‘E&P’ Offers Special Report on Newsroom Bias, As Editors Defend Coverage

By: E&P Staff

In a special report published Monday, E&P offers an unprecedented look at alleged “liberal bias” in the newsroom, based on dozens of interviews with editors, reporters, media critics, academics, pollsters, and other observers.

The August cover story, “The Liberal Newsroom: Myth or Reality?”, concludes that, indeed, there are more liberals than conservatives at newspapers — but an overwhelmingly number of editors reject calls for any “ideological affirmative action” program.

Many conservatives, such as columnist Cal Thomas, also do not favor media outlets hiring a “quota” of those leaning to the right, even as they continue to criticize the alleged liberal tilt of the press.

One problem is that relatively few conservatives seem to be interested in working for newspapers. “It’s just not the kind of thing conservatives do,” Thomas said. But others, such as media critic William McGowan, claim conservative applicants “get stopped at the door.”

Editors, often hit hard in “the bias war,” admit there is no such thing as an “objective” reporter, but they argue strongly that their newspapers do provide balanced journalism. Their newsrooms, they argue, overcome political beliefs with strict adherence to “professionalism.”

The vast majority, in fact, say they don’t even know the ideological makeup of their newsrooms, and that they never ask job applicants about their political views.

Many editors, however, admit they “live lives different from our readers,” as one put it, and this causes a “values gap.” For example, Frank Newport, editor in chief of The Gallup Poll, said of journalists: “They don’t go to church.”

The entire cover package, which includes the main article written by Joe Strupp, columns by Editor Greg Mitchell and Jay Rosen, and separate stories on journalism schools, the Web newsroom, opinion columnists and political cartoonists, is now available to all site visitors.

Among the dozens interviewed for the report were more than two dozen editors from a cross-section of papers, journalism school deans such as Nicholas Lemann, and outside observers such as John Leo, Robert Lichter and Andrew Kohut.

However, even as more and more conservatives charge that the press leans left, “a growing number of liberals,” E&P reports, now feel that much of the media “slants to the right.”

This leads E&P to pose the question: Is there really more “biased” coverage today, or simply that “more people today, left and right, are looking for news coverage that validates their world view”? E&P labels this “information segregation.”

The special report features an illustration by this year’s Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Matt Davies. The cover of the issue features a photograph of a reporter at his cubicle, which holds copies of books by Al Franken and Bill Clinton, a poster of Michael Moore, a Kerry-Edwards bumper sticker, and MoveOn.org on his computer screen, with the caption, “Who, me?”

Other findings:

* One area where there are more conservatives than liberals: among opinion columnists, with George Will and Cal Thomas in more papers than anyone.

* People who work at news sites on the Web, contrary to the stereotype, are no more liberal than their counterparts at the “old media.”

* A major trend uncovered by E&P: Journalism school graduates are increasingly entering the field of public relations, leading even more conservatives away from newsrooms.

To read the entire package, visit our In Print section.

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