'Now' on PBS Tonight: How the Media's Too Conservative and Pro-War

PBS’s left-wing program "Now" with David Brancaccio is interviewing another left-wing expert tonight to make a left-wing argument: that the national media is too soft on warmongers like George W. Bush. The guest is the dean of Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, Orville Schell, a contributor to Mother Jones and The Nation, among other hard-left publications. From the PBS website preview on Schell:

"The press has been accused of being the lap dog in the run-up to the war ... we gave the government the benefit of the doubt, I think, to the detriment of the nation as it turned out," he says.

Schell, who is the dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, describes the dilemma journalists face when reporting the news in wartime.

"[Reporters] know if they just come up with bad news, they're going to be pillared [sic]. They know their news outlets will be criticized. Advertisers will abandon," he says. This, he says, has made journalists more timid, cautious, and incapable of standing up to criticisms. Information is being kept from Americans, resulting in a democratic deficit, he says.

Schell weighs in on the White House's criticism of some American media outlets, most recently the New York Times. The Times came under renewed fire in June after publishing details of an effort by the Bush administration to collect bank records of suspected terrorists.

"We've entered into a very sort of dangerous and, for me, troubling time when the press have come under great attack," Schell said.

Here's an article on the allegedly pro-war press by Schell that should reflect his view tonight. Last year, Brent Bozell reported in his column that on one panel discussion, Schell

expressed the dominant media ethos well: "What we need is a news service that doesn't belong to any country." They want a People’s Republic of Medialand, a stateless organization of anti-war activists – the journalistic equivalent of the United Nations, Amnesty International, and a World Court of Public Opinion rolled into one.

Schell is also recognized as a Red China expert, having written several books on how the communist state was too enamored of the West. More than ten years ago, I wrote of Schell's credentials to be used as an ABC News consultant around the Tiananmen Square massacre:

ABC News hired as an on-air consultant Orville Schell, whose preface to his 1977 book In the People's Republic echoed [Michael] Oksenberg's Mao worship: "The word almost literally became flesh. And it seemed clear, even before Mao died, that his death could never erase the way in which he had almost become transubstantiated in his people." ABC touted Schell's newer book Discos and Democracy, but even in that book, he wrote of how the Chinese leadership "frequently spoke fearfully of the dangers of spiritual pollution, bourgeois liberalization, and wholesale Westernization, as if the outside world were a vast reservoir of pathogenic cultural bacteria waiting to attack and infect China. The metaphor was apt, but incomplete," because "its own cultural immune system had been so compromised...its people were unable to defend themselves against even normal risks of infection." On air, Schell deplored the massacre like everyone else, but his writings had been scolding the leadership for being too liberal for years.

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