J.F. Kelly, Jr. - Contributor
Kelly, Jr. is a retired Navy Captain and bank executive who
writes on current events and military subjects. He is a resident
of Coronado, California. [go to Kelly index]
in the Media
Agenda journalism and "objective" reporting...
[J. F. Kelly, Jr.] 7/6/04
The San Diego Union-Tribune’s conservative,
nationally syndicated columnist, recently
wrote that journalists
should come out of the closet and reveal their political biases.
Not that these biases aren’t already evident to many readers,
he feels, nevertheless, that they should come right out and admit
to them as Don Hewitt, executive producer of “60 Minutes” has
Mr. Hewitt admitted
his partiality to John Kerry. Gee, what a surprise. The popular
TV show is billed by CBS as a television
news magazine, which implies that it is non-partisan. “60
minutes” non-partisan? Please!
The reality, said Mr. Perkins, is that most major news organizations
are guilty of the same thing. They feign objectivity but most
of those who select, edit, format and present the news are democrats
and liberals. He offers as evidence a 1996 Roper survey of 139
Washington correspondents, 89% of whom said they voted for Bill
Clinton in 1992 as opposed to only 7% who said they voted for
George H. W. Bush. 61% acknowledged being liberal or liberal
to moderate while less than one-tenth described themselves as
republican or moderate to republican. Half of the respondents
admitted outright to being democrats while only 4% said they
American newspapers, news magazines and radio stations claim
that their staffs reflect diversity. This may be true in terms
of race and gender but certainly not with regard to political
orientation and affiliation. With as many as 90% leaning to the
left of the political spectrum, would you expect bias to creep
into their reporting or do you believe they put aside their personal
political preferences and achieve objectivity? If you believe
the latter, than you also believe that the fox can be depended
upon to do a good job in guarding the henhouse.
These statistics coincide remarkably with the results of similar
surveys of American university faculties, which found entire
academic departments to be virtually free of republican or conservative
contamination. An overwhelming majority of faculty members identify
themselves as liberal, democrats or Greens. Conservative organizations
and student publications on college campuses are almost as rare
as ROTC units and those that survive are under constant attack
from the campus liberals and guardians of political correctness.
I contend there is a direct connection between the liberal orientation
on campus and in the media.
Young journalism majors
aspiring to careers in that profession undergo the same liberal
socialization in college as do most
of the rest of the undergraduates. Not all of them, of course,
but most carry their liberal orientation with them into their
new careers. It should come as no surprise that they now populate
the newsrooms and even the editorial departments of even nominally
conservative newspapers and television stations. The publisher’s
conservative views may be reflected in the editorials, but reporters,
headline writers and columnists have become predominantly liberal.
They can’t help it. They were taught these values in college.
Some grow out of it as the real world intrudes on their idealism
but most don’t, as the surveys clearly indicate.
How did liberals gain control of the campuses and the media?
After WW II, veterans flocking to universities on the GI Bill,
together with a swelling population caused tremendous growth
in campus populations. Always fertile breeding grounds for new
and frequently radical ideas, faculties and student bodies produced
large numbers of protestors against the status quo and the establishment.
The largely conservative, business oriented newspapers of the
time were viewed as the voice of the establishment. The Vietnam
conflict, an extremely unpopular war, became a cause on campuses
and a reason to rebel against the establishment and authority.
The image of the ugly American was nurtured by faculties and
with it the tendency to blame America first for the troubles
of the world.
How could we expect
otherwise? University professors value original and critical
thinking in their students. Students are taught
to challenge assumptions and old ways of doing things. It’s
convenient to turn that critical thinking toward the establishment
and the status quo. There is, admittedly, plenty to criticize.
Students who please their professors are generally rewarded by
good grades. Duh!
Fifty years ago, journalism students were taught to keep opinion
and subjectivity out of reporting. Opinion belonged on the opinion
pages. News stories rarely carried by-lines. How things have
changed. Today, the placement and editing of a news story, pictures
and cartoons and the spin that the headline writer imparts can
directly affect what the reader infers.
I agree with Mr. Perkins that journalists should reveal their
political orientation out of fairness to the readers, many of
whom, unfortunately, take as gospel what they hear on TV or read
in the newspapers. I would add the view that college professors
would better serve their students by being equally forthcoming.
Students deserve these disclosures even more because, unlike
readers and TV viewers, they usually constitute a captive audience. CRO
2004 J. F. Kelly, Jr.