NBC's Chuck Todd: Media Bias Isn't Liberal, It's Geographic, a New York-DC Snobbery

NBC White House correspondent Chuck Todd gave an interview to Dylan Byers of Politico where he suggested the media's coverage of politics is often wrong: "we incorrectly cover American politics 60 percent of the time."

What? What would explain this tilt? Todd insists there hasn't been liberal/ideological bias for a long time, but "we don't understand their day-to-day lives" outside the New York-DC bubble, and look down at their church-going and WalMart-shopping:

Nothing chaps my ass more than New York-centric coverage of American politics. Because its through the New York prism that we incorrectly cover American politics 60% of the time. To me, the ideological bias in the media really hasn’t been there in a long time. But what is there that people mistake for ideological bias is geographic bias. It’s seeing everything through the lens of New York and Washington.

So, for instance, I’ve always thought we collectively as the media covered this recession horribly, because the two markets that actually weathered it better than almost any in the country were New York and Washington. That didn’t mean we didn’t cover it, but we only covered it statistically. We didn’t cover it from the kitchen table. Imagine if we still had news bureaus in Denver, in Miami -- these places were it was really front line, front and center.

Someone who thinks the media are ideological (ahem) would reply that the networks didn’t cover the recession as a red-state kitchen-table issue very deeply because that might hurt Obama on the polling question asking if the president understands and sympathizes with the struggles of “people like you.”

The next paragraph suggests that Todd really does see at least a cultural bias:

I think sometimes there are too many people who cover politics that don’t understand the grassroots of the Republican party, and part of it is motivated by this anti-New York and Washington bias, if you will. Part of what animates them is, ‘If they’re pushing it, I’m against it.’

So the ruling elites of Manhattan and Georgetown have a habit of opposing whatever they're favoring in Flyover Country. But that's not ideological? Or there's an anti-religion bias:

But also that we don’t understand their day to day lives. That we don’t respect the fact that they go to church twice a week. That when we look our noses down upon Wal-Mart, they see it as the only place to shop.

Dear Chuck: Those of us who grew up in small rural towns know there are more places to shop than Wal-Mart. It's just usually the cheapest. Small-town people even get nervous that  Wal-Mart will close down all the Mom-and-Pop stores that can't always compete on price.

Nevertheless, Todd deserves some credit for acknowledging a problem, an imbalance to be considered in the daily grind of political reporting. If NBC actually shared that concern, the coverage of  (for one example) the contraceptive mandate wouldn't have carried the resolutely pro-Obama echo that NBC has sounded.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis