NYT: Conservatives Are Taking Over the Media

In an essay published on page B1 of today’s New York Times, columnist David Carr seeks to contradict an open letter which MRC president Brent Bozell and other leading conservatives signed which calls out the media for their favoritism toward President Barack Obama.

He appears to have a few problems making an intellectually coherent argument, however.

According to Carr, those who see liberal bias in the media (and decades of surveys show it is not just those on the right) ought not to complain because conservatives have a handful of places in which their views are actually allowed to be explored:

What is the No. 1 newspaper in America by circulation? Why, that would be The Wall Street Journal, a bastion of conservative values on its editorial pages and hardly a suspect when it comes to lefty news coverage. (Though it’s worth pointing out that the paper has published some very tough coverage of Mr. Romney.)

What about radio? Three of the top five radio broadcasters — Mr. Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and the recently departed Michael Savage — have outdrawn NPR’s morning and evening programs by a wide margin. In cable television, Fox News continues to pummel the competition.

Many Republicans see bias lurking in every live shot, but the growing hegemony of conservative voices makes manufacturing a partisan conspiracy a practical impossibility. [...]

It’s hard to picture conservatives as disenfranchised in the fight for attention from the news media, not after a campaign season in which the audition for the Republican nomination seemed to include some combination of hosting and making guest appearances on Fox News.

The leaps in logic are enough to make one's head spin. So apparently, even though all the broadcast networks, CNN and MSNBC, NPR, and every other newspaper with a large circulation is controlled by people who are liberal, there is a “growing hegemony” of conservatives in the media? How does that work out exactly? In David Carr’s world, one cable network, an editorial page and a handful of talk radio shows completely overwhelm the audience and influence of the vast majority of the American media apparatus.

Another laugh line is Carr’s insistence that liberal bias does not exist because of Facebook:

Back when Spiro Agnew went after the “nattering nabobs of negativism,” most people got their news from three networks and a handful of national newspapers. Network news still pulls in more than 20 million viewers nightly, and newspapers still matter in spite of their business struggles, but their influence is waning as thousands of new sources of information bloom.

As the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press pointed out last week, digital news has surpassed radio and newspapers and is quickly catching up to television. Social networks are soaring as a source of news, and since 2010, the report said, “there has been a sharp decline in the proportion of Americans who got news yesterday only from a traditional news platform — from 40 percent then to 33 percent currently.”

Problem is though, getting one’s news from the internet is not necessarily a means of avoiding the legacy media. Yahoo News, for instance, mostly is just a compilation of wire service reports. And how many people out there are actually reporting original news to their Facebook pals—aside from the latest updates on their cute nephew?

Carr also takes a moment to enlist Mitt Romney in support of his thesis that conservatives should shut up about media bias:

Another thing about the media blame game? It doesn’t work. Newt Gingrich ran hard against the news media and that didn’t turn out so great.

Mr. Romney seems to have realized that. After weeks of complaints from his surrogates that his campaign missteps were being invented and/or amplified by the news media, he is no longer regularly shooting the messenger.

“I think we have a system of free press,” he told CBS before an appearance in Toledo, Ohio. “People are able to provide their own perspective based upon their own beliefs. I think there are some people who are more in my camp, there’s a lot of people who are more in his camp, and I don’t worry about that.”

Apparently Carr is unaware of the standard presidential campaign practice of having surrogates, including the vice presidential candidate, to be the attack dogs, thus allowing the candidate to focus on the positive and his/her opponent. Romney’s comment is by no means an admonishment to conservatives to stop talking about media bias.

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