Saturday, December 10, 2016

Will the Leftist Media Survive? (Part 1)

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It's On! The Liberal Media is Shaking in Their Boots at Who Trump Just Hired…
Published on Dec 26, 2016
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It’s not Trump that’s the danger to America but talking heads like Megyn Kelly
Visceral hatred of the type harbored by Kelly doesn’t just simmer in the pot, it boils over in a sort of ‘Eat the pain’ kind of way
By Judi McLeod —— Bio and Archives
December 10, 2016
For the rest of their lives, wherever they may be,  the Megyn Kelly/Rosie O’Donnell tag team will be out there making a living on hating Donald J. Trump.
The whole world has moved on from the primary debate where Megyn Kelly dropped all pretence of professionalism and tried to squeeze Trump into a framed picture of ‘Male Chauvinist Pig’,  resurrecting,  in front of millions of television viewers,  Sistah Rosie’s longstanding Trump feud as a base.
Voters never gave the two a second thought and voted Trump anyway.
How dare main-street Americans ignore what Megyn Kelly has to say
Visceral hatred of the type harbored by Kelly doesn’t just simmer in the pot, it boils over in a sort of ‘Eat the pain’ kind of way.
Even with a $20-million contract dangling before her, Megyn Kelly puts hatred first.  She must because she’s still out there riding the rails on the ‘Hate Donald Trump Train’.
All Megyn Kelly fans must listen up to what the “press” tells them to do.
“Too many millions of Americans aren’t listening at all to what the press tells them and that concerns me”, is the latest Megyn’ mantra.
How dare main-street Americans ignore what Megyn Kelly has to say and support that blankety-blank Trump!
Rather than seeing hatred as corrosive, playful Megyn thinks it’s fun:
“The people, as much as it’s fun to hate us, they need us. They need good, strong, skeptical journalists to be covering whoever it is — whether it’s Barack Obama or President Donald Trump. We’re in a dangerous phase right now where too many millions of Americans aren’t listening at all to what the press tells them. That concerns me.” (NPR, Dec. 7, 2016)
“Good, strong, skeptical journalists” gave Obama a free ride to destroy their own country for eight long years 
But Megyn-‘always-raggin’-about-Trump’ Kelly stepped not so daintily off her bandbox in a recent NPR interview, where batting her captivating eyelashes at the rubes, absurdly went on to insist “they need us”.
This is a talking head who gets it backwards.  It’s not the Megyn Kellys that cable television network viewers need, it’s them that need us.  They need us for ratings, for advertising bucks and, in fact, for their very survival.
What the people really need, Ms. Megyn is for all news readers and ‘journalists’ to climb out of the tank with the polluted politicians of the day and start reporting the real news.  They don’t need the faked up propaganda they’re swilling at us.
“Good, strong, skeptical journalists”  (by and large) have become the progressive-cast ‘endangered species’ they somehow manage to always keep in line.
With her younger sisters on university campuses out there crying themselves a river ever since her nemesis won the 2016 presidential election, Megyn Kelly’s hatred is spreading like a contagious disease.
“The Kelly File” star said at one point during the 45-minute interview that she was worried about the divide between the American public and media outlets providing them with news.(NPR)
“I think it’s dangerous, the entire delegitimization that [President-elect Donald Trump] engaged in against all of the media,” Mrs. Kelly said. “The people, as much as it’s fun to hate us, they need us. They need good, strong, skeptical journalists to be covering whoever it is — whether it’s Barack Obama or President Donald Trump. We’re in a dangerous phase right now where too many millions of Americans aren’t listening at all to what the press tells them. That concerns me.”
“The Fox News host added that certain minority groups, at least for the start of Mr. Trump’s administration, have valid reasons for being fearful of the Republican.
“The relative lack of power of certain minority groups, and the fear they’re feeling in the wake of Donald Trump’s election, is something I think we really need to take a look at,” Ms. Kelly said. “While I don’t think Trump wants to target any particular minority group, I understand their fear because he spent many months stoking it. And so I think that’s a legitimate thing we’re going to have to deal with.”
It’s not the Donald who’s “dangerous” to American survival, Megyn Kelly, it’s the hateful-can’t-get-over-it YOU!
Judi McLeod -- Bio and Archives
Copyright © Canada Free Press
Judi McLeod is an award-winning journalist with 30 years’ experience in the print media. A former Toronto Sun columnist, she also worked for the Kingston Whig Standard. Her work has appeared on Rush Limbaugh, Newsmax.com, Drudge Report, Foxnews.com, and Glenn Beck.
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Trump and Media Bias
By Larry Johnson
Wednesday, 26 October 2016
If you give your angry neighbor bullets and then the two of you have a dispute and shoots at you with the bullets you supplied, who is at fault? That’s a poor metaphor for  the spectacle unfolding before us as the so-called “mainstream” media launches a massive, seeming coordinated assault on Donald Trump and Trump, in turn, fires back with every weapon he can grab.
I shake my head at the foolish, asinine things Donald has said over the past 16 months. He could have spoken more diplomatically, especially about women. Calling Rosie O’Donnell a pig is the kind of thing guys sitting around having a beer will say, but you don’t go on a public forum and say that. It simply gives your opponent ammunition to discredit you even if your message is valid. Trump has been his own worst enemy.
Just because Trump is asshole does not mean that the media’s hands are clean and are acting as honest brokers. They are not. The Wikileaks dump of the Podesta emails provides irrefutable evidence that the print and electronic media are collaborating with the Clinton campaign to get her message out and to attack Trump. Trump makes the job easier by providing verbal clubs that the media crowd can thrash him with.
But let me caution you with couching this as a conservative versus liberal battle. It is true that the mainstream media is hostile to those who oppose abortion, favorable to those who support abortion, hostile to Christians who are evangelical, enthusiastic about homosexuality and transgender issues, and dismissive of those opposed to increased government spending. On those issues you have a reasonable basis to argue there is a liberal bent.
But then we have issues like going to war in Iraq. Conservatives, for the most part, were fully behind that fiasco and most of the mainstream media went along with the Bush Administration push. In other words, the media collaborated with the Bush Administration is pushing propaganda that shaped public opinion to support an unnecessary and illegal war. However, once it became clear that the war in Iraq was going wrong, the media finally turned on Bush and began putting out information that it had previously suppressed.
Now we have Barack Obama and, for the most part, the media continues to actively collaborate in spreading propaganda that boosts his foreign policy. I just saw on Fox, for example, a piece on Syria. Source of the info is the “White Helmets” group (who are actually tied to the Sunni Islamists pushing to oust Assad). The story line was simple–Assad and the Russians are killing children. The actual facts on the ground that show the Sunni Islamists are using human shields and holding civilians hostage is ignored. The message the media is helping to spread is designed to promote an expansion of U.S. military intervention in Syria and a confrontation with Russia.
The real problem and threat to our freedom is the growing concentration of media outlets in the hands of a few corporations. ZeroHedge has a good piece on this today, which includes this observation:
The major media outlets are controlled by five corporate giants – Time Warner, Disney, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., Bertelsmann of Germany, and Viacom – the largest purveyors of crony capitalism and cultural Marxism the world has ever witnessed.  No dissent is allowed to be heard on these outlets nor is there any hope of career advancement for journalists or writers if the Leftist paradigm is not trumpeted.
The key phrase is “crony capitalism.” That is the rot that infects our public life. How else do you explain that the daughters of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush each get prominent jobs on TV that were not available to Jane Doe who attended a journalism school but lacked the hooks to get into inner circle. It is an incestuous relationship between the media and government. It also spills over into the world of business and finance. Do you think that former Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and former Congressman (now Governor of Ohio) John Kasich got cushy jobs on Wall Street after their terms ended (or were ended) because they are financial geniuses?
I have had my own experience with the media establishment. There was a time I was welcomed onto all of the cable channels. The first time I faced censorship was with Fox News. After a November 2002 appearance on the Hanity and Colmes Show, where I commented that invading Iraq would be a bad thing and a diversion from the war on terror, I was banned from going back on air. I was told that the directive came down from Roger Ailes. He didn’t want my view being presented on air.
My outspoken views on the war in Iraq and in defending Valerie Plame were warmly embraced by CNN and MSNBC ( I would also be interviewed by ABC, CBS and NBC). But then came Obama and my candor made me a pariah. I was no longer welcomed by CNN and MSNBC. Please understand, I am not complaining. The focus of so-called news programming seems to be propaganda vice genuine information. Perhaps it has always been that way to some degree, but I believe the situation is worse now than at any time in my memory.

What do you think?
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Media bias in the United States
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Media bias in the United States occurs when the media in the United States systematically emphasizes one particular point of view in a way that contravenes the standards of professional journalism. Claims of media bias in the United States include claims of liberal bias, conservative bias, mainstream bias, and corporate bias. To combat this, a variety of watchdog groups that attempt to find the facts behind both biased reporting and unfounded claims of bias have been founded.[1][2] Research about media bias is now a subject of systematic scholarship in a variety of disciplines.[3]
Contents  
1            History
2            Demographic polling
3            News values
4            Framing
5            Corporate bias and power bias
5.1         Pro-power and pro-government bias
5.2         Corporate control
5.3         "Infotainment"
5.4         Oversimplification
5.5         Media Imperialism
6            Liberal bias
6.1         Authors
7            Conservative bias
7.1         Authors
8            Racial bias
9            Coverage of electoral politics
9.1         2000 Presidential election
9.2         2008 Presidential election
10          Coverage of foreign issues
10.1       Coverage of the Vietnam War
10.2       Coverage of the Arab–Israeli conflict
10.2.1   Pro-Israel media
10.2.2   Pro-Hamas media
10.3       Coverage of the Iraq War
10.3.1   Suggestions of insufficiently critical media coverage
10.3.2   Suggestions of overly critical media coverage
10.3.3   News sources
11          Bias in entertainment media
12          Causes of perceptions of bias
13          Watchdog groups
14          See also
15          References
16          Bibliography
17          External links
History[edit]
News media (USA)
view • discuss • edit
-10 —–0 —–10 —
Politico
Washington Post
Huffington Post
New York Times
NPR
Slate
New Yorker
Wall Street Journal
Yahoo News
USA Today
Bloomberg News
Google News
CNN
MSNBC
Glenn Beck
Shawn Hannity
The Blaze
Rush Limbaugh
Breitbart News
Drudge Report
Fox News
Very Conservative
audience
Conservative
audience
Nonpartisan
audience
average
respondent
Liberal
audience
Very Liberal
audience
– Pew Research Center (2014)
"Ideological Placement of Each Source's Audience"
[ranked accurately; scaled for clarity]
Before the rise of professional journalism in the early 1900s and the conception of media ethics, newspapers reflected the opinions of the publisher. Frequently, an area would be served by competing newspapers taking differing and often radical views by modern standards.[4] Ethnic newspapers were the norm in every metropolitan city during the 19th and early 20th century, including German, Dutch, Finnish, French and various Eastern European newspapers, which disappeared with increasing assimilation of their readership. During the 20th century, newspapers in various Asian languages, Spanish, and Arabic appeared and persist catering to the newer respective immigrant groups.
In 1728, Benjamin Franklin, writing under the pseudonym "Busy-Body," wrote an article for the American Weekly Mercury advocating the printing of more paper money. He did not mention that his own printing company hoped to get the job of printing the money. It is an indication of the complexity of the issue of bias, that he not only stood to profit by printing the money, but he also seems to have genuinely believed that printing more money would stimulate trade. As his biographer Walter Isaacson points out, Franklin was never averse to "doing well by doing good."[5]
In 1798, the Congress of the United States passed the Alien and Sedition Acts, which prohibited the publication of "false, scandalous, or malicious writing" against the government and made it a crime to voice any public opposition to any law or presidential act. This act was in effect only until 1801.
In 1861, President Abraham Lincoln accused newspapers in the border states 
of bias in favor of the Confederate cause and ordered many of them closed.[6]
In the 19th century, many American newspapers made no pretense to lack of bias, openly advocating one or another political party. Big cities would often have competing newspapers supporting various political parties. To some extent this was mitigated by a separation between news and editorial. News reporting was expected to be relatively neutral or at least factual, whereas editorial sections openly relayed the opinion of the publisher. Editorials might also have been accompanied by editorial cartoons, which would frequently lampoon the publisher's opponents.[7]
The advent of the Progressive Era, from the 1890s to the 1920s, was a period of relative reform with a particular journalistic style, while early in the period some American newspapers engaged in yellow journalism to increase sales. William Randolph Hearst, publisher of several major market newspapers, for example, deliberately falsified stories of incidents, which may have contributed to the Spanish–American War.[8]
In the years leading up to World War II, politicians who favored the United States entering the war on the German side accused the international media of a pro-Jewish bias and often asserted that newspapers opposing entry of the United States on the German side were controlled by Jews. They claimed that reports of German mistreatment of Jews were biased and without foundation. Hollywood was said to be a hotbed of Jewish bias, and pro-German politicians in the United States called for Charlie Chaplin’s film The Great Dictator to be banned as an insult to a respected leader.[9]
During the civil rights movement in the 1960s, some White Southerners[who?] stated that television was biased against White Southerners and in favor of mixing of the races. In some cases, Southern television stations refused to air programs such as I Spy and Star Trek because of their racially mixed casts.[10]
During the labor union movement and the civil rights movement, newspapers supporting liberal social reform were accused by conservative newspapers of communist bias.[11][12]
In November 1969, Spiro Agnew, then Vice President under Richard Nixon, made a landmark speech denouncing what he saw as media bias against the Vietnam War. He called those opposed to the war the "nattering nabobs of negativism."[13]
Demographic polling[edit]
A 1956 American National Election Study found that 66% of Americans thought newspapers were fair, including 78% of Republicans and 64% of Democrats. A 1964 poll by the Roper Organization asked a similar question about network news, and 71% thought network news was fair. A 1972 poll found that 72% of 
Americans trusted CBS Evening News anchor Walter Cronkite. According to Jonathan M. Ladd's Why Americans Hate the Media and How it Matters, "Once, institutional journalists were powerful guardians of the republic, maintaining high standards of political discourse."[14]
That has changed. Gallup Polls since 1997 have shown that most Americans do not have confidence in the mass media "to report the news fully, accurately, and fairly". According to Gallup, the American public's trust in the media has generally declined in the first decade and a half of the 21st century. Again according to Ladd, "In the 2008, the portion of Americans expressing 'hardly any' confidence in the press had risen to 45%. A 2004 Chronicle of Higher Education poll found that only 10% of Americans had 'a great deal' of confidence in the 'national news media,'"[14] In 2011, only 44% of those surveyed had "a great deal" or "a fair amount" of trust and confidence in the mass media.[15] In 2013, a 59% majority reported a perception of media bias, with 46% saying mass media was too liberal and 13% saying it was too conservative. The perception of bias was highest among conservatives. According to the poll, 78% of conservatives think the mass media is biased, as compared with 44% of liberals and 50% of moderates. Only about 36% view mass media reporting as "just about right".[16][17]
News values
Main article: News values
According to Jonathan M. Ladd, Why Americans Hate the Media and How It Matters, "The existence of an independent, powerful, widely respected news media establishment is an historical anomaly. Prior to the twentieth century, such an institution had never existed in American history." However, he looks back to the period between 1950 and 1979 as a period where "institutional journalists were powerful guardians of the republic, maintaining high standards of political discourse."
A number of writers have tried to explain the decline in journalistic standards. One explanation is the 24/7 news cycle, which faces the necessity of generating news even when no news-worthy events occur. Another is the simple fact that bad news sells more newspapers than good news. A third possible factor is the market for "news" that reinforces the prejudices of a target audience. "In a 2010 paper, Mr. Gentzkow and Jesse M. Shapiro, a frequent collaborator and fellow professor at Chicago Booth, found that ideological slants in newspaper coverage typically resulted from what the audience wanted to read in the media they sought out, rather than from the newspaper owners’ biases."[18]
Framing
An important aspect of media bias is framing. A frame is the arrangement of a news story, with the goal of influencing audience to favor one side or the other.[19] The ways in which stories are framed can greatly undermine the standards of reporting such as fairness and balance. Many media outlets are known for their outright bias.[20] Some outlets, such as MSNBC,[21] are known for their liberal views, while others, such as Fox News Channel,[22] are known for their conservative views.[23] How biased media frame stories can change audience reactions.[23]
Corporate bias and power bias
See also: Propaganda model and Concentration of media ownership in the United States
Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky in their 1988 book Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media[24] proposed a propaganda model to explain systematic biases of U.S. media as a consequence of the pressure to create a stable and profitable business. In this view, corporate interests create five filters that bias news in their favor.
Pro-power and pro-government bias
Part of the propaganda model is self-censorship through the corporate system (see corporate censorship); that reporters and especially editors share or acquire values that agree with corporate elites in order to further their careers. Those who do not are marginalized or fired. Such examples have been dramatized in fact-based movie dramas such as Good Night, and Good Luck and The Insider and demonstrated in the documentary The Corporation.[25][26] 
George Orwell originally wrote a preface for his 1945 novel Animal Farm, which focused on the British self-censorship of the time: "The sinister fact about literary censorship in England is that it is largely voluntary. ... [Things are] kept right out of the British press, not because the Government intervened but because of a general tacit agreement that ‘it wouldn’t do’ to mention that particular fact." The preface was not published with most copies of the book.[citation needed]
In the propaganda model, advertising revenue is essential for funding most media sources and thus linked with media coverage. For example, according to Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR.org), ‘When Al Gore proposed launching a progressive TV network, a Fox News executive told Advertising Age (10/13/03): "The problem with being associated as liberal is that they wouldn't be going in a direction that advertisers are really interested in.... If you go out and say that you are a liberal network, you are cutting your potential audience, and certainly your potential advertising pool, right off the bat."[27] An internal memo from ABC Radio affiliates in 2006 revealed that powerful sponsors had a "standing order that their commercials never be placed on syndicated Air America programming" that aired on ABC affiliates.[28] The list totaled 90 advertisers and included major corporations such as Wal-Mart, GE, Exxon Mobil, Microsoft, Bank of America, Fed-Ex, Visa, Allstate, McDonald's, Sony and Johnson & Johnson, and government entities such as the U.S. Postal Service and the U.S. Navy.
According to Chomsky, U.S. commercial media encourage controversy only 
within a narrow range of opinion, in order to give the impression of open debate, and do not report on news that falls outside that range.[29]
Herman and Chomsky argue that comparing the journalistic media product to the voting record of journalists is as flawed a logic as implying auto-factory workers design the cars they help produce. They concede that media owners and news makers have an agenda, but that this agenda is subordinated to corporate interests leaning to the right.[24] It has been argued by some critics, including historian Howard Zinn and Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Chris Hedges, that the corporate media routinely ignore the plight of the impoverished while painting a picture of a prosperous America.[30][31]
In 2008 George W. Bush's press secretary Scott McClellan published a book in which he confessed to regularly and routinely, but unknowingly, passing on lies to the media, following the instructions of his superiors, lies that the media reported as facts. He characterized the press as, by and large, honest, and intent on telling the truth, but reported that "the national press corps was probably too deferential to the White House", especially on the subject of the war in Iraq.[32]
FAIR reported that between January and August 2014 no representatives for organized labor made an appearance on any of the high-profile Sunday morning talkshows (NBC's Meet the Press, ABC's This Week, Fox News Sunday and CBS's Face the Nation), including episodes that covered topics such as labor rights and jobs, while current or former corporate CEOs made 12 appearances over that same period.[33]
Corporate control
Six corporate conglomerates (Disney, CBS Corporation, 21st Century Fox, Viacom, Time Warner, and Comcast) own the majority of mass media outlets in the United States.[34][35] Such a uniformity of ownership means that stories which are critical of these corporations may often be underplayed in the media.[36][37] The Telecommunications Act of 1996 enabled this handful of corporations to expand their power, and according to Howard Zinn, such mergers "enabled tighter control of information."[38] Chris Hedges argues that corporate media control "of nearly everything we read, watch or hear" is an aspect of what political philosopher Sheldon Wolin calls inverted totalitarianism.[39]
In the United States most media are operated for profit, and are usually funded by advertising. Stories critical of advertisers or their interests may be underplayed, while stories favorable to advertisers may be given more coverage.[34][40]
"Infotainment"
Main article: Infotainment
Academics such as McKay, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, and Hudson (see below) have described private U.S. media outlets as profit-driven. For the private media, profits are dependent on viewing figures, regardless of whether the viewers found the programs adequate or outstanding. The strong profit-making incentive of the American media leads them to seek a simplified format and uncontroversial position which will be adequate for the largest possible audience. The market mechanism only rewards media outlets based on the number of viewers who watch those outlets, not by how informed the viewers are, how good the analysis is, or how impressed the viewers are by that analysis.
According to some, the profit-driven quest for high numbers of viewers, rather than high quality for viewers, has resulted in a slide from serious news and analysis to entertainment, sometimes called infotainment:
"Imitating the rhythm of sports reports, exciting live coverage of major political crises and foreign wars was now available for viewers in the safety of their own homes. By the late-1980s, this combination of information and entertainment in news programmes was known as infotainment." [Barbrook, Media Freedom, (London, Pluto Press, 1995) part 14]
Oversimplification
Kathleen Hall Jamieson has claimed in her book The Interplay of Influence: News, Advertising, Politics, and the Internet that most television news stories are made to fit into one of five categories:[41]
Appearance versus reality
Little guys versus big guys
Good versus evil
Efficiency versus inefficiency
Unique and bizarre events versus ordinary events.
Reducing news to these five categories, and tending towards an unrealistic black/white mentality, simplifies the world into easily understood opposites. Per Jamieson, the media provides an oversimplified skeleton of information which is more easily commercialized.
Media Imperialism
Media Imperialism is a critical theory regarding the perceived effects of globalization on the world's media which is often seen as dominated by American media and culture. It is closely tied to the similar theory of cultural imperialism.[42]
"As multinational media conglomerates grow larger and more powerful many believe that it will become increasingly difficult for small, local media outlets to survive. A new type of imperialism will thus occur, making many nations subsidiary to the media products of some of the most powerful countries or companies."[43]
Significant writers and thinkers in this area include Ben Bagdikian, Noam Chomsky, Edward S. Herman and Robert McChesney.
Liberal bias
See also: Liberal bias in academia
Some critics of the media say liberal bias exists within a wide variety of media channels, especially within the mainstream media, including network news shows of CBS, ABC, and NBC, cable channels CNN, MSNBC and the former Current TV, as well as major newspapers, news-wires, and radio outlets, especially CBS News, Newsweek, and The New York Times.[44] These arguments intensified when it was revealed that the Democratic Party received a total donation of $1,020,816, given by 1,160 employees of the three major broadcast television networks (NBC, CBS, ABC), while the Republican Party received only $142,863 via 193 donations.[45] Both of these figures represent donations made in 2008.
A study cited frequently by those who make claims of liberal media bias in American journalism is The Media Elite, a 1986 book co-authored by political scientists Robert Lichter, Stanley Rothman, and Linda Lichter.[46] They surveyed journalists at national media outlets such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the broadcast networks. The survey found that the large majority of journalists were Democratic voters whose attitudes were well to the left of the general public on a variety of topics, including issues such as abortion, affirmative action, social services and gay rights. The authors compared journalists' attitudes to their coverage of issues such as the safety of nuclear power, school busing to promote racial integration, and the energy crisis of the 1970s and concluded firstly that journalists' coverage of controversial issues reflected their own attitudes and education, and secondly that the predominance of political liberals in newsrooms pushed news coverage in a liberal direction. The authors suggested this tilt as a mostly unconscious process of like-minded individuals projecting their shared assumptions onto their interpretations of reality, a variation of confirmation bias.
Jim A. Kuypers of Dartmouth College investigated the issue of media bias in the 2002 book Press Bias and Politics. In this study of 116 mainstream US papers, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the San Francisco Chronicle, Kuypers stated that the mainstream press in America tends to favor liberal viewpoints. They argued that reporters who they thought were expressing moderate or conservative points of view were often labeled as holding a minority point of view. Kuypers said he found liberal bias in the reporting of a variety of issues including race, welfare reform, environmental protection, and gun control.[47] According to the Media Research Center, and David Brady of the Hoover Institute, conservative individuals and groups are more often labelled as such, than liberal individuals and groups.[48]
A 2005 study by political scientists Tim Groseclose of UCLA and Jeff Milyo of the University of Missouri at Columbia attempted to quantify bias among news outlets using statistical models, and found a liberal bias.[49][50] The authors wrote that "all of the news outlets we examine[d], except Fox News' Special Report and the Washington Times, received scores to the left of the average member of Congress." The study concluded that news pages of The Wall Street Journal were more liberal than The New York Times, and the news reporting of PBS was to the right of most mainstream media. The report also stated that the news media showed a fair degree of centrism, since all but one of the outlets studied were, from an ideological point of view, between the average Democrat and average Republican in Congress.[51] In a blog post, Mark Liberman, professor of Computer Science and the Director of Linguistic Data Consortium at the University of Pennsylvania, critiqued the statistical model used in this study.[52][53] The model used by Groseclose and Milyo assumed that conservative politicians do not care about the ideological position of think tanks they cite, while liberal politicians do. Liberman characterized the unsupported assumption as preposterous, and argued that it led to implausible conclusions.[52][54]
A 2014 Gallup poll found that a plurality of Americans believe the media is biased to favor liberal politics. According to the poll, 44% of Americans feel that news media are "too liberal" (70% of self-identified conservatives, 35% of self-identified moderates, and 15% of self-identified liberals), while 19% believe them to be "too conservative" (12% of self-identified conservatives, 18% of self-identified moderates, and 33% of self-identified liberals), and 34% "just about right" (49% of self-identified liberals, 44% of self-identified moderates, and 16% of self-identified conservatives).[55]
A 2008 joint study by the Joan Shorenstein Center on Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University and the Project for Excellence in Journalism found that viewers believe a liberal media bias can be found in television news on networks such as CNN.[56] These findings concerning a perception of liberal bias in television news – particularly at CNN – were also reported by other sources.[57] The study met with criticism from media outlets and academics, including the Wall Street Journal,[58] and progressive media watchdog Media Matters.[59] Criticism from Media Matters included:
Different mediums were studied for different lengths of time. For example, CBS News was studied for 12 years while the Wall Street Journal was studied for four months.
Lack of context in quoting sources (sources quoted were automatically assumed to be supporting the article).
Lack of balance in sources: liberal sources such as the NAACP did not have a conservative counterpart that could add balance.
