29 September 2010

The Shocking Discovery of Media Bias

About a decade ago, while attending graduate school and serving as a teaching assistant, I was asked to deliver a lecture to about 400 students. I happily obliged until I saw the lecture notes:

"Conservative Bias in the News Media."


No kidding. And this was at one of the nation’s most prestigious public universities. Let’s just say it’s known by its four-letter name and proximity to Hollywood.

I called an audible, opting for my own notes and delivering a polemic on media bias in the auditorium Eddie Murphy made famous in "The Nutty Professor." I omitted the truly nutty parts from the original lecture notes that blamed the "conservative media bias" on "corporations with their agendas to control the American media companies."

Yes, we all know that GE created MSNBC to perpetuate this vast right-wing conspiracy.

But that lecture (my first and last, as I wasn’t invited for an encore) was a learning experience for me too. I’ve spent over 20 years working in the news media — as an editor, reporter, columnist and now a manager — but that moment crystallized for me why there is rampant liberal bias in newsrooms all across America. It was incubated and bred in those classrooms.

America’s universities, especially elite universities, are the last bastions of progressive liberalism. Shielded by the walls of the ivory tower, professors and lecturers live in a make-belief utopia that has no basis in reality. They impart their own leftist worldview on impressionable young idealists. This is true of nearly all social sciences disciplines, and journalism is no exception.

In past generations, journalists were born and raised on the street — as copy boys, on the cops beat and on the dimly lit high school football fields — and the news business was a trade, requiring not college degrees but enterprise and know-how. Over time, though, journalism has become a domain of the liberal arts, with young aspiring journalists increasingly disengaged from the everyday lives of the common folk and spoon-fed the progressive ideology straight from the classroom to the newsroom.

This is particularly true of the national news media, where pedigree — an education from an Ivy League institution or a brand-name journalism school — trumps all when it comes to hiring practices.

Diversity policies are strictly enforced except when it comes to diversity of thought. It was revealed that the newsroom of Slate voted 55-1 for Barack Obama over John McCain in the 2008 presidential election, shocking only because it wasn’t 56-0.

This bias comes through not just in column writing. Yes, we expect the likes of Frank Rich, Eugene Robinson and Robert Scheer to be mouthpieces for progressive views, and at least they’re honest about that. What’s troubling is that the bias now is very much evident in even your mundane everyday reporting, from just about every mainstream media news organization, such as the New York Times, Washington Post and even the Associated Press. There isn’t a straight lead about anything anymore.

The mainstream media still don’t get why the average reader or viewer is tuning them out. In fact, their reaction to the declining circulation numbers and ratings reveals a contempt for those who really should be their customers.

Recently I had a conversation with someone who’s been in the news business for more than three decades. He expressed his frustration and bewilderment at the success of the Fox News Channel. First, he denigrates Fox’s "fair and balanced" mantra, then he belittles its viewership.

"But Jack (not his real name)," I protest. "There is a good reason why Fox’s ratings far outstrip its competition."

"So does Wal-Mart," he snorts. "What does that tell you?"

"What about Wal-Mart?" I shoot back. "They have lots of loyal customers, just like Fox News, so what’s wrong with that?"

"Well, that’s exactly it," comes the smirking reply. "Fox News’ viewers are mostly those people."

Those people. Can you hear the disdain?

Those who live in flyover country instead of the Hamptons. Those who went to State U. instead of Harvard and Cornell. Those who learned Spanish from their co-workers instead of their nannies and housekeepers. Those people.

The mainstream media are losing those people as their companies circle the drain. Yet they wonder why.

(Written for a Tea Party Event)

22 September 2010

Tom Friedman Is Right About China (and U.S.)

(From RealClearWorld)

It's not everyday that I agree with what Tom Friedman says about China. Typically, he goes there, gets starry eyed, and starts extolling all the virtues of the Chinese Communist Party.

His column today wasn't quite that. And he was 100 percent correct on why China gets things done whereas the U.S. no longer does.

This was right on the money:

Studying China’s ability to invest for the future doesn’t make me feel we have the wrong system. It makes me feel that we are abusing our right system. There is absolutely no reason our democracy should not be able to generate the kind of focus, legitimacy, unity and stick-to-it-iveness to do big things — democratically — that China does autocratically. We’ve done it before. But we’re not doing it now because too many of our poll-driven, toxically partisan, cable-TV-addicted, money-corrupted political class are more interested in what keeps them in power than what would again make America powerful, more interested in defeating each other than saving the country.

Once upon a time the U.S. did build Interstate freeways that traversed the entire continent. Dams that regulated water flow and generated power. Skyscrapers that were the envy of the world. And all that was done in a free society and under democratic governance.

(Just the other day a friend and I joked about the L.A.-to-San Francisco bullet train, something that's been "in the works" for more than 20 years and yet not a single rail has been laid. We concluded that our grandchildren will still be talking about it 50 years from now.)

Nothing gets built anymore in the U.S. - other than sports stadiums. Too much red tape. Too many lawyers. Special interest groups. Unions. By the time an environmental impact study was done, a new one has to be commissioned. In the meantime, China just finished adding another thousand miles of high-speed railway.

Another valid point Friedman made about China is its leadership. The top of the CCP leadership chain is frighteningly competent. To rise to the pinnacle in China these days, you can't do it with catchy slogans or being the son of a former president.

Hu Jintao is an engineer by trade. Wen Jiabao a geologist. The fifth-generation CCP leaders have even more diverse backgrounds after a generation dominated by engineers. Many have PhDs and a great number of them are now foreign-educated.

But Friedman does miss a point (perhaps on purpose). With a near-homogeneous population (91 percent Han Chinese), China doesn't have diversity issues; and its benevolence toward minorities is purely lip service.

In the Chinese view, somewhat tinged with racism, the U.S. and the west are being dragged down by their minority populations and racial strife. But the reality is that it's not the blacks and Latinos that are impeding progress in the U.S., as the Chinese are wont to believe (a same attitude held by the Japanese, especially when it was booming in the '80s), it's the diversity-driven politics that are long on sensitivity but short on competitiveness.

That's part of the recipe for the hamburger that may ultimately do the U.S. in.