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