Flawed assignment of political positions of sources: the RAND corporation was considered "liberal" while the American Civil Liberties Union was considered "conservative".[citation needed]
Authors
Several authors have written books on liberal bias in the media, including:
Steve Levy -- Bias in the Media: How the Media Switches Against Me After I Switched Parties.[60]
Tim Groseclose – Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind, 2011.[61]
Ben Shapiro – Primetime Propaganda: The True Hollywood Story of How the Left Took Over Your TV, 2011.
John Ziegler – writer, director, and producer of the documentary film Media Malpractice: How Obama Got Elected and Palin was Targeted, 2009.[62]
Brian C. Anderson – South Park Conservatives: The Revolt Against Liberal Media Bias, 2005.
John Stossel – Give Me a Break: How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media, 2004, gives Stossel's views on liberal bias in the established media.[63]
Bob Kohn – Journalistic Fraud: How The New York Times Distorts the News and Why It Can No Longer Be Trusted, 2003, a criticism of The New York Times.[64]
Ann Coulter – Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right, 2002, a critique on widespread liberal bias directed at American television and print news.
Jim A. Kuypers wrote Partisan Journalism: A History of Media Bias in the United States (2014) and Press Bias and Politics: How the Media Frame Controversial Issues (2002).
Bernard Goldberg – Bias, 2001, a criticism of liberal bias directed towards CBS, his former employer.
S. Robert Lichter, Stanley Rothman and Linda Lichter – The Media Elite, 1986, in which journalists' political views and voting record were compared to the general public.
Conservative bias
Certain media outlets such as NewsMax, WorldNetDaily, and Fox News are seen by some as promoting a conservative agenda.[65][66][67][68][69]
Rupert Murdoch, the owner and executive co-chairman of 21st Century Fox (the parent of Fox News), self-identifies as a libertarian. Roy Greenslade of The Guardian, and others, claim that Rupert Murdoch has exerted a strong influence over the media he owns, including Fox News, The Wall Street Journal, and The Sun.[70][71]
According to former Fox News producer Charlie Reina, unlike the AP, CBS, or ABC, Fox News's editorial policy is set from the top down in the form of a daily memo: "[F]requently, Reina says, it also contains hints, suggestions and directives on how to slant the day's news—invariably, he says, in a way that's consistent with the politics and desires of the Bush administration." [72] Fox News responded by denouncing Reina as a "disgruntled employee" with "an ax to grind."[72]
According to Andrew Sullivan, "One alleged news network fed its audience a diet of lies, while contributing financially to the party that benefited from those lies."[73]
Progressive media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) has argued that accusations of liberal media bias are part of a conservative strategy, noting an article in the August 20, 1992 Washington Post, in which Republican party chair Rich Bond compared journalists to referees in a sporting match. "If you watch any great coach, what they try to do is 'work the refs.' Maybe the ref will cut you a little slack next time."[74] A 1998 study from FAIR found that journalists are "mostly centrist in their political orientation";[75] 30% considered themselves to the left on social issues compared to 9% on the right, while 11% considered themselves to the left on economic issues compared to 19% on the right. The report argued that since journalists considered themselves to be centrists, "perhaps this is why an earlier survey found that they tended to vote for Bill Clinton in large numbers." FAIR uses this study to support the claim that media bias is propagated down from the management, and that individual journalists are relatively neutral in their work.
A report "Examining the 'Liberal Media' Claim: Journalists' Views on Politics, Economic Policy and Media Coverage" by FAIR's David Croteau, from 1998, calls into question the assumption that journalists' views are to the left of center in America. The findings were that journalists were "mostly centrist in their political orientation" and more conservative than the general public on economic issues (with a minority being more progressive than the general public on social issues).[76]
Kenneth Tomlinson, while chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, commissioned a $10,000 government study into Bill Moyers' PBS program, NOW.[77] The results of the study indicated that there was no particular bias on PBS. Mr. Tomlinson chose to reject the results of the study, subsequently reducing time and funding for NOW with Bill Moyers, which many including Tomlinson regarded as a "left-wing" program, and then expanded a show hosted by Fox News correspondent Tucker Carlson. Some board members stated that his actions were politically motivated.[78] Himself a frequent target of claims of bias (in this case, conservative bias), Tomlinson resigned from the CPB board on November 4, 2005. Regarding the claims of a left-wing bias, Bill Moyers asserted in a Broadcast & Cable interview that "If reporting on what's happening to ordinary people thrown overboard by circumstances beyond their control and betrayed by Washington officials is liberalism, I stand convicted."[79]
Authors
Several authors have written books on conservative bias in the media, including:
Amy Goodman wrote Standing up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times (2008).
David Brock wrote The Republican Noise Machine (2004).
Al Franken wrote Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, (2003), in which he argues that mainstream media organizations have neither a liberal nor a conservative political bias, but there exists a right-wing media that seeks to promote conservative ideology rather than report the news.[80]
Eric Alterman wrote What Liberal Media? The Truth About Bias and the News (2003)[36] in which he disputes the belief in liberal media bias, and suggests that over-correcting for this belief resulted in conservative media bias.[81] Reviewer John Moe sums up Alterman's views:
"The conservatives in the newspapers, television, talk radio, and the Republican party are lying about liberal bias and repeating the same lies long enough that they've taken on a patina of truth. Further, the perception of such a bias has cowed many media outlets into presenting more conservative opinions to counterbalance a bias, which does not, in fact, exist."[82]
Robert W. McChesney and John Nichols wrote Our Media, Not Theirs: The Democratic Struggle Against Corporate Media (2002).
Jim Hightower in There's Nothing in the Middle of the Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos (1997; ISBN 0-06-092949-9) uses humor to deflate claims of liberal bias, and gives examples of how media support corporate interests.
Michael Parenti wrote Inventing Reality: the Politics of News Media (1993).
Racial bias
See also: Representation of African Americans in media
Political activist and one-time presidential candidate Rev. Jesse Jackson said in 1985 that the news media portray black people as "less intelligent than we are."[83] The IQ Controversy, the Media and Public Policy, a book published by Stanley Rothman and Mark Snyderman, claimed to document bias in media coverage of scientific findings regarding race and intelligence. Snyderman and Rothman stated that media reports often either erroneously reported that most experts believe that the genetic contribution to IQ is absolute or that most experts believe that genetics plays no role at all.
According to Michelle Alexander in her book The New Jim Crow, in 1986, many stories of the crack crisis broke out in the media. In these stories, African Americans were featured as "crack whores." The deaths of NBA player Len Bias and NFL player Don Rogers due to cocaine overdose only added to the media frenzy. Michelle Alexander claims in her book: "Between October 1988 and October 1989, the Washington Post alone ran 1,565 stories about the 'drug scourge.'" [84]
One example of this double standard is the comparison of the deaths of Michael Brown and Dillon Taylor. On August 9, 2014, news broke out that a young, unarmed African American man, Michael Brown, was shot and killed by a white policeman. This story spread throughout news media, explaining that the incident had to do with race. Only two days later, another young, unarmed man, Dillon Taylor, was shot and killed by a policeman. This story, however, did not get as highly publicized as Brown's. However unlike Brown's case, Taylor was white and Hispanic, while the police officer is black.[85]
Research has shown that African Americans are over-represented in news reports on crime and that within those stories they are more likely to be shown as the perpetrators of the crime than as the persons reacting to or suffering from it. This perception that blacks are over-represented in crime reporting persists even though crime statistics indicate that the percentage of Blacks who are convicted of crimes, and the percentage of Blacks who are victims of crimes, are both larger than the percentages for other racial and ethnic groups.[86]
One of the most striking examples of racial bias was the portrayal of blacks in the 1992 riots in Los Angeles. The media presented the riots as being a black problem, deeming blacks solely responsible for the riots. However, according to reports, only 36% of those arrested during the riots were black. Some 60% of the rioters and looters were Hispanics and whites, facts that were not reported by the media.[87]
Conversely, multiple commentators and newspaper articles have cited examples of the national media under-reporting interracial hate crimes when they involve white victims as compared to when they involve black victims.[88][89][90] Jon Ham, a vice president of the conservative John Locke Foundation, wrote that "local officials and editors often claim that mentioning the black-on-white nature of the event might inflame passion, but they never have those same qualms when it's white-on-black."[91]
According to David Niven, of Ohio State University, research shows that American media show bias on only two issues, race and gender equality.[92]
Coverage of electoral politics
Main article: Political handicapping
A study done by Mark D. Watts et al. found that very little liberal bias occurred during elections in the 80s and 90s, but that public perceptions of bias are associated with media discussion of the issue of news bias.[93]
In the 19th century, many American newspapers made no pretense to lack of bias, openly advocating one or another political party. Big cities would often have competing newspapers supporting various political parties. To some extent this was mitigated by a separation between news and editorial. News reporting was expected to be relatively neutral or at least factual, whereas editorial was openly the opinion of the publisher. Editorials might also be accompanied by an editorial cartoon, which would frequently lampoon the publisher's opponents.[7]
In an editorial for The American Conservative, Pat Buchanan wrote that reporting by "the liberal media establishment" on the Watergate scandal "played a central role in bringing down a president." Richard Nixon later complained, "I gave them a sword and they ran it right through me."[94] Nixon's Vice-President Spiro Agnew attacked the media in a series of speeches—two of the most famous having been written by White House aides William Safire and Buchanan himself—as "elitist" and "liberal."[94] However, the media had also strongly criticized his Democratic predecessor, Lyndon Baines Johnson, for his handling of the Vietnam War, which culminated in him not seeking a second term.[95]
In 2004, Steve Ansolabehere, Rebecca Lessem and Jim Snyder of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology analyzed the political orientation of endorsements by U.S. newspapers. They found an upward trend in the average propensity to endorse a candidate, and in particular an incumbent one. There were also some changes in the average ideological slant of endorsements: while in the 1940s and in the 1950s there was a clear advantage to Republican candidates, this advantage continuously eroded in subsequent decades, to the extent that in the 1990s the authors found a slight Democratic lead in the average endorsement choice.[96]
Riccardo Puglisi of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology looks at the editorial choices of the New York Times from 1946 to 1997.[97] He finds that the Times displays Democratic partisanship, with some watchdog aspects. This is the case, because during presidential campaigns the Times systematically gives more coverage to Democratic topics of civil rights, health care, labor and social welfare, but only when the incumbent president is a Republican. These topics are classified as Democratic ones, because Gallup polls show that on average U.S. citizens think that Democratic candidates would be better at handling problems related to them. According to Puglisi, in the post-1960 period the Times displays a more symmetric type of watchdog behavior, just because during presidential campaigns it also gives more coverage to the typically Republican issue of Defense when the incumbent President is a Democrat, and less so when the incumbent is a Republican.
John Lott and Kevin Hassett of the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute studied the coverage of economic news by looking at a panel of 389 U.S. newspapers from 1991 to 2004, and at a subsample of the two ten newspapers and the Associated Press from 1985 to 2004.[98] For each release of official data about a set of economic indicators, the authors analyze how newspapers decide to report on them, as reflected by the tone of the related headlines. The idea is to check whether newspapers display partisan bias, by giving more positive or negative coverage to the same economic figure, as a function of the political affiliation of the incumbent President. Controlling for the economic data being released, the authors find that there are between 9.6 and 14.7% fewer positive stories when the incumbent President is a Republican.
According to Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, a liberal watchdog group, Democratic candidate John Edwards was falsely maligned and was not given coverage commensurate with his standing in presidential campaign coverage because his message questioned corporate power.[99][100]
A 2000 meta-analysis of research in 59 quantitative studies of media bias in American presidential campaigns from 1948 through 1996 found that media bias tends to cancel out, leaving little or no net bias. The authors conclude "It is clear that the major source of bias charges is the individual perceptions of media consumers and, in particular, media consumers of a particularly ideological bent."[101]
It has also been acknowledged that media outlets have often used horse-race journalism with the intent of making elections more competitive.[102] This form of political coverage involves diverting attention away from stronger candidates and hyping so-called dark horse contenders who seem more unlikely to win when the election cycle begins.[102] Benjamin Disraeli used the term " dark horse" to describe horse racing in 1831 in The Young Duke, writing, "a dark horse which had never been thought of and which the careless St. James had never even observed in the list, rushed past the grandstand in sweeping triumph."[102] Political analyst Larry Sabato stated in his 2006 book Encyclopedia of American Political Parties and Elections that Disraeli's description of dark horses "now fits in neatly with the media's trend towards horse-race journalism and penchant for using sports analogies to describe presidential politics."[102]
Often in contrast with national media, political science scholars seek to compile long-term data and research on the impact of political issues and voting in U.S. presidential elections, producing in-depth articles breaking down the issues.
