctor might think gang members are the scum of society, but if one gets shot and ends up in that doctor's ER, he will treat the patient impartially and with the best of his or her ability- it's his Hippocratic oath. So while that doctor holds personal "beliefs" about the person in question and the choices they may have made, they aren't "biased" against the patient. Journalists can and do follow the same principle- so simply showing evidence of who they voted for or what they personally believe doesn't prove or demonstrate that they are actually biased- that their news coverage consistently betrays their personal slant.
2) Also, when talking about "journalists", we need to distinguish between the punditocracy/ talking head crowd- those who generate great personal wealth from their fame, who command the ear of the inside-the-beltway crowd- and the cadre of plebeian journalists diligently working hard without much recognition in countless large and small newspapers around the country. While these many journalists may tend to the left, they represent the vast serfdom of journalism; meanwhile, the opulent minority of big-money "journalists" (who tend heavily rightward) are far fewer in number but exert great power in determine the stories that are even covered- these pompous folk hardly represent typical journalistic beliefs.
3) Oh yeah, and lastly, the Roper Center of the study mentioned above received $214,000 from the right-wing Bradley Foundation in the years 1996-1997. You know where to look...
posted by hincandenza at 3:32 PM on July 8, 2001

I think its a completely inappropriate comparison to brand all the members of the media as being either liberal or conservative.

The real difference, I would argue, is that their field naturally encourages pragmatic behavior as opposed to dogmatic... and if that means more liberals than conservatives, so be it.
posted by insomnia_lj at 11:12 PM on July 8, 2001

I don't believe the journalists-are-pinkos argument, but suppose it's true. People could still have the argument backwards: it could be, not that liberals become journalists, but that being a journalist makes one liberal.

I suspect that most -- not all, but most -- big US journalists, compared to the average American, are well-educated, read and travel widely, and know more about what's going on in their country and abroad. They see and analyze the events of the day, every day. They see politicians and their minions at work. They are forced, by professional standards, to look at both sides.

Maybe such a perspective makes one more likely to support liberal ideas and politicians.
posted by pracowity at 11:13 PM on July 8, 2001

He who previews too many times is lost.
posted by pracowity at 11:15 PM on July 8, 2001

Word up, P-man. Made that argument many times myself: if so many of these (again, talking about the real journalists as opposed to the Peter Jennings to George Will money-grubbing mediawhores) well-educated, perceptive, inquisitive people- whose full time jobs and driving passion in life includes heavy research, keeping up on current events, and having the access to interview, question, and otherwise challenge and interact with public and political figures- if these folks end up possessing 'liberal' beliefs- well, maybe that's a lesson for the rest of us. =)
posted by hincandenza at 12:40 AM on July 9, 2001

Note for European readers: Liberal in an American context can be located very slightly to the left of Jean Marie Le Pen.
posted by kerplunk at 3:25 AM on July 9, 2001

Just closing that blockquote.
posted by lagado at 5:14 AM on July 9, 2001

What's regarded as liberal in the States would likely be considered quite right-wing in Western Europe. Kerplunk is quite correct. If you Americans want to read a true liberal paper, The Guardian is regarded as the bible of socal workers and teachers throughout Britain.
posted by salmacis at 5:56 AM on July 9, 2001

liberal bias in american media? where media == the infotainment slop that peter jennings is associated with? i have a hard time seeing that. i don't think the half dozen or so conglomerates that control mainstream american media can be confused with having a liberal bias.
posted by wade at 9:19 PM on July 9, 2001

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