I remember a conversation I had with a broadcast news executive many years ago.Barone goes on to describe two grievous reporting errors that required embarrassing corrections in The New York Times: The mythical Biloxi hurricane victim and the misidentified man in an Abu Ghraib picture (stories I blogged on here and here, respectively), and notes:
"Doesn't the fact that 90 percent of your people are Democrats affect your work product?" I asked.
"Oh, no, no," he said. "Our people are professional. They have standards of objectivity and professionalism, so that their own views don't affect the news."
"So what you're saying," I said, "is that your work product would be identical if 90 percent of your people were Republicans."
He quickly replied, "No, then it would be biased."
I have been closely acquainted with newsroom cultures for more than 30 years, and I recognize the attitude. Only liberals can see the world clearly. Conservatives are prevented by their warped and ungenerous views from recognizing the world as it is.
The New York Times and The Washington Post have often hired as reporters writers who have worked on liberal publications like The New Republic, The Washington Monthly and The American Prospect -- and many of those writers have produced fine work. But they have never hired as reporters writers who have worked on conservative publications like National Review, The Weekly Standard and The American Spectator. News media executives like to brag about the diversity of their staffs, but there is precious little political diversity in most newsrooms.
And of course this affects the work product.
Both of these too-good-to-check stories of course reflected badly on the Bush administration, which seems to be a requirement for getting your story in the Times these days. The relentlessly negative coverage of Iraq in most news outlets falls in the same category. Stories about American heroes, stories about soldiers building schools and water systems, stories about the successes of Iraqis -- you have to look awfully hard to find them in most news media today. What you do see is a determination to make Vietnam and Watergate happen again.If it's bad news about Bush or the War in Iraq, all the "checks and balances" and "four layers of editing" the print press is supposed to be famous for fail to catch drop-dead obvious mistakes. Just a few of the many examples: fake combat vet Jimmy Massey; Rathergate; the disappearing weapons cache that really didn't disappear; and the big enchilada, "no weapons of mass destruction" (disproven five months ago by Richard Miniter, and supported with still-active links at this post).
It happens time and time again, and it all "strangely" goes in the Bush and anti-war direction. And it will continue to, as long as they see nothing wrong with 90% liberally-stacked newsrooms.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.