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6/05/2004

Lamar Smith Dear Colleague Letter:

Was There Any Doubt?
Facts for your file...
  • A recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center found that there are five times as many self-identified liberals in the media as conservatives (U.S. News & World Report; June 7, 2004).
  • Just 7% of journalists and news executives call themselves conservative, while 34% identify themselves as liberal.
  • Nearly half of the journalists polled stated that journalists too often let their ideological views color their work.
  • The percentage of liberal journalists is on the rise: nine years ago only 22% described themselves as liberal, while 34% do now.
Sincerely,
Lamar Smith
Member of Congress
It should be a crime for a member of Congress to waste taxpayer money spreading tripe and half-truths. Eric Alterman argues that the study's most important claim is that journalists, but not management, think conglomeration is hurting journalism. He also usefully analyzes what conservatives think is the increasing liberalization of the media:
True, the number of liberals is rising — it was only twenty-two percent nine years ago — and the trend among local journalists is moving the same way — twenty-three percent say they are liberals, up from fourteen percent in 1995 — but this is largely a product of the ability of the far right to move the discourse into its home territory. A decade ago, someone who held the views espoused by George W. Bush would be considered a far right-extremist. Someone who held views to his left — say Senator McCain or perhaps George H.W. Bush — was considered a liberal. Today, top Republican leaders want to kick McCain out of the party and Bush himself refers to his father as "weak" and mocks his desire in 1991 to seek a UN mandate and genuine coalition before going to war. If more journalists are calling themselves "liberal" and fewer "conservative," well that's because the word conservative has been hijacked by radical reactionaries and neocons who are closer in temperament to revolutionaries than to historic conservatives like Edmund Burke or Alexander Hamilton.
He also repeats his argument - made so effectively in What Liberal Media - that the politics of management and owners matter as much or more than the politics of journalists.

One of the more frustrating things about the "liberal media" debate is how closely it parallels the debate on judicial nominations. The nominations controversy centers on whether a candidate will constrain his or her personal ideology with the professional and doctrinal norms of the judiciary. Republicans say that people like Priscilla Owen - who have a demonstrated track record of ignoring precedent and abusing normal legal conventions - will "follow the law." Those same Republicans think the personal ideology of journalists is all consuming. Lamar Smith can be contacted here.

 

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