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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

That good old liberal press

Posted by: Jambo / 9:43 PM

Results from a recent Media Matters study:

  • Sixty percent of the nation's daily newspapers print more conservative syndicated columnists every week than progressive syndicated columnists. Only 20 percent run more progressives than conservatives, while the remaining 20 percent are evenly balanced.
  • In a given week, nationally syndicated progressive columnists are published in newspapers with a combined total circulation of 125 million. Conservative columnists, on the other hand, are published in newspapers with a combined total circulation of more than 152 million.2
  • The top 10 columnists as ranked by the number of papers in which they are carried include five conservatives, two centrists, and only three progressives.
  • The top 10 columnists as ranked by the total circulation of the papers in which they are published also include five conservatives, two centrists, and only three progressives.
  • In 38 states, the conservative voice is greater than the progressive voice -- in other words, conservative columns reach more readers in total than progressive columns. In only 12 states is the progressive voice greater than the conservative voice.

    I suppose some might quibble with some details. David Broder and Thomas Friedman are both listed as centrists, for example. In Freidman's case I think a number of folks on the left (Kos for example) would call him a conservative while I bet there are people on the right who call him a liberal. But maybe that is the very definition of a centrist. While to my mind Krugman is correctly labeled a liberal (he is also the best columnist of the last 6 years) I remember when he wrote about trade issues and economics in Slate and often pissed off economic populists. That said, this seems like a pretty valid study and to those not in the thrall of right-wing propaganda not all that surprising.

    One issue that is not addressed but would make the picture even more one-sided is the presence in the list of a number of writers who I would call completely disinterested in a fair and honest presentation of issues. Of the 100 listed that I am familiar with those folks are all on the right with Ann Coulter, Bill O'Reily, and Jonah Goldberg being the ones who jump out at me. These people are not journalists, they are dishonest smear artists pushing spin rather than facts. As far as I know there are no left wing counter parts on the list. I may rarely agree with guys like George Will, David Brooks, or even Pat Buchanan, but I will at least grant that they are for the most part intellectually honest and do not purposely ignore or distort facts for political purposes.

    [And Hammer would be disappointed if I did not point out, as I always do in these circumstances, that the so called liberal "Red Star" and Tribune has a weekly religion section and a daily business section but neither a science section nor a labor section.]

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    An interesting study. I'm not familiar with most of the people, and some I only see on tv. Bill O recently called Krugman a "radical" or something to that effect. It would be interesting to see how Will, Friedman, Brooks, and Dionne would rate the 100 in terms of intellectual honesty. My bet is that Krugman would be near the top of their list, and O'Reilly and Coulter would be at the bottom. My favorite tv guys are Keith Olberman and Chris Matthews - I don't recall seeing their names, so maybe they aren't in print.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:28 AM  

    There were a number of them I would not have known but for reading the local papers when I go back to visit my parents in SD. If you want an eye opening experience go to a small town and try to imagine what the local population learns about the world if all the news they get is from thier local papers.

    By Blogger Jambo, at 12:17 PM  

    Interesting stuff. I've obviously lost track of Pat Buchanan - last I remember hearing about him, he was a nutjob.

    Also, regarding the Strib's religion section... Religion does not equal conservative.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:04 PM  

    Nor does science equal liberal but the modern Republican party has sure tried to make it seem that way.

    By Blogger Jambo, at 9:50 PM  

    Anytime news and columnist are used in the same sentance we have an issue. A columnist can lie and get away with it and call it an opinion. The problem occurs when a media outlet is not balanced with opinions / columnists because it labels the whole outlet. I'm guilty of it. When I read the Argus Leader news stories I consider every story they write to be out to get the republicans because the Voices section and thier columnists are anti-republican.

    Jambo's moderate friend back home.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:34 AM  

    I'm afraid I can't agree. Is there any evidence that opinion columnists are any more likely to be dishonest than straight news reporters? I don't remember all the details but weren't most of the recent high profile scandals (Jason Blair, Jeff Gannon, etc.) news reporters rather than opinion writers? The bottom line for any journalist is intellectual honesty. And I don't think it is in any way a mark of good journalism that they run equal numbers of left and right views. When someone writes about the Holocaust do we always need to hear from a Holocaust denier for balance? If they are honest a news source they can be as unbalanced as they like and still provide a good value to the public. The Economist is a perfect example. No one would ever deny that they have a very definite world view and at times it is quite different than mine. But it is still one of the best news sources around because they don't run propaganda and they get their facts straight. I know their biases and take them into account when I read an article. I almost never agree with George Will but he is not a liar. I almost always DO agree with Paul Krugman and he's not a liar either. I have a mix of agreement with David Brooks and Thomas Friedman and neither of them are liars. None of them would claim to be unbiased. Fox News on the other hand does make the claim and they're basically a tool of the Republican party. Give me an honest opinion writer any day.

    As they say, the roll of newspapers is the "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable." In SD the comfortable, at least in electoral political terms, are mostly Republican. Seems right that local news outlets would be hounding them on a regular basis. In the event that Satan gets central air installed I would expect them to be a thorn in the side of SD's Democratic governor as well. (Out of curiosity, when did the state last have a Democratic governor or state legislature?) I obviously don't see the Argus that often but do you have any examples that they are overtly anti-Republican?

    By Blogger Jambo, at 1:09 AM  

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