There are things certain groups of people tend to say as if it is almost a catchphrase for their demographic. It’s the mantra or belief that they fall back on when they have no other argument. “The media is liberal” is one of those catchphrases, mostly used by conservatives to show a bias against, and thus silencing, their world view, as if the xenophobia, extensive rejection of science, the promotion of Christianity and the exclusion of any other religious views, and the economic policy that favors the insanely rich weren’t enough reasons to keep them quiet.
The thing is, they’re right.
Before getting into why they’re right, we must first understand the biggest point of contention between liberalism and conservatism: the acknowledgment, acceptance, and promotion of change. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines liberalism as “ a political philosophy based on belief in progress, the essential goodness of the human race, and the autonomy of the individual and standing for the protection of political and civil liberties; such a philosophy that considers government as a crucial instrument for amelioration of social inequities (such as those involving race, gender, or class).” Conversely, their definition of conservatism is “ a political philosophy based on tradition and social stability, stressing established institutions, and preferring gradual development to abrupt change; the tendency to prefer an existing or traditional situation to change.” (Highlights are my own.) In short, liberalism embraces change, values diversity, and prefers evolving with the ever-changing world. Conservatism would rather fall back on tradition, using tried and true methods instead of entertaining new ways of doing things, and stay socially, culturally, and economically rigid in perpetuity.
What conservatism doesn’t account for, and that liberalism realizes, is that our world changes every day. Every new human born is a new perspective and a new collection of challenges to be solved. Social, cultural, and political movements start up, affect our lives, and end just as swiftly. Abrupt, constant change is the natural way of things, and conservatives hate it.
So how does journalism fit into this? By its very nature, journalism, and news media as a whole, is the institution specifically designed to announce change. Not only that, its job as the fourth estate is to inform the populous (mostly the middle and lower classes) about the actions of those in power (mostly the rich), regardless of whether those actions are beneficial or detrimental to society. Anyone with half a brain can see why conservatives distrust and try to discredit the news media. It’s hard to keep secrets with pesky journalists poking around and asking questions.
Not only is the institution of the news media inherently liberal, those that work in the industry tend to be as well. A May 2004 survey by the Pew Research Center showed that while 54 percent of journalists surveyed consider themselves “moderate,” over one third of national press members and 23 percent of local journalists considered themselves liberal, while only 7 percent of national press members and 12 percent of local press claimed to be conservative. While it may seem that being moderate is the preferred alignment for an occupation that relies on non-partisan objectivity, the number may be inflated due to the reluctance of liberal journalists to divulge their political leanings, according to Tim Graham, the executive editor of NewsBusters, in a Washington Times article by Erik Wemple.
“Journalists have gotten incredibly reluctant to identify with a party. I suspect liberals check the ‘independent’ box to avoid being properly identified,” said Graham.
It’s also worth noting that national and local news media members tend to skew the same way. In the Pew Research Center survey, 61 percent of local news journalists surveyed claimed moderate leanings. This high number could also be inflated if Graham’s claim is correct, as local media consumers, and the general public, lean conservative. Another factor is that national news organizations tend to be headquartered in major cities in which the city populations tend to lean liberal, and hire from the local job force, as Wemple mentions in his article.
Wemple also acknowledges that there are other factors that attract liberals to the profession. Wemple quotes Tracy Grant, deputy editing manager of the Washington Post, about what Wemple calls “the crusader explanation.”
“I think people are called to this profession sometimes have a sense of mission about shining light in dark places,” said Grant. “I think there is a sensibility among people who feel that calling and if there is a commonality of people who go into journalism, it is people inspired by things like Watergate or ‘Spotlight’ — that idea of telling stories that need to be told and so that does represent a little bit of rooting for the underdog mentality.”
It seems that there is plenty of evidence that the news media has a liberal slant, but that doesn’t mean that it is soft on liberal politicians or purveyors of liberal thought. Grant says in Wemple’s article that she thinks “that anybody who thinks that the mainstream media — the Washington Post — didn’t make Hillary Clinton’s life miserable or Barack Obama’s life miserable by holding them accountable is just not looking at the record.” Those who take pride in maintaining an ideology have a responsibility to keep those who claim to share their ideology in check.
Yes, Conservatives. You are correct. The news is liberal. Your ideology will have to struggle a bit to get your views heard by the masses. When a group of people’s message is not only widely criticized, but constantly called out for its inability to adapt to the social, cultural, and economic climates, it may be time to re-examine that message and an effort to embrace change might be in order.
Or you can just watch Fox News.