2000 Presidential election
Analysis of the coverage of the last few weeks of the 2000 U.S. presidential election by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence In Journalism shows that "Al Gore [got] more negative coverage, but both candidates saw a deluge of negative stories.".[103]
During the course of the 2000 presidential election, some pundits accused the 
mainstream media of distorting facts in an effort to help Texas Governor George W. Bush win the 2000 Presidential Election after Bush and Al Gore officially launched their campaigns in 1999.[104] Peter Hart and Jim Naureckas, two commentators for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), called the media "serial exaggerators" and argued that several media outlets were constantly exaggerating criticism of Al Gore,[105] like falsely claiming that Gore lied when he claimed he spoke in an overcrowded science class in Sarasota, Florida,[105] and giving Bush a pass on certain issues, such as the fact that Bush wildly exaggerated how much money he signed into the annual Texas state budget to help the uninsured during his second debate with Gore in October 2000.[105] In the April, 2000 issue of Washington Monthly, columnist Robert Parry also argued that several media outlets exaggerated Gore's supposed claim that he "discovered" the Love Canal neighborhood in Niagara Falls, New York during a campaign speech in Concord, New Hampshire on November 30, 1999,[106] when he had only claimed he "found" it after it was already evacuated in 1978 because of chemical contamination.[106] Rolling Stone columnist Eric Boehlert also argued that media outlets exaggerated criticism of Gore as early as July 22, 1999,[107] when Gore, known for being an environmentalist, had a friend release 500 million gallons of water into a drought stricken river to help keep his boat afloat for a photo shot;[107] media outlets, however, exaggerated the actual number of gallons that were released and claimed it was 4 billion.[107]
2008 Presidential election
In the 2008 presidential election, media outlets were accused of discrediting Obama's opponents in an effort to help him win the Democratic nomination and later the Presidential election. At the February debate, Tim Russert of NBC News was criticized for what some perceived as disproportionately tough questioning of Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton.[108] Among the questions, Russert had asked Clinton, but not Obama, to provide the name of the new Russian President (Dmitry Medvedev).[108] This was later parodied on Saturday Night Live. In October 2007, liberal commentators accused Russert of harassing Clinton over the issue of supporting drivers' licenses for illegal immigrants.[109]
On April 16, 2008 ABC News hosted a debate in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Moderators Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos were criticized by viewers, bloggers and media critics for the poor quality of their questions.[108][109] Many viewers said they considered some of the questions irrelevant when measured against the importance of the faltering economy or the Iraq war. Included in that category were continued questions about Obama's former pastor, Senator Hillary Clinton's assertion that she had to duck sniper fire in Bosnia more than a decade ago, and Senator Obama's not wearing an American flag pin.[108] The moderators focused on campaign gaffes and some believed they focused too much on Obama.[109] Stephanopoulos defended their performance, saying "Senator Obama was the front-runner" and the questions were "not inappropriate or irrelevant at all."[108][109]
In an op-ed published on 2008 April 27 in The New York Times, Elizabeth Edwards wrote that the media covered much more of "the rancor of the campaign" and "amount of money spent" than "the candidates' priorities, policies and principles."[110] Author Erica Jong commented that "our press has become a sea of triviality, meanness and irrelevant chatter."[111] A Gallup poll released on May 29, 2008 also estimated that more Americans felt the media was being harder on Hillary Clinton than they were towards Barack Obama.[112]
In a joint study by the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University and the Project for Excellence in Journalism, the authors found disparate treatment by the three major cable networks of Republican and Democratic candidates during the earliest five months of presidential primaries in 2007: "The CNN programming studied tended to cast a negative light on Republican candidates—by a margin of three-to-one. Four-in-ten stories (41%) were clearly negative while just 14% were positive and 46% were neutral. The network provided negative coverage of all three main candidates with McCain faring the worst (63% negative) and Romney faring a little better than the others only because a majority of his coverage was neutral. It’s not that Democrats, other than Obama, fared well on CNN either. Nearly half of the Illinois Senator's stories were positive (46%), vs. just 8% that were negative. But both Clinton and Edwards ended up with more negative than positive coverage overall. So while coverage for Democrats overall was a bit more positive than negative, that was almost all due to extremely favorable coverage for Obama."[113]

A poll of likely 2008 United States presidential election voters released on March 14, 2007 by Zogby International reports that 83 percent of those surveyed believe that there is a bias in the media, with 64 percent of respondents of the opinion that this bias favors liberals and 28 percent of respondents believing that this bias is conservative.[114] In August 2008 the Washington Post 
ombudsman wrote that the Post had published almost three times as many page 1 stories about Barack Obama than it had about John McCain since Obama won the Democratic party nomination that June.[115] In September 2008 a Rasmussen poll found that 68 percent of voters believed that "most reporters try to help the candidate they want to win." Forty-nine (49) percent of respondents stated that the reporters were helping Barack Obama to get elected, while only 14 percent said the same regarding John McCain. A further 51 percent said that the press was actively "trying to hurt" Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin with negative coverage.[116] In October 2008, The Washington Post media correspondent Howard Kurtz reported that Sarah Palin was again on the cover of Newsweek, "but with the most biased campaign headline I've ever seen."[117]
After the election was over, Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell reviewed the Post's coverage and concluded that it was tilted in favor of Obama.[118] "The Post provided a lot of good campaign coverage, but readers have been consistently critical of the lack of probing issues coverage and what they saw as a tilt toward Democrat Barack Obama. My surveys, which ended on Election Day, show that they are right on both counts." Over the course of the campaign, the Post printed 594 "issues stories" and 1,295 "horse-race stories." There were more positive opinion pieces on Obama than McCain (32 to 13) and more negative pieces about McCain than Obama (58 to 32). Overall, more news stories were dedicated to Obama than McCain. Howell said that the results of her survey were comparable to those reported by the Project for Excellence in Journalism for the national media. (That report, issued on October 22, 2008, found that "coverage of McCain has been heavily unfavorable," with 57% of the stories issued after the conventions being negative and only 14% being positive. For the same period, 36% of the stories on Obama were positive, 35% were neutral or mixed, and 29% were negative.[119][120]) While rating the Post's biographical stories as generally quite good, she concluded that "Obama deserved tougher scrutiny than he got, especially of his undergraduate years, his start in Chicago and his relationship with Antoin "Tony" Rezko, who was convicted this year of influence-peddling in Chicago. The Post did nothing on Obama's acknowledged drug use as a teenager."[118]
Various critics, particularly Hudson, have shown concern at the link between the news media reporting and what they see as the trivialised nature of American elections. Hudson [121] argues that America's news media elections coverage damages the democratic process. He argues that elections are centered on candidates, whose advancement depends on funds, personality and sound-bites, rather than serious political discussion or policies offered by parties. His argument is that it is on the media which Americans are dependent for information about politics (this is of course true almost by definition) and that they are therefore greatly influenced by the way the media report, which concentrates on short sound-bites, gaffes by candidates, and scandals. The reporting of elections avoids complex issues or issues which are time-consuming to explain. Of course, important political issues are generally both complex and time-consuming to explain, so are avoided.
Hudson blames this style of media coverage, at least partly, for trivialised elections:
"The bites of information voters receive from both print and electronic media are simply insufficient for constructive political discourse. ... candidates for office have adjusted their style of campaigning in response to this tabloid style of media coverage. ... modern campaigns are exercises in image manipulation. ... Elections decided on sound bites, negative campaign commercials, and sensationalised exposure of personal character flaws provide no meaningful direction for government".[122]
Coverage of foreign issues
In addition to philosophical or economic biases, there are also subject biases, including criticism of media coverage about foreign policy issues as being overly centered in Washington, D.C.. Coverage is variously cited as being: 'Beltway centrism', framed in terms of domestic politics and established policy positions,[123] only following Washington's 'Official Agendas',[124] and mirroring only a 'Washington Consensus'.[125] Regardless of the criticism, according to the Columbia Journalism Review, "No news subject generates more complaints about media objectivity than the Middle East in general and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in particular."[126]
Coverage of the Vietnam War
Main article: U.S. news media and the Vietnam War
Coverage of the Arab–Israeli conflict
Main article: Media coverage of the Arab–Israeli conflict
Pro-Israel media
Stephen Zunes wrote that "mainstream and conservative Jewish organizations 
have mobilized considerable lobbying resources, financial contributions from the Jewish community, and citizen pressure on the news media and other forums of public discourse in support of the Israeli government."[127]
According to CUNY professor of journalism, Eric Alterman, debate among Middle East pundits, “is dominated by people who cannot imagine criticizing Israel”. In 2002, he listed 56 columnists and commentators who can be counted on to support Israel “reflexively and without qualification.” Alterman only identified five pundits who consistently criticize Israeli behavior or endorse pro-Arab positions.[128] Journalists described as pro-Israel by Mearsheimer and Walt include: the New York Times’ William Safire, A.M. Rosenthal, David Brooks, and Thomas Friedman (although they say that the latter is sometimes critical of areas of Israel policy); the Washington Post’s Jim Hoagland, Robert Kagan, Charles Krauthammer and George Will;[129] and the Los Angeles Times’ Max Boot, Jonah Goldberg and Jonathan Chait.
The 2007 book The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy argued that there is a media bias in favor of Israel. It stated that a former spokesman for the Israeli Consulate in New York said that: "Of course, a lot of self-censorship goes on. Journalists, editors, and politicians are going to think twice about criticizing Israel if they know they are going to get thousands of angry calls in a matter of hours.The Jewish lobby is good at orchestrating pressure."[130]
Journalist Michael Massing wrote in 2006 that "Jewish organizations are quick to detect bias in the coverage of the Middle East, and quick to complain about it. That's especially true of late. As The Forward observed in late April [2002], 'rooting out perceived anti-Israel bias in the media has become for many American Jews the most direct and emotional outlet for connecting with the conflict 6,000 miles away.'"[131]
The Forward related how one individual felt:
"'There's a great frustration that American Jews want to do something,' said Ira Youdovin, executive vice president of the Chicago Board of Rabbis. 'In 1947, some number would have enlisted in the Haganah,' he said, referring to the pre-state Jewish armed force. 'There was a special American brigade. Nowadays you can't do that. The battle here is the hasbarah war,' Youdovin said, using a Hebrew term for public relations. 'We're winning, but we're very much concerned about the bad stuff.'"[132]
A 2003 Boston Globe article on the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America media watchdog group by Mark Jurkowitz argued that: "To its supporters, CAMERA is figuratively – and perhaps literally – doing God's work, battling insidious anti-Israeli bias in the media. But its detractors see CAMERA as a myopic and vindictive special interest group trying to muscle its views into media coverage."[133]
Pro-Hamas media
Several sources indicate that increased support of Hamas and increased bias against Israel by international media are correlated to spikes in anti-semitic acts.[134][not in citation given] [135]
According to Gary Weiss, due to intimidation of international journalists by Hamas and bias in American mainstream media, American media have "become part of the Hamas war machine".[136]
Coverage of the Iraq War
Main article: Media coverage of the Iraq War
Suggestions of insufficiently critical media coverage
A FAIR study found that in the lead up to the Iraq War, most sources were overwhelmingly in favor of the invasion.
In 2003, a study released by Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting stated the network news disproportionately focused on pro-war sources and left out many anti-war sources. According to the study, 64% of total sources were in favor of the Iraq War while total anti-war sources made up 10% of the media (only 3% of US sources were anti-war). The study stated that "viewers were more than six times as likely to see a pro-war source as one who was anti-war; with U.S. guests alone, the ratio increases to 25 to 1."[137]
In February 2004, a study was released by the liberal national media watchdog group FAIR. According to the study, which took place during October 2003, current or former government or military officials accounted for 76 percent of all 319 sources for news stories about Iraq which aired on network news channels.[138]
On March 23, 2006, the US designated the Hezbollah affiliated media, Al-Nour Radio and Al-Manar TV station, as "terrorist entities" through legislative language as well as support of a letter to President Bush signed by 51 senators.[139]
Suggestions of overly critical media coverage
Some critics believe that, on the contrary, the American media have been too 
critical of U.S. forces. Rick Mullen, a former journalist, Vietnam veteran, and U.S. Marine Corps reserve officer, has suggested that American media coverage has been unfair, and has failed to send a message adequately supportive of U.S. forces. Mullen calls for a lesser reporting of transgressions by US forces (condemning "American media pouncing on every transgression"), and a more extensive reporting of US forces' positive actions, which Mullen feels are inadequately reported (condemning the media for "ignoring the legions of good and noble deeds by US and coalition forces"). Mullen compares critical media reports to the 9/11 terrorist attacks:
"I have got used to our American media pouncing on every transgression by U.S. Forces while ignoring the legions of good and noble deeds performed by U.S. and coalition forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan... This sort of thing is akin to the evening news focusing on the few bad things that happen in Los Angeles or London and ignoring the millions of good news items each day... I am sure that you are aware that it is not the enemy's objective to defeat us on the battlefield but to defeat our national will to prevail. That battle is fought in the living rooms of America and England and the medium used is the TV news and newspapers. The enemy is not stupid. As on 9/11, they plan to use our "systems" against us, the news media being the most important "system" in their pursuit to break our national will."  —Rick Mullen, Letter to The London Times, 2006.[140]
News sources
..."balanced" coverage that plagues American journalism and which leads to utterly spineless reporting with no edge. The idea seems to be that journalists are allowed to go out to report, but when it comes time to write, we are expected to turn our brains off and repeat the spin from both sides. God forbid we should ... attempt to fairly assess what we see with our own eyes. "Balanced" is not fair, it's just an easy way of avoiding real reporting...and shirking our responsibility to inform readers.
