A Real Lemann of a Media-Bias Comment From Columbia Journalism Dean

Hugh Hewitt thinks highly of Nicholas Lemann, dean of Columbia University's graduate school of journalism and a staff writer for the New Yorker. Last year, Lemann wrote a New Yorker profile of Hewitt which the subject considered “complete and fair.” Hewitt also was “impressed with [Lemann’s New Yorker] profiles of Dick Cheney and Karl Rove. (The Cheney profile earned Lemann some animosity among colleagues, who thought him too gentle with the only man the left fears as much as Rove.)” Apparently, though, it’s possible to both write evenhandedly about right-of-center figures, and run one of the best journalism schools in the country, and still be clueless regarding basic conservative arguments on liberal media bias.

The current New Yorker contains Lemann’s musings on radio and television news giant Edward R. Murrow. Lemann asserts that when Murrow took on Sen. Joe McCarthy back in 1954, 

It was great television, because it was a showdown between a journalist and a politician, but the days when a major figure on network television can pick that kind of fight, and openly state political opinions on prime time, are long gone. Today, famous broadcast journalists are far more likely to battle each other than Washington officials. Murrow’s McCarthy shows make an absurdity of the modern-day conservative accusation that, say, Dan Rather represents the introduction of a heretofore unknown ideological strain into broadcast journalism. The Murrow broadcasts were far more nakedly political than anything on network television today, and came from a source with a much bigger share of—and more adoration from—the audience than anybody has now. [Emphasis added.]

The quoted material in the first graph is from Hewitt’s story in the new Weekly Standard covering his two-day hangout last fall at Columbia’s J-school. The whole piece is worth a look, but a snippet of special interest to NewsBusters readers comes when Hewitt is asking sixteen students in the Advanced Reporting class some questions about their political leanings.

[Eleven] had voted for John Kerry, and one for George Bush (three are from abroad and not eligible, and one didn't vote for either candidate). I concluded by asking them if they "think George Bush is something of a dolt." There was unanimous agreement with this proposition, one of the widely shared views within elite media and elsewhere on the left. The president's Harvard MBA and four consecutive victories over Democrats judged "smarter" than him haven't made even a dent in that prejudice.

Tom Johnson
Tom Johnson
Tom Johnson is a contributing writer for NewsBusters