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Bias? What Bias?

Howard Kurtz acknowledges that the mainstream media blew the Van Jones story. But he doesn’t think the answer is bias, he explains:

Some conservatives accused journalists of liberal bias; it is just as likely that their radar malfunctioned, or that they collectively dismissed Beck as a rabble-rouser.

New York Times Managing Editor Jill Abramson told readers online that the paper was “a beat behind on this story” and that while the Washington bureau was short-staffed during a holiday week, “we should have been paying closer attention.”

The follow-up news pieces focused on the administration’s failure to vet Jones’s background. Perhaps the media bloodhounds should be just as curious why they failed to sniff out a story that ended with a White House resignation.

If this were an isolated event or if the “Whoops, missed that!” errors were equally distributed among stories that hurt the Left and the Right, Kurtz’s explanation might be plausible. But at this point, the denial of bias is nothing short of absurd. The New York Times for weeks and weeks during the campaign ignored the Reverend Wright story. The entire mainstream media played dumb while the surge in Iraq proved successful—until candidate Obama planned a trip there. Chas Freeman was a name not spoken on the news pages of the Times or the Washington Post until his appointment was withdrawn. And on the other side, was there a single gaffe, error, or scandal in the Bush administration that went unnoticed or underreported by the mainstream media?

But Kurtz then proceeds to tell us that, in fact, the media has fallen even further into disrepute:

Public respect for the media has plunged to a new low, with just 29 percent of Americans saying that news organizations generally get their facts straight.

That figure is the lowest in more than two decades of surveys by the Pew Research Center, which also found just 26 percent saying news outlets are careful that their reporting is not politically biased. And 70 percent say news organizations try to cover up their mistakes. That amounts to a stunning vote of no confidence.

And while Democrats are increasingly displeased with the media, Republicans remain the most aggrieved. According to Pew, only 25 percent of Republicans thought the press was fair to Bush, while 68 percent of Democrats approved the daily flogging Bush received at the hands of the media.

It might come as no surprise that the Washington Post‘s media critic can’t find evidence of bias (no doubt the coverage of Bob McDonnell by his paper seems evenhanded to him as well). But the public certainly can, and they’ve, in overwhelming numbers, reached the conclusion that the media can’t be trusted. Perhaps if mainstream news outlets owned up to their bias rather than hunker down in willful ignorance, there might be a chance to recover the public’s trust. But if Kurtz is any indication, there is little chance of that happening.



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