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Is media bias really a liberal phenomenon?

Written By | Mar 6, 2014

OCALA, Fla., March 6, 2014 — Everybody knows about media bias. Whether one is considered conservative, liberal, libertarian, progressive, centrist, or something else, slanted press reports are very hard to ignore.

The question is this: From which side of the political spectrum does news with views usually come? Quite often, it is said that media bias is more prevalent on the left than on the right. Is that really the case, however?

“Frankly, I think that’s an absurd notion,” Norman Solomon says to Communities Digital News. He is a longtime activist for leftish causes, ranging from the anti-nuclear energy movement to opposing various military conflicts. Solomon is most well known, however, for his journalistic work, which revolves around exposing and preventing biased reportage. In 1997, he founded the Institute for Public Accuracy and had a nationally syndicated column from the early ’90s until 2009. 

“In the overall U.S. media terrain, the dominance is — through ownership, advertising and content — shaped by the sensibilities of large corporations and the warfare-state governance in Washington,” Solomon continues. “Anyone who thinks that corporate America and the Pentagon (and its contractors) are left-leaning is suffering from serious illusions.”

Dr. Tim Groseclose is a political scientist who serves as the Marvin Hoffenberg Professor of American Politics at UCLA. In his bestselling book Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind, he did something a bit unusual. Rather than simply claiming the press is prejudiced, a scientific argument was made which holds that our country’s very social fabric is defined by journalistic presentation.

“I use a statistical method to estimate the ‘slant quotients’ of news outlets and a separate statistical method to estimate the ‘political quotients’ of political actors,” Dr. Groseclose told this journalist in 2012. “I find that the slant quotient of nearly all mainstream outlets is higher (i.e. more liberal) than my estimate of the political quotient of the average U.S. voter.”

Dr. Groseclose also mentioned that “(i)n our current world, where the media tend to have a liberal bias, the average American thinks and votes approximately like the average voter in a purple state (such as Iowa, Colorado, or Nevada).

“However, if we could magically eliminate media bias, then, according to my estimates, the average American voter would think and vote approximately like the average voter in a solid red state.  That is, if we could magically eliminate media bias, America would begin to think and vote approximately like Texas or Kentucky.”

Aside from the blogosphere, a recent development by any standard, cable news channels are usually thought of as being the hallmark of modern media bias. Their impact on every facet of American life struggles to be understated.

“The steady decline of newsprint has seen an erosion of journalism that is based on verifiable fact,” veteran reporter Chris Hedges explained to this journalist in 2012. Hedges is a longtime left-of-center media critic and human rights advocate. His commitment to seeing a story through, irrespective of its popularity, has earned him no shortage of respect and animosity.

“Newspapers, although they certainly had failings, nevertheless sent reporters out to report stories that were then edited and fact checked before they reached the public,” Hedges pointed out. “Television used to do the same.  The public discourse centered largely, at least within the mainstream, on facts.

“In the new media culture this careful process of establishing verifiable fact has largely been dispensed with.  First of all, the news cycle is so rapid there is little time to report and less time to check information.  Secondly, the decline of fact-based journalism means that it is easier, and indeed more profitable, to peddle opinions and emotions as facts.  Liberal and conservative, right-wing and left-wing, all retreat into these ideological ghettos where opinions are only confirmed.”

Joseph Cotto

Joseph Cotto is a nationally syndicated columnist. He hails from central Florida, writing about political, economic, and social issues of the day. In the past, he wrote for The Washington Times Communities and Blogcritics Magazine, among other publications.