Commentary Magazine


Step One On The Road To Recovery

The MSM is confessing. Yes, they were biased. Sure, they favored one side. But they don’t quite come out and say why. Worse, they show no inclination to do anything about it.

Conservatives are fairly certain it stems from ideological bias. After all, if the errors always are made against one side, it stands to reason that it is because the media wants it that way. When, after the election, Chris Matthews declared it was his job to help the new President, I think the jig was up.

But the media resists this interpretation, straining to come up with other rationales. They love a “good story,” or they are attracted to the “newest star.” But these justifications falter with minimal scrutiny. (Sarah Palin is the newest politician, and certainly the rise from college basketball player to VP nominee is “good copy.”) They really can’t admit they are in the tank for ideological reasons. If so, their entire self-image as objective guardians of “truth” would collapse. And, moreover, they might have to hire different people–ones who thought differently and could balance their coverage.

There’s lots of talk these days about the “fairness doctrine.” That would be government imposed “balance”–i.e. censorship of the media. Nothing could be less conducive to a vibrant democracy. But nothing prevents the MSM from imposing their own fairness doctrines. A few tips: hire conservatives and religious people (you can find them writing and reporting all over the blogospehre), label “opinion” as such (not “analysis”) and put it back in the opinion section or at the end of a newscast, and count the fluffy and hit pieces on both sides and make sure they balance out. These and other similarly self-evident items should be 101 Journalism.

Some think it would be nice if new media entirely replaced the old. I don’t. I think there is a need for non-ideological, fact-finding news organizations. While some are rooting for the extinction of old media,  I would settle for some soul-searching and reform. It is not that hard. But, as with any dysfunctional behavior, the first step is admitting the problem.