Last Saturday, the University of California, Santa Barbara hosted a media-bias debate between the moderately conservative Tucker Carlson and the distinctly leftist Eric Alterman, and the UCSB student newspaper, the Daily Nexus, was on the scene. (Hat tip: Romenesko.)
Highlights from Devon Claire Flannery's piece:
Carlson opened the debate with the assertion that America’s poorly informed electorate is the result of a badly biased press. He attributed low levels of political awareness among Americans to a liberal bias in the media and expressed disapproval of the way the media portrays politics in the United States.
Carlson contended that three issues - abortion, the second amendment and gay marriage - are always presented from a left-leaning point of view in American media. On average, Carlson said, journalists tend to be white, come from liberal, coastal areas, graduate from liberal colleges, and as a result have the same culture and perspective of the world.
“Everybody in journalism is pro-choice, pro-gun control and for gay marriage,” Carlson said. “When you only have people [in the media] that all think the same, you do not have good coverage. You can’t cover America until you have a newsroom that looks like America … who thinks like America.”
However, Alterman said he thinks the media is being pushed toward a conservative bias.
“If we had a liberal media, then 44 percent of Americans would not have believed the Sept. 11 bombers were Iraqis,” Alterman said. “We get an extremely biased version of the news.”
Alterman also contended that, even if television pundits or politicians were not overtly liberally biased, the structure of media in general allows for much more coverage of conservative interests.
“Everyday I read the Business Section of the New York Times. Not the Labor Section, not the Environment Section,” Alterman said, referring to two nonexistent sections. “These are conservative assumptions.”
The debaters also responded to [moderator Ronald E.] Rice’s questions about new forms of media - like Internet blogs and podcasts - and their effects on information sharing around the world.
“It’s never bad to have more sources of information out there,” Carlson said.
Alterman somewhat disagreed.
“They allow for democratic conversation outside the media, which is good,” Alterman said. “But they also lack the gatekeeper function of the media, and that makes me a little bit nervous.”