Ken Silverstein in Harper's Magazine, 2007.[141][142]
Another widely cited public opinion study[143] documents a correlation between news source and certain misconceptions about the Iraq war. Conducted by the Program on International Policy Attitudes in October 2003, the poll asked Americans whether they believed statements about the Iraq war that were known to be false. Respondents were also asked which was their primary news source: Fox News, CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, "Print sources," or NPR. By cross referencing the responses according to primary news source, the study showed that higher numbers of Fox News watchers held certain misconceptions about the Iraq war. The director of Program on International Policy (PIPA), Stephen Kull said, "While we cannot assert that these misconceptions created the support for going to war with Iraq, it does appear likely that support for the war would be substantially lower if fewer members of the public had these misperceptions."[143]
Bias in entertainment media
Primetime Propaganda: The True Hollywood Story of How the Left Took Over Your TV, a 2011 book by Ben Shapiro, argues that producers, executives and writers in the entertainment industry are using television to promote a liberal political agenda. The claims include both blatant and subtle liberal agendas in entertainment shows, discrimination against conservatives in the industry, and misleading advertisers regarding the value of liberal leaning market segments. As one part of the evidence, he presents statements from taped interviews made by celebrities and T.V. show creators from Hollywood whom he interviewed for the book.[144]
Some comic strips have been accused of bias.[citation needed] The Doonesbury comic strip has a liberal point of view. In 2004 a conservative letter writing campaign was successful in convincing Continental Features, a company that prints many Sunday comics sections, to refuse to print the strip, causing Doonesbury to disappear from the Sunday comics in 38 newspapers.[citation needed] Of the 38, only one editor, Troy Turner, executive editor of the Anniston Star in Alabama, continued to run the Sunday Doonesbury, albeit necessarily in black and white.[citation needed] Mallard Fillmore by Bruce Tinsley and Prickly City by Scott Stantis are both conservative in their views. In older strips, Li'l Abner by Al Capp routinely parodied Southern Democrats through the character of Senator Jack S. Phogbound, but later adopted a strongly conservative stance. Pogo by Walt Kelly caricaturized a wide range of political figures including Joseph McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Hubert Humphrey, George Wallace, Robert F. Kennedy, and Eugene McCarthy. Little Orphan Annie espoused a strong anti-union pro-business stance in the story "Eonite" from 1935, where union agitators destroy a business that would have benefited the entire human race.[145]
Causes of perceptions of bias
Jonathan M. Ladd, who has conducted intensive studies of media trust and media bias, concluded that the primary cause of belief in media bias is media telling their audience that particular media are biased. People who are told that a medium is biased tend to believe that it is biased, and this belief is unrelated to whether that medium is actually biased or not. The only other factor with as strong an influence on belief that media is biased is extensive coverage of celebrities. A majority of people see such media as biased, while at the same time preferring media with extensive coverage of celebrities.[146]
Watchdog groups
According to Reporters Without Borders the media in the United States lost a great deal of freedom between the 2004 and 2006 indices, citing the Judith Miller case and similar cases and laws restricting the confidentiality of sources as the main factors.[147] They also cite the fact that reporters who question the American "war on terror" are sometimes regarded as suspicious.[148] They rank the United States as 53rd out of 168 countries in freedom of the press, comparable to Japan and Uruguay, but below all but one European Union country (Poland) and below most OECD countries (countries that accept democracy and free markets). In the 2008 ranking, the United States moved up to 36, between Taiwan and Macedonia, but still far below its ranking in the late 20th Century as a world leader in having a free and unbiased press.[citation needed]
Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), is a self-described progressive media watch group.
Media Matters for America, another self-described progressive media watch group, dedicates itself to "monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media."[149]
Conservative organizations Accuracy In Media and Media Research Center argue that the media has a liberal bias, and are dedicated to publicizing the issue. The Media Research Center, for example, was founded with the specific intention to "prove ... that liberal bias in the media does exist and undermines traditional American values".[150][151]
Groups such as FactCheck argue that the media frequently gets the facts wrong because they rely on biased sources of information.[152] This includes using information provided to them from both parties.
After the Press is a news blog that follows the press to stories of national interest across America and shows the side of the story that mainstream media does not air.[153]
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Digital Journalism: How Good Is It?
Michael Massing
JUNE 4, 2015 ISSUE
On the evening of Saturday, February 28, about one hundred people gathered in a conference room at CUNY’s Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies in midtown Manhattan to salute Steven Greenhouse on the occasion of his retirement from The New York Times. For thirty-one years, Greenhouse had worked at the paper, the last nineteen of them covering labor. In December, he had taken a buyout—part of a cost-cutting campaign aimed at eliminating one hundred positions from the newsroom—and the tribute to him was one of a series of doleful farewells held to mark the exodus of so many veteran reporters.
Not all was gloom, however. After the announcement of Greenhouse’s departure, the Times had come under intense pressure to fill the labor beat, and in mid-February it announced that it would, with Noam Scheiber, a longtime editor and writer at The New Republic, who had left in the upheaval at that publication. More generally, the labor advocates present at the gathering expressed satisfaction at how the coverage of labor has rebounded as the interest in inequality has surged.
Among the journalists present, however, there was no such cheer. “No one can feel secure,” said one Times reporter who had survived the cut. Her comment captured the climate of fear and insecurity that has gripped traditional news organizations in the digital era. “Disruption” is the catch-all phrase. Ken Doctor, a news industry analyst interviewed by NPR at the time of the shake-up at The New Republic, said that “what you’ve got is an old brand, a venerable brand…that is roiled by digital disruption the same way The New York Times is, Time Inc. is, NBC, ABC, NPR, BBC, you name it.” And, he said, “We’re really just at the beginning of that process. It’s creative disruption, as we would call it in Silicon Valley, but it can be pretty ugly in the short term.”
That digital technology is disrupting the business of journalism is beyond dispute. What’s striking is how little attention has been paid to the impact that technology has had on the actual practice of journalism. The distinctive properties of the Internet—speed, immediacy, interactivity, boundless capacity, global reach—provide tremendous new opportunities for the gathering and presentation of news and information. Yet amid all the coverage of start-ups and IPOs, investments and acquisitions, little attempt has been made to evaluate the quality of Web-based journalism, despite its ever-growing influence.
To try to fill that gap, I set off on a grand (though necessarily selective) tour of journalistic websites. How creative and innovative has digital journalism been? How much impact has it had?
1. As The Huffington Post marks its tenth anniversary in May, it has much to celebrate. The once-scrappy start-up now has an editorial staff of about five hundred in its New York headquarters and another forty in its Washington office, plus thirteen international editions stretching from Brazil to Japan, with more on the way. Its American edition has fifty distinct sections, and HuffPost Live offers a daily video stream of news clips, political commentary, and celebrity interviews. According to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center, The Huffington Post is the most-visited digital-native news site, with 100 million unique visitors a month, and Arianna Huffington herself has more than 1.85 million followers on Twitter.
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Clara Molden/Telegraph/Camera Press/Redux
Arianna Huffington, editor in chief of The Huffington Post, talking about the baby boom generation at the Hay Festival, Hay-on-Wye, Wales, June 2014
For all that, The Huffington Post is undergoing an identity crisis. One of its initial core innovations—using content from elsewhere—has become so dominant as to nearly choke the site. A recent in-house survey found that nearly one in every seven items posted on it comes from the Associated Press, with which it has a contract. Many other items come from Reuters, with which it also has a contract, and The New York Times and The Washington Post, with which it does not. Of course, The Huffington Post features plenty of original content, including a never-ending procession of (unpaid) opinion pieces as well as vigorous coverage of trade, lobbying, civil liberties, labor, and media. In January, the site ran a 21,000-word story about deficiencies in the treatment of drug addiction in Kentucky, and a new section called “What’s Working” highlights efforts by individuals and communities to address social problems. But even this material often seems swamped by the ever-rising tide of gossip, celebrity, titillation, and headlines of the “Rachel McAdams Doesn’t Look Like This Anymore” variety. There are sections dedicated to Healthy Living, Horoscopes, Dr. Phil, GPS for the Soul, Good News, and The Third Metric—a yardstick of success beyond the first two metrics (money and power) to include well-being, wisdom, wonder, and making a difference in the world.
Since being introduced by Arianna Huffington in the spring of 2013, The Third Metric has become an essential part of the Huffington Post brand, with Huffington calling herself a “sleep evangelist” and promoting the restorative power of pajamas. The calls for rest and relaxation seem all the more jarring in light of the frantic, carnival-like atmosphere of The Huffington Post itself. When I mentioned the site in conversations with colleagues, most responded with dismissive scorn.
The Huffingtonians themselves seem to sense this. In a memo sent to her staff at the end of last year, Arianna Huffington said that the site plans to end its relationship with the AP and build its own in-house news service, while “doubling down on original reporting and bringing together a new investigative team.” To head that team, The Huffington Post hired three former staff members of The New Republic—editors Greg Veis and Rachel Morris and writer Jonathan Cohn—to help “bring long-form journalism to a new audience.”
The Huffington Post has been down this road before. In 2009, it set up a nonprofit Investigative Fund with a staff of eleven and a budget of nearly $2 million, and to run the unit it hired Lawrence Roberts, chief investigations editor at The Washington Post. But the long, careful projects undertaken by the fund proved an awkward fit with the site’s fast-tempo, click-hungry newsroom. Within a year, Roberts was gone, and in October 2010 the fund was folded into the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit investigative outfit.
In 2011, The Huffington Post, after being purchased by AOL for $315 million, accelerated a hiring spree that was already underway aimed at luring many big-name print-based writers and editors with generous contracts to help improve the quality of its journalism; from the Times alone came Peter Goodman, Tim O’Brien, Tom Zeller, and Lisa Belkin. The experiment went bust; most of those hires have long since departed. In a parting memo, Goodman (who had served as executive business editor) wrote of “a widespread sense” at his team “that the HuffPost is no longer fully committed to original reporting; that in a system governed largely by metrics, deep reporting and quality writing weigh in as a lack of productivity.” (He’s now editor in chief of the International Business Times, an online news publication.)
Huffington Post editors claim that these print-based imports proved a poor fit in an all-digital operation. Perhaps so, but the AOL deal seems to have been a Faustian bargain for the organization; in return for a huge pot of cash, it came under relentless pressure to turn a profit. The only way to do that was by increasing ad revenues, which in turn meant drawing more readers. That explains the site’s perpetual motion, nonstop expansion, and proliferation of sections. In its early years, The Huffington Post seemed on its way to defining a new type of digital journalism. Ten years on, it seems stuck in place, struggling to recapture the innovative spirit that had once defined it.
The same seems true of the first generation of digital news sites in general. After an initial burst of daring and creativity, they have entered a middle-aged lethargy. Take Talking Points Memo. When it began, in 2000, as a blog by Josh Marshall, it offered an outsider’s take on inside Washington, with much profitable burrowing into documents and records. In 2002, Marshall called attention to Trent Lott’s racist-tinged comments about Strom Thurmond, thus helping to precipitate Lott’s resignation as Senate majority leader. As TPM’s readership grew, Marshall attracted advertisers, which allowed him to hire staff. Tips from readers offered information about what was going on around the country and, drawing on them, Marshall in 2007 broke the story about the Bush administration’s partisan- inspired firing of US attorneys.*
Eight years later, TPM offers roughly the same mix of blogging, aggregation (reworking content from elsewhere), news, and opinion that it did back then. The site (which is supported by a mix of ads and $50 annual subscriptions for access to extra features) does run regular “longform” pieces; a recent one offered a revealing look at the International House of Prayer, a charismatic Christian movement with ties to the Republican right. But TPM’s primary mission remains the minute parsing of national politics. When President Obama ad-libbed his zinger at the Republicans during his 2015 State of the Union address, for instance—Republicans applauded him for saying, “I have no more campaigns to run,” and he shot back, “I know, because I won both of them”—the site analyzed it from every which way. But everybody’s doing that these days, and what once seemed distinctive now seems just another voice in the instant-analysis-and-commentary crowd. Accordingly, TPM has had a hard time reproducing the kind of splash it had once made.
Then there’s the smart-opinion-with-some-reporting-mixed-in set, led by Slate, Salon, and The Daily Beast. Here you can find edge, cheek, confession, and contrarianism, all served up in crisp, thousand-word packages. “Why Staples’ Terrible Sales Might Be a Godsend for the Company,” went a recent Slate headline, with the counterintuitive dash that has been its trademark since its launch in 1996. (Slate’s contrariness has become so renowned that there’s a hashtag, #slatepitch, that parodies it. Sample: “Manischewitz Gefilte Fish Is Actually Kind of Delicious.”)
These sites, which all seem to blend into one another, rarely break news or cause a commotion. After the Charlie Hebdo attacks, I was hoping to see one of them grab hold of the event and provide a forum for the many pressing questions raised—free speech versus hate speech, anti-Semitism and anti-Islamism, the state of religious tolerance and religious fanaticism in Europe. Most of all, I hoped to hear from a range of voices that extended beyond the usual American commentators to include some Muslim ones, who, with their distinctive backgrounds and experiences, could add a different dimension to the discussion. The Internet is an ideal vehicle for mixing things up in this way, yet none of the sites seemed to have the inclination—or inspiration—to take advantage.
No one better illustrates the travails of the pioneering digital generation than Andrew Sullivan. When he began blogging in 2000, his highly confessional Tory-Catholic-gay-libertarian stream of consciousness seemed fresh and original, and it inspired many others to try their hand at this exciting new form. For years, Sullivan relied on institutional backing, parking his blog (called The Dish) first at Time, then at The Atlantic, then at The Daily Beast. Encouraged by the amount of attention and traffic he was receiving, he decided in 2013 to strike out on his own.
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Matt Drudge of The Drudge Report, Hollywood, May 1998
In a rousing declaration, he announced that he was forswearing all advertising. Given the revenue that advertising can provide, he wrote, this was a difficult decision, but he felt that ads were not only distracting but also “created incentives for pageviews over quality content.” Getting readers to pay a small amount for content seemed “the only truly solid future for online journalism,” and in this way he hoped “to forge a path other smaller blogs and sites can follow.”
This bold experiment in digital independence was closely watched in the journalistic world. The subscription price was set at $19.99 a year for unrestricted access to the site. The initial results were encouraging, with more than 30,000 signing up in the first year (and some chipping in more), for a total take of just under the $900,000 that Sullivan said he needed to support him and his staff. But feeding the beast on a daily basis proved too taxing, and in late January, Sullivan, citing fatigue and health concerns, announced he was calling it quits.
The demise of The Dish was widely seen as the end of the era of the blogger. As Dylan Byers, a media reporter for Politico, observed in 2014:
The appeal of “the blog,” in Sullivan’s heyday, was that if you were smart enough or provocative enough, you could cover whatever you wanted. The truth is, people want breaking news from well-sourced reporters or smart analysis from experts who know what they’re talking about. Sensibility is cheap.
Today, many who once blogged now compress their thoughts into Twitter’s 140 characters. Others have headed in the opposite direction and converted their observations into well-crafted pieces of reporting and analysis as exemplified by the columns posted at newyorker.com and the mini-essays featured on this publication’s NYRblog.
Nonetheless, there are many thousands of knowledgeable people blogging in their areas of expertise. Paul Krugman, for one, has saluted the contributions of the “econoblogs” that constantly check and assess work in the field. “As far as real, insightful, useful discussion of matters economic is concerned,” he has written, “this is actually a golden age.” When I checked some of those blogs, however, I found that most of the discussion on them is quite specialized. More generally, blogs have become niche-ified. Gone are the days when a Michigan-based scholar like Juan Cole could single-handedly challenge the Bush administration’s narrative on Iraq or the blogging collective Firedoglake could gain national attention for “liveblogging” the Scooter Libby trial.
Sullivan himself, in explaining his decision to shut down The Dish, acknowledged his own frustrations with blogging. “Although it’s been a joy and a privilege to have helped pioneer a genuinely new form of writing,” he wrote, “I yearn for other, older forms.” He wanted to “have an idea and let it slowly take shape, rather than be instantly blogged,” and to “write long essays that can answer more deeply and subtly the many questions that the Dish years have presented to me.”
It’s strange that Sullivan did not convert his blog into this type of podium, with more regular contributors, reporting, and analysis. Over the years, he did publish other writers on his site and featured some longer pieces, but in the end The Dish remained essentially one man’s riffs. Even on the business side, his experiment seemed oblivious to the current realities of the Internet, where most publishers recognize the need for multiple sources of revenue and even nonprofit sites avidly seek advertisers trying to reach their particular audience. For all of the boldness of Sullivan’s experiment, he ultimately seemed unable to adapt.
2. One member of the pioneering digital generation who has thrived despite stubbornly refusing to change is Matt Drudge. The Drudge Report today looks just as drab and skeletal as it did when it went online in 1996, and it continues to deal almost exclusively in aggregation. Yet it remains highly influential, with three quarters of a billion pageviews a month. To cite just one example, the attention that Drudge (along with National Review) lavished on the virtually unknown Ben Sasse helped propel him to victory in the 2014 Republican primary for senator in Nebraska and then in the general election itself. According to Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post, the 2016 presidential race is shaping up as one in which Drudge “will have as much—and, likely, more—influence than he has ever had before.”
His power derives, in part, from the angry popular appeal of the conservative online world in general. It includes The Daily Caller (a forty-person staff led by Tucker Carlson), RedState (Erick Erickson), TheBlaze (Glenn Beck), Breitbart, and The Washington Free Beacon, along with the websites of The Weekly Standard, National Review, and Fox News. This alternative information universe is driven by a continuing sense of rage at being shut out by the “lamestream media” (in Sarah Palin’s phrase). Neil Patel, the publisher of The Daily Caller (and a former top policy adviser to Dick Cheney), says that the site (which relies mainly on advertising) has taken advantage of the “massive audience” of “disgruntled conservatives” out there who distrust traditional news outlets: “That drives us, for sure.” In March, Tucker Carlson removed a column that one of his bloggers, Mickey Kaus (a pioneer of the form), had posted that was critical of Fox News. Kaus resigned, and Carlson later acknowledged that he would not allow The Daily Caller to run anything critical of Fox (where he’s also an anchor). Such enforced conformity has enabled these sites to pursue their paramount mission: delegitimizing the Obama presidency and obstructing Hillary Clinton’s chances of succeeding him.
In my tour of digital sites, I did find one pioneer that has evolved: Politico. Like many outside-the-Beltway readers, I initially considered it too beholden to Washington conventions to feel much need to read it regularly. I was also put off by its incessant boasting about its “fast metabolism,” which it liked to contrast with the sluggish Washington Post. In the last few years, however, Politico has become more and more like the Post—in a good way. It now has a 160-person editorial staff covering not just horse races and insider baseball but also public policy, national news, and foreign policy. In 2011, it launched Politico Pro, a subscription-based news service with more than one hundred journalists assigned to a dozen policy areas, from agriculture and defense to health care and transportation. (A single subscription can run more than $3,000. The revenue thus generated is complemented by events to which admission is charged and by ads that run both on its website and in a print edition published daily when Congress is in session.)
Politico offers thorough day-to-day coverage of lobbying, campaign finance, and legislative affairs. It also now has an online magazine with a daily mix of reports, analysis, and opinion—some of it quite hard-hitting. One piece, for instance, described the “hell” to which then Florida Governor Jeb Bush subjected Michael Schiavo—the husband of Terri Schiavo, who was in a persistent vegetative state—with Schiavo wanting her feeding tube removed and Bush ordering it reinserted; the story was cast as a cautionary tale of “what Jeb Bush can do with executive power.”
Politico Magazine was created in November 2013 by Susan Glasser, a former editor at The Washington Post and Foreign Policy, and it was considered such a success that last September she was named Politico’s editor in chief. Meanwhile, the site has continued to expand. “We are pouring millions into adding deep-dive, original reporting to the arsenal,” Jim VandeHei, Politico’s co-founder and CEO, recently informed his staff. “We not only want to be the dominant publication covering politics and policy in Washington—we want to be the dominant media player in this space nationally AND globally.” This year, Politico is introducing or expanding state operations in New York, New Jersey, and Florida—part of a “cascading series” aimed at finding “a template for saving coverage of state government.” In April, Politico (together with Axel Springer) rolled out a new European edition based in Brussels, and by the end of the year it expects to have more reporters and editors covering European politics and policy than any other organization on that continent.
The growth has not come without pain. In 2014, about a quarter of its staff left—an extraordinary level of turnover that reflects the burnout caused by the grueling pace in the Politico newsroom as well as the effort to convert it into a more in-depth operation. (A request for comment from Politico went unanswered.) In plugging those holes, Politico has snapped up so many state and local reporters that there have been complaints about poaching. In March, it scored a coup by showing that Congressman Aaron Schock of Illinois had inflated the mileage on his car to pad his expense accounts, leading to his resignation.
Yet that feat was also a measure of Politico’s limitations. Catching a congressman fiddling with his finances lies squarely in the tradition of American scoop-making. With its fine-grained approach to Washington politics and its emphasis on being first, Politico rarely mounts sustained investigations into more systemic problems, like the way corporations have captured think tanks, or the hold that AIPAC and other lobbies have on Mideast policy, or the array of conservative groups working to kill a nuclear deal with Iran. The Internet, with its capacity for offering regular posts and updates and for chronicling links and collaborations, would seem ideally suited to exploring such matters and exposing the hidden wellsprings of power in Washington. Heading down that path, however, would require a radical rethinking of how to use the Web. Recently, Politico formed a new money-and-politics investigative team; will it be able to make the leap?
A similar question could be asked of ProPublica. Since being launched in 2008, this site (which is supported almost entirely by philanthropic contributions) has established itself as the premier investigative Web-based unit. It has tackled such worthy subjects as the environmental hazards of fracking and the lax oversight of nurses, the erosion of workers’ comp and mismanagement at the Red Cross. For an investigation into financial ties between medical institutions and drug companies, ProPublica compiled a list of payments those companies made to doctors and from it built a searchable database that patients could use to look up their own physicians. ProPublica has been a leader in such creative uses of data—a boom area on the Internet.
Yet it could, I think, do far more. Imagine, for instance, if ProPublica set up a database documenting the links between money, power, and ideas in America and beyond. One could enter the name of a mogul—say, hedge fund billionaire Paul Tudor Jones, or BlackRock CEO Laurence Fink, or Carlyle Group cofounder David Rubenstein—and find out at once the assets he controls, the boards he sits on, the philanthropies he supports, the politicians he contributes to, the lawyers and lobbies that represent him. Clicking on each link would take one to a new page showing all the pertinent information about the company, board, or philanthropy in question. Proceeding through the labyrinth could help lay bare the composition, shape, and reach of the global oligarchy—the one percent of the one percent. That data could in turn provide the basis for countless follow-up investigations by not only ProPublica but also other journalists as well as activists and scholars.
To its credit, ProPublica has done much good work on the flow of political “dark money” and on Wall Street’s cooptation of federal regulators, but overall the organization seems too wed to a traditional newspaper-based approach, with its separate, siloed investigations, to try something so radical. As a result, it has not had the type of disruptive impact one might expect from an organization with an annual budget of nearly $13 million.
And so it goes for the first generation of digital sites as a whole. They helped lead journalism out of the kingdom of traditional print and broadcasting into the liberating land of the Internet, only to become stranded. Meanwhile, a new generation of high-profile ventures has emerged. Have they made it to the promised land of true digital innovation? To find out, I set off on the second leg of my tour, beginning with a visit to the most-talked-about site of them all, BuzzFeed.
—This is the first of three articles.
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The End of News?
Michael Massing
DECEMBER 1, 2005 ISSUE
In late September, the Government Accountability Office—a nonpartisan arm of Congress—issued a finding that the Bush administration had engaged in “covert propaganda,” and thereby broken the law, by paying Armstrong Williams, a conservative commentator, to promote its educational policies. The GAO also faulted the administration for hiring a public relations firm to distribute video news segments without disclosing the government’s part in producing them.1 The auditors’ report, which followed a year-long investigation, presents chilling evidence of the campaign that officials in Washington have been waging against a free and independent press. Only months before, it was revealed that Kenneth Tomlinson, the President’s choice to head the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, had paid a Republican operative to monitor the political leanings of guests on Bill Moyers’s show Now, as part of a broader effort to shift PBS’s programming to the right.
The Bush administration has restricted access to public documents as no other before it. According to a recent report on government secrecy by OpenTheGovernment.org, a watchdog organization, the federal government classified a record 15.6 million new documents in fiscal year 2004, an increase of 81 percent over the year before the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Spending on the declassification of documents dropped to a new low. What’s more, 64 percent of Federal Advisory Committee meetings in 2004 were completely closed to the public. The Pentagon has banned TV cameras from recording the return of caskets from Iraq, and it prohibited the publication of photographs of those caskets, a restriction that was lifted only following a request through the Freedom of Information Act.
The restrictions have grown so tight that the normally quiescent American Society of Newspaper Editors last fall issued a “call to arms” to its members, urging them to “demand answers in print and in court” to stop this “deeply disturbing” trend. The conservative columnist William Safire, usually a supporter of Bush’s policies, complained last September that “the fundamental right of Americans, through our free press, to penetrate and criticize the workings of our government is under attack as never before.”
But the campaign against the press is only partly a result of a hostile White House. The administration’s efforts have been amplified by a disciplined and well-organized news and opinion campaign directed by conservatives and the Christian right. This well-funded network includes newsletters, think tanks, and talk radio as well as cable television news and the Internet. Often in cooperation with the White House, these outlets have launched a systematic campaign to discredit what they refer to disparagingly as “MSM,” for mainstream media. Through the Internet, commentators can channel criticism of the press to the general public faster and more efficiently than before. As became plain in the Swift Boat campaign against John Kerry, to cite one of many examples, an unscrupulous critic can spread exaggerated or erroneous claims instantaneously to thousands of people, who may, in turn, repeat them to millions more on talk radio programs, on cable television, or on more official “news” Web sites. This kind of recycled commentary has become all the more effective because it is aimed principally at a sector of the population that seldom if ever sees serious press coverage.
Partly as a result, newspapers find themselves less popular than ever before, at a time when the newspaper industry itself is losing readers while struggling to cuts costs and meet demands for ever larger profits. Today’s journalists, meanwhile, when compared to their predecessors, often seem far less willing to resist political pressure from the White House. In the 1970s, for example, The Washington Post refused to buckle under intense White House pressure during Watergate, and The New York Times did not shrink from publishing the Pentagon Papers. Recently, in contrast, the Times had to apologize for uncritically publishing false government claims about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, and Time magazine released the notes of its journalist Matthew Cooper to a government prosecutor without his consent. Conservative commentators and the administration have also been able to intimidate publications into shunning investigative reporting, as when, for example, Newsweek promised to crack down on its use of anonymous sources after being criticized for its story about the mishandling of the Koran by the US military, and when CBS forced the resignation of four news employees after questions were raised about the 60 Minutes broadcast on Bush’s record in the National Guard. With the President’s poll numbers down and infighting among conservatives more visible, the coverage of Washington has sharpened of late, but overall the climate remains hostile to good reporting.
1. In 1969, when Vice President Spiro Agnew gave a series of speeches attacking the TV networks and top newspapers as liberal and elitist, only one small organization outside the government was pursuing similar aims. Accuracy in Media was run out of a modest office in Washington by a reactionary gadfly named Reed Irvine. He published a newsletter that singled out journalists whose reporting he found objectionable, insinuating that they were soft on communism and on leftist dictators, if not entirely disloyal. Such charges caused conservative newspaper readers to question the fairness of some news accounts, but Irvine’s politics were so extreme that most editors dismissed him as a crank.
In 1979, conservatives discovered a new basis for criticizing the press when S. Robert Lichter and Stanley Rothman released a study purporting to show the leftist leanings of national journalists. Of 240 journalists surveyed, eight out of ten said they voted Democratic in presidential elections from 1964 to 1976. Nine out of ten said they supported abortion rights, more than half said they saw nothing wrong with adultery, and few attended church. In 1985, Lichter and his wife Linda, with the financial support of such conservative foundations as Scaife and Olin, formed the Center for Media and Public Affairs, a research institute that, while presenting itself as nonpartisan, sought to document instances of liberal bias on the networks and in newspapers. Its reports helped complement the Reagan administration’s efforts to portray the press as out of step with “mainstream America.” The impact of these efforts was apparent in journalists’ often uncritical coverage of such issues as supply-side economics and the abusive activities of the Salvadoran military, the Nicaraguan contras, and other forces allied with the US in Central America. (There were exceptions, however, such as The New York Times’s investigation of the CIA’s relations with Panama’s Manuel Noriega in the late 1980s.)
An even more consequential, though much less visible, change took place in 1987, with the abolition of the Fairness Doctrine. Introduced in 1949, this rule required TV and radio stations to cover “controversial issues” of interest to their communities, and, when doing so, to provide “a reasonable opportunity for the presentation of contrasting viewpoints.” Intended to encourage stations to avoid partisan programming, the Fairness Doctrine had the practical effect of keeping political commentary off the air altogether. In 1986, a federal court ruled that the doctrine did not have the force of law, and the following year the FCC abolished it.
At that point, stations were free to broadcast whatever they wanted. In 1988, several dozen AM stations began carrying a show hosted by a thirty-seven-year-old college dropout named Rush Limbaugh. Advertising himself as “the most dangerous man in America,” Limbaugh attracted listeners by combining political jokes, thundering polemics, and outrageous overstatement. He spoke, he said, “with half my brain tied behind my back, just to make it fair, because I have a talent on loan from…God. Rush Limbaugh. A man. A legend. A way of life.”
The eternal enemy, he claimed, is “liberalism…. It destroys prosperity. It assigns sameness to everybody.” On his show, he has described feminists as “feminazis” and referred to the prison in Guantánamo as “Club Gitmo,” a place where the conditions are so plush as to resemble those of a country club. Limbaugh appealed to conservatives who felt no one else was expressing their resentments with such satisfying vehemence; soon hundreds of stations were carrying the show, which by now, according to Media Week, has generated well more than $1 billion in revenue.
Limbaugh’s success, in turn, has inspired “a vast new armada” of right-wing talk show hosts, according to Brian C. Anderson in his book South Park Conservatives: The Revolt Against Liberal Media Bias.2 A senior editor at City Journal, a magazine published by the Manhattan Institute, a conservative New York think tank, Anderson is so sure of the press’s liberal slant that he makes only slapdash efforts to document it. He claims, for instance, that press bias is “at its most egregious in war reporting.” A prime example, he claims, is the “defeatist coverage of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars,” each of which was portrayed by CNN and the daily press as “another Vietnam.” Anderson overlooks the nearly unanimous support of editorial boards for both those conflicts, the credulous acceptance by national news organizations of the Bush administration’s claims regarding Iraq’s WMDs, and the triumphalist coverage of the US military’s push into Baghdad.3 He takes no note of the thoroughly conventional views of most of the guests on CNN’s talk shows, the network’s heavy reliance on retired military officers for commentary, and Wolf Blitzer’s often obsequious and usually predictable questioning of administration officials.
But South Park Conservatives does give a concise account of the right’s successful assault on the mainstream press. “Drive across the country these days,” Anderson writes in a chapter on talk radio, “and you’ll never be out of range of conservative voices on the AM dial or satellite radio.” The list of the top twenty talk radio shows nationwide is thick with conservatives. The most popular is Limbaugh, whose daily three-hour show attracts an estimated weekly audience of around 14 million. Next comes Sean Hannity, whose show, carried on nearly four hundred stations, attracts 12 million weekly, and who is also the co-host of Fox News’s nightly TV program Hannity & Colmes. “Dr. Laura” Schlesinger, who inveighs against feminists and homosexuals, has eight million listeners, as does Michael Savage, who ridicules the handicapped and considers Arabs “non-humans.” Laura Ingraham, the author of Shut Up & Sing: How Elites from Hollywood, Politics, and the UN Are Subverting America, has five million. Other popular right-wing hosts include Bill O’Reilly, William Bennett, G. Gordon Liddy, and Michael Medved. (The liberal Air America is now carried on sixty-eight radio stations nationwide, but its daily audience is puny compared to that enjoyed by the right.)
As Anderson makes clear, these shows not only provide their own slant on the news, but also work ceaselessly to discredit what they call “liberal” news organizations. Day after day, talk radio echoes and magnifies the criticisms of the press made by the White House, charging The New York Times and The Washington Post, CBS and CNN with being for big government and against big business, for abortion rights and against gun rights, for Democrats and against Republicans.
In mid-October, I tuned in to Limbaugh’s show, aired in New York on WABC, and heard him spend much of his three hours defending the White House against press criticism that the President’s aides had scripted a videoconference between Bush and a group of soldiers in Iraq. Attempting to turn the tables and make the press the issue, Limbaugh cited several cases in which he claimed news organizations have helped to stage events, such as when a reporter from the Chattanooga Times Free Press helped shape the question a GI asked Donald Rumsfeld in Iraq about the lack of adequate armor for US military vehicles. This was a typical ploy by Limbaugh, who seeks at every opportunity to hail the progress being made in Iraq and to blame negative news on Bush-hating reporters.
Limbaugh’s three hours on WABC were followed by three by Sean Hannity, who denounced the media for its distorted coverage of Iraq and its “nonstop attack on the President” from the very start of the war. Then came two hours by Mark Levin, a lawyer turned talk show host who specializes in right-wing name-calling (he called Joseph Wilson and his wife “finks,” Judy Miller “a rat,” Ted Kennedy “a lifelong drunk,” The New York Times the “New York Slimes,” and Senator Charles Schumer “Chucky Schmucky”). Then came two hours by Laura Ingraham, who, also taking up the Bush staging charges, denounced the “elitist” press for scripting “everything” and being “out of touch with the American people.” Such tirades are issued daily on hundreds of stations around the country.
An even bigger boon to the right, in Brian Anderson’s view, has been the rise of cable news, especially Fox News. Founded in 1996, Fox first surpassed CNN in the ratings in early 2002 and now consistently outdraws it. It is available to more than 85 million subscribers, and, on average, it attracts more than eight million people daily—more than double the number who watch CNN. As with talk radio, Fox relentlessly hammers away at the press, casting it as fundamentally opposed to the values of ordinary Americans—particularly in such matters as abortion, faith, and fighting terrorism. Last spring, New York Times executive editor Bill Keller estimated that last year Fox’s Bill O’Reilly had attacked his paper no fewer than sixty times.
Last May, during the controversy over Newsweek’s report that a copy of the Koran had been flushed down a toilet at Guantánamo, Hannity & Colmes presented a report from Ramadi, Iraq, where Oliver North, now a Fox correspondent, was talking with Specialist Jonah Bishop of the US Army’s Second Infantry Division. North said that he’d just returned to al-Anbar Province after many previous visits:
Oliver North: It’s things like this false story that came out about what happened at Guantánamo that creates divisions between the Americans out here and our Iraqi allies. It would strike me that what we’re going to see, as a consequence of that, is an increase in the No. 1 unit of attack that they use against us, which is what?
Specialist Bishop: “IEDs.”
North: “That’s improvised explosive devices?”
Bishop: “That’s correct.”
In other words, North was asserting that the brief item in Newsweek would cause more roadside bomb attacks on US forces, and, by implication, more deaths of US servicemen. For weeks, Fox regularly repeated its charge against Newsweek’s Koran report, neglecting to make any mention of the well-substantiated reports about the mishandling of the Koran at Guantánamo that were appearing in The New York Times and other papers. Fox was thus able to keep the issue alive in a way that the Bush administration by itself could not have done.
The “Fox effect,” as it’s called, is apparent at MSNBC, where Joe Scarborough nightly sounds like Bill O’Reilly, and at CNN. In recent years, as its ratings have declined, CNN has devoted more and more of its broadcast day to entertainment, commentary, and soft news. Here one can find a lineup of cautious and vacuous daytime anchors, the predictable attacks on outsourcing and Mexican immigration by Lou Dobbs, and the superficial celebrity interviews of Paula Zahn and Larry King. CNN’s coverage of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, including sharp reports on FEMA’s shameful neglect of New Orleans’s poor residents, shows that the network can still provide exceptional coverage in times of crisis, and in the weeks since CNN seems to be returning to a more serious approach to the news.
The Fox effect has been apparent, too, at the Sinclair Broadcast Group, whose sixty-plus stations give it access to a quarter of the US TV audience. Since late 2002, Brian Anderson observes, Sinclair has fed its affiliates a seventeen-minute news report that uses Fox’s slogan about being “fair and balanced.” The report includes an opinion feature called “Truth, Lies and Red Tape” that claims to present stories that the established networks “don’t want viewers to hear,” as a Sinclair executive put it. (One segment derided the United Nations for “spending more time and money defining the War on Terror instead of fighting it.”)
In April 2004, Sinclair directed its eight ABC affiliates not to run a Nightline segment in which Ted Koppel read the names of the more than one thousand US servicemen who had by then died in Iraq. In the ensuing controversy many conservative commentators defended Sinclair’s decision, and the discussion on talk radio, cable news, and the Internet helped foster the idea that the mere discussion of US combat deaths in Iraq is somehow unpatriotic. The Sinclair debate complemented the various steps the administration has taken to suppress coverage of US casualties. Only in the last few months, as insurgent violence has intensified and the number of American and Iraqi deaths has mounted, has the coverage of the war grown more skeptical on some TV news broadcasts. (On the same day that Scooter Libby’s indictment was announced, CNN chose to rebroadcast an hour-long report, “Dead Wrong,” on the Bush administration’s false claims about WMD.)
2. But it is a third, technological innovation that, along with the rise of talk radio and cable news, has made the conservative attack on the press particularly damaging: blogs. These Internet Web logs, which allow users to beam their innermost thoughts throughout the world, take no longer than a few minutes to set up. They first began to appear in the late 1990s, and there are currently more than 20 million of them. As one critic has observed, many are by adolescent girls writing their diaries on-line. Those with any substantial readership and political influence probably number in the hundreds, and most of these are conservative. As Brian Anderson writes with considerable understatement, “the blogosphere currently leans right.”
At The Truth Laid Bear, a Web site that ranks political blogs according to their number of links with other sites, eight of the top ten blogs are conservative. The conservative sites include InstaPundit (University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds), Power Line (three lawyers), michellemalkin.com (a syndicated columnist whose recent book defends the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II), Free Republic (conservative activists), Captain’s Quarters (run by a call-center manager), the Volokh Conspiracy (mostly law professors), and Little Green Footballs (commentary on foreign policy with a strong pro-Israel slant). Complementing them are a host of “milblogs,” written by active-duty military personnel promoting vigorous pursuit of the GWOT (Global War on Terror). (By far the most-visited political blog is the left-of-center Daily Kos; its popularity is owing in part to its community-style approach, which allows registered readers to post their own comments as well as comment on the posts of others.)
In addition to being linked to one another, these blogs are regularly featured on more established right-of-center Web sites such as the Drudge Report (three billion visits a year), WorldNetDaily (which appeals to the Christian right), and Dow Jones’s OpinionJournal, which features James Taranto’s widely read “Best of the Web Today.” These sites, in turn, are regularly trolled by commentators like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, who then publicize many of their messages over TV, radio, and their own Web sites. NationalReviewOnline seeks out new conservative blogs and launches them with great fanfare. And the Bush administration actively supports these efforts. Last December, for instance, Lynne Cheney observed on the MSNBC program Hardball that she regularly reads Instapundit and Power Line—a powerful recruiting tool for those sites.
For these bloggers, the principal target is the mainstream media, or MSM. Every day, they scrutinize the top dailies, the three broadcast networks as well as CNN, and the newsweeklies for evidence of “liberal bias.” Over the last year, they have demonstrated their influence. When 60 Minutes ran its segment on the memos about George Bush’s National Guard service, Power Line led the way in raising doubts about the authenticity of the documents and the reliability of their source. After CBS apologized, the remaining serious questions about Bush’s National Guard service were abruptly dropped by CBS and the press in general.4
Last fall, when Wall Street Journal correspondent Farnaz Fassihi sent her friends a group e-mail that bluntly described the deteriorating security situation in Baghdad, right-wing bloggers accused her of bias and demanded her recall. The Journal quickly announced that Fassihi would take a previously scheduled vacation and so remain out of Iraq until after the US presidential election. (She has since resumed reporting from Iraq.) Earlier this year, when CNN president Eason Jordan claimed at the Davos summit that the US military was deliberately targeting journalists critical of the war in Iraq, bloggers exploded in outrage. Within days, a computer software analyst in Medford, New Jersey, had set up a new Web site, Easongate.com, to stoke anger against Jordan on the Internet. From there, the controversy jumped to TV, and soon after Jordan resigned.
