Novak: Conservative Journos Forced to Stay 'In the Closet'

Young conservatives looking to get into mainstream journalism face a very difficult path according to veteran journalist Bob Novak.

The syndicated columnist made those remarks on a conference call with bloggers about his new book "The Prince of Darkness: 50 Years Reporting in Washington."

Novak blamed liberal discrimination which he said forces young conservatives to remain "in the closet" if they hope to have a career in media.

"One of the big differences in 50 years is that the liberals have now filtered into the executive ranks of journalism. And so if you go into journalism now not in the closet but out in the open as a conservative, you're going to have a hard time getting a job, believe me."

Conservatives also don't like journalism as a profession, Novak added, saying that when he goes to various colleges and universities, the young conservatives and libertarians he runs into rarely have any interest in journalism.

The syndicated columnist fit these trends into what he said was a general decline in the journalism business, despite the fact that it has become more professionalized:

"Journalism is a hard thing to gauge. When I set out with my first paper in the summer of 1948, for the Joliet Herald-News there were in the newsroom there about two or three people who had ever been to college. Journalism was not an educated person's game. So we're much better educated, we're sophisticated, we have people with graduate degrees—they know a lot more but are they better reporters than the others? I rather doubt.

"They don't seem to be interested in reporting what's really happening on a day-by-day basis. Particularly, congressional reporting has gone way downhill. I thought the coverage of the farm bill where, for example, the first time since 1933, a tax increase was attached to a farm bill. Now isn't that an interesting thing to put into the story? I didn't read that in any story anywhere. So I think there's an awful lot of journalism that's instead of reporting or investigating is bloviating, editorializing, opinionating, analyzing. Some people say that the news stories read more like columns than the columns these days. And to some extent, that's true."

Note: The picture I used to illustrate this post is a character on the FNC show "1/2 Hour News Hour." Click here to watch a skit.

Update 15:30 | Ken Shepherd. I'd like to share two things from Novak's chat at the Heritage Foundation today that that Matt didn't touch on.

1) Citing NB's findings about the media's coverage of John McCain's campaign woes, I asked Novak if he thought the media were just plain out of touch with the public about the immigration issue or whether it is an agenda item in the MSM to ignore how soft-on-illegal immigration stances are suicide for politicians, particularly Republicans and especially McCain. Novak agreed the silence was more an indication of adhering to an agenda that being unaware of the issue's potentcy with the general public.

2) Asked by another participant for practical advice to young conservatives starting out as journalists covering Washington, Novak stressed the basics of old-fashioned reporting: persistence in placing phone calls to congressional offices, taking the time to develop reliable sources, both with members of Congress and their staff, and asking questions of those sources with the aim of soliciting information to report, not "gotcha" questions that gaggles of reporters often toss out for a good sound bite or to advance a storyline.

Come to think of it, that last item is good advice for the seasoned veterans at the White House press corps, whose daily briefing questions often read like liberal talking points rather than genuine attempts to gain understanding of the White House's stance on an issue or policy matter.

Update 8-01 1:00 | Matthew Sheffield. See the video excerpts of Novak's Q&A courtesy of Rob Bluey, who is collecting blogger recounts as well.

Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield, creator of NewsBusters and president of Dialog New Media, an internet marketing and design firm, left NewsBusters at the end of 2013