Liberal bloggers have had some successes of their own. Partly as a result of their commentaries, for instance, the press has paid more attention to the so-called Downing Street memo of July 2002, in which Tony Blair and his advisers discussed the Bush administration’s plans for war in Iraq. In addition to Daily Kos, prominent left-leaning blogs include Talking Points Memo, Eschaton, and, for commentary on Iraq, Informed Comment. While these sites are critical of the national press, their main fire is directed at the Bush administration. What’s more, these sites are not supported by an interconnected system of talk radio programs and cable television commentary, and their influence therefore tends to be much more limited.
The thick web of connections among right-wing commentators is typified by Hugh Hewitt. A law professor who once served as the director of the Nixon Library, Hewitt hosts a nationally syndicated radio talk show from a studio in an Orange County, California, mall. In between chats with studio guests, he posts commentary on his blog, hughhewitt.com, which receives about 40,000 visits a day. He contributes a weekly column to the Daily Standard, the online edition of the conservative Weekly Standard. Hewitt is also an evangelical Christian who sees blogs as an effective way to spread the word of Christ. According to World, an evangelical monthly magazine, Hewitt “may well be the world’s leading blog-evangelist.” An entire Web site has been set up to record the blogs he has helped inspire; it currently lists more than 250. On his own blog, Hewitt regularly flags what he considers to be instances of anti-Christian bias in the press. In mid-June, for instance, when The New York Times ran an article about the growing number of evangelical chaplains in the armed forces and the tensions they were causing, Hewitt observed that this was the latest installment in the Times’s “Drive Evangelicals from the Military” series.5
Christian bloggers are part of a growing group of Christian news providers. As Mariah Blake reported in the May/ June Columbia Journalism Review, the Christian Broadcasting Network, home to Pat Robertson’s 700 Club, today employs more than a thousand people working at stations in three US cities and several foreign countries. Evangelicals control six national TV networks and some two thousand religious radio stations. “Thanks to Christian radio’s rapid growth,” Blake observes, “religious stations now outnumber every other format except country music and news-talk”—the latter category, as we have seen, also overwhelmingly dominated by the right.
For three years before the Terri Schiavo case got national attention, it was constantly discussed on Christian stations, which sought to frame the issue as one of activist judges who were not upholding the sanctity of life. Soon after Bush was elected in 2000, directors of the National Religious Broadcasters were invited to meet the President and John Ashcroft, and the group has held monthly conference calls with the White House ever since. All in all, Blake observes, evangelical broadcasters have “remained hidden in plain sight—a powerful but largely unnoticed force shaping American politics and culture.”
The rapid growth of conservative outlets for commentary has contributed to a siege mentality among journalists. Steve Lovelady, who edits CJR Daily, a blog sponsored by the Columbia Journalism Review, told me that based on the frequent e-mails he receives from editors and reporters around the country, he thinks that newsrooms are in a state of “growing panic.” Journalists “feel like they’ve never been under greater attack,” Lovelady says. “Press criticism seems harsher and more accusatory than it used to be.”
In addition to feeling under attack from without, Lovelady adds, journalists feel threatened from within. In previous decades, the major newspapers were mostly owned by family-run companies, which usually insulated newsrooms from the vicissitudes of the stock market. Today, most newspapers are owned by large publicly held corporations, for which profit margins are increasingly more important than investment in better reporting. This has sapped news organizations of their ability to defend themselves at precisely the moment they need it most.
3. The much-discussed fortunes of the Los Angeles Times are a case in point. For more than four generations, the paper was published by members of the Chandler family, who were controlling shareholders of the Times Mirror Company, which, in addition to the Times, owned Newsday, the Baltimore Sun, and the Hartford Courant. In 2000, however, Times Mirror was bought by the Chicago-based Tribune Company, a huge corporation that had become accustomed to 30 percent annual profit margins. (In addition to the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, the Tribune Company owns nine other papers, twenty-six television stations, a 22 percent share in the WB television network, and the Chicago Cubs baseball team.)
The purchase came shortly after the revelation that top executives at the Los Angeles Times had approved a deal with the Staples Center to share the advertising proceeds from a special section about the sports and entertainment arena, an arrangement widely criticized as breaching the traditional wall between news and business. At first, Tribune executives seemed committed to restoring the Times’s strong reputation, as reflected in their decision to hire John Carroll, the widely respected editor of the Baltimore Sun, as the paper’s new editor. And Carroll came through: in 2004, the paper won five Pulitzer Prizes, the second most ever for a paper (after the seven won by The New York Times in 2002). Financially, though, the paper was still feeling the effects of the 2000 recession, with advertising revenue sharply declining and circulation dropping well below its traditional level of more than one million.
The paper continued to be very profitable, but its margins had dipped below the 20 to 25 percent it had achieved in its most prosperous years. At the same time, the paper had come under heavy attack from southern California bloggers such as Hugh Hewitt, who portrayed it as liberal, lofty, and out of touch. According to Ken Auletta, in The New Yorker, more than a thousand Los Angeles Times readers canceled their subscriptions after the paper ran a story critical of Arnold Schwarzenegger just before the 2003 recall election that brought him to office.6
Between 2000 and 2004, the Tribune Company extracted some $130 million from the paper’s annual billion-dollar budget. Then, weeks after the 2004 Pulitzer Prizes were announced, Tribune executives informed Carroll that further cuts were needed, and over the summer more than sixty staff members took voluntary buyouts or were laid off. The Washington bureau lost 10 percent of its staff, and those who remained were assigned to a new office along with the much-reduced Washington bureaus of the Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun, Newsday, and other Tribune papers. The cutbacks have made it harder for reporters at these papers to meet their daily deadlines, much less undertake in-depth reporting. In July of this year, in the face of demands for more cuts, Carroll resigned from the Times.
The developments at the Tribune Company mirror those in the newspaper industry as a whole. For most big-city papers, circulation is declining, advertising is shrinking, and reporters and editors are being let go. The full extent of the crisis became apparent in May, when the Audit Bureau of Circulations reported circulation figures for 814 daily papers for the six months ending last March. Compared to the same period the year before, total daily circulation fell by 1.9 percent and Sunday circulation by 2.5 percent. Sunday circulation fell by 2 percent at The Boston Globe, 3.3 percent at the Philadelphia Inquirer, 4.7 percent at the Chicago Tribune, and 8.5 percent at the Baltimore Sun. At the Los Angeles Times, circulation fell 6.4 percent daily and 7.9 percent on Sundays. Even The Washington Post, the dominant paper in a region of strong economic growth, has suffered a 5.2 percent daily circulation decline over a two-year period.
There are a few exceptions. The New York Times and USA Today, both national newspapers, have had modest circulation gains. Even so, the New York Times Company announced in October that it was going to eliminate five hundred jobs, including forty-five in the Times newsroom and thirty-five in the newsroom of The Boston Globe. (The Globe recently announced that it was dismantling its national desk.) The Wall Street Journal has been holding its own in circulation, but its ad revenues have sharply declined.
It is a striking paradox, however, that newspapers, for all their problems, remain huge moneymakers. In 2004, the industry’s average profit margin was 20.5 percent. Some papers routinely earn in excess of 30 percent. By comparison, the average profit margin for the Fortune 500 in 2004 was about 6 percent. If the Los Angeles Times were allowed to operate at a 10 to 15 percent margin, John Carroll told me earlier this year, “it would be a juggernaut.”
Back in the 1970s and 1980s, when most papers went public, they had little trouble maintaining such levels. Many enjoyed a monopoly in their markets, and realtors, car dealers, and local stores had no choice except to advertise in them. The introduction of new printing technology helped to reduce labor costs and to shift power away from unions and toward management. But papers have since faced successive waves of new competition—first from TV, then from cable, and now from the Internet. Yet Wall Street continues to demand the same high profits. “Of all the concerns facing newspapers,” Carroll told me,
I’m most worried about cost cutting. Many CEOs are in a hard place, having to deliver short-term financial results or, most likely, get fired. Newspapers are very profitable, but their growth is slow, which means incessant cost cutting to meet Wall Street’s expectations. The cost cutting leads to weaker journalism—fewer reporters, fewer photographers, fewer editors, fewer pages in the paper.
Gene Roberts, a former editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer who left that paper over ongoing demands for cuts in his news operation, says that cutting news budgets to hit profit targets is a form of “systematic suicide.” How can newspapers continue to insist on annual profit margins of 25 to 30 percent “and remain appealing to readers?” he asked. He argues that newspapers should respond to the increasing competition by investing more, not less, in newsrooms: “I think most papers could easily get their circulations up—maybe not gigantically, but they could certainly stop the erosion and head in the other direction if they served their readers better.”
But many experts on the newspaper business are not convinced. John Morton, a well-known newspaper analyst, points out that some very well-run companies, such as The Washington Post, have hired more reporters, foreign correspondents, and editors, yet continue to lose circulation. The reason, he says, is clear: the disappearance of young readers. “It is the fundamental problem facing the industry,” Morton says. “It’s probably not going away. And no one has figured a way out.”
4. The full extent of this problem is described in Tuned Out: Why Americans Under 40 Don’t Follow the News, by David T.Z. Mindich.7 A former assignment editor for CNN who now teaches journalism at St. Michael’s College in Vermont, Mindich writes that while more than 70 percent of older Americans read a newspaper every day, fewer than 20 percent of young Americans do. As a result, he writes, “America is facing the greatest exodus of informed citizenship in its history.” Of twenty-three students asked to name as many members of the Supreme Court as they could, eighteen could not name even one. It is frequently argued that young people are always less interested than their parents in following the news; as they get older, they’ll undoubtedly become more engaged. Mindich thinks not. In the 1950s and 1960s, he observes, “young people were nearly as informed about news and politics as their elders were.” If young people aren’t reading newspapers now, he argues, there’s a good chance they won’t as adults.
All eyes are now on the Internet. Even as paid circulation has dwindled at many papers, the number of visits to their Web sites has soared. Both nytimes.com and washingtonpost.com rank among the top twenty on-line global news sites; in September, the Times site received visits from more than 21 million different users. Because these sites are mostly free, however, many readers have switched to them from print editions, which can cost several hundred dollars for an annual subscription. But there is no clear indication that young people are more likely to read news on the Internet than in print. According to Mindich, only 11 percent of young adults in a recent survey cited the Internet as a major source of news. Moreover, with the exception of The Wall Street Journal, which runs a profitable subscription-only Web site, newspapers have until now failed to establish an on-line presence for which readers are willing to pay. In September, the New York Times Web site launched “TimesSelect,” a new premium service that charges $49.95 a year for access to the paper’s archives and select Op-Ed-page commentary (except for subscribers, for whom access is free). But it remains unclear whether such a service will generate significant revenue.
For the Web to become profitable, it will need to be supported by advertising. To date, the returns here have been modest, but they are growing. This year, for instance, latimes.com expects to take in $50 million, with ad revenues doubling in each of the next few years. In the long term, most observers agree, the future of newspapers lies with the Web, where transmitting the news requires no expensive newsprint, delivery trucks, or union drivers. The question is, can the Internet generate revenue—and readers—fast enough to make up for the shortfalls from print?
If the newspaper industry continues to shrink in response to the unrealistic expectations of Wall Street, the loss would be incalculable. The major metropolitan dailies, for all their faults, are the main collectors and distributors of news in America. The TV networks, to the extent they still offer serious hard news coverage, get many of their story ideas from papers such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, The Boston Globe, and The Christian Science Monitor. Even the bloggers who so hate the “mainstream media” get much of their raw material from it. If the leading newspapers lose their capacity to report and conduct inquiries, the American public will become even more susceptible to the manipulations and deceptions of those in power.
The central question, in light of these difficulties, is how the press will respond. The environment in which the press works is often inhospitable, but it’s precisely in times of crisis and upheaval that some of the best journalism gets done. Unfortunately, a look at the press’s recent performance—including that of our leading newspapers—is not encouraging. As I will try to show in a subsequent article, news organizations, rather than push back against the forces confronting them, have too often retreated andacquiesced.
—This is the first of two articles.
Letters
'The End of News?' March 23, 2006
1. See GAO reports to Senators Frank R. Lautenberg and Edward M. Kennedy, “Department of Education—Contract to Obtain Services of Armstrong Williams” [B-305368] and “Department of Education—No Child Left Behind Act Video News Release and Media Analysis” [B-304228], September 30, 2005.
2. Regnery, 2005.
3. The reporting of Knight Ridder’s Washington Bureau was one of the few exceptions to this trend. See my articles in these pages, “Now They Tell Us,” The New York Review, February 26, 2004; and “Unfit to Print?” The New York Review, June 24, 2004.
4. For an analysis raising questions about CBS’s internal investigation, see James Goodale’s article “The Flawed Report on Dan Rather,” The New York Review, April 7, 2005, and the correspondence that followed in The New York Review, May 12, 2005.
5. For more on Hewitt and his influence, see Nicholas Lemann, “Right Hook,” The New Yorker, August 29, 2005.
6. See “Fault Line,” The New Yorker, October 10, 2005.
7. Oxford University Press, 2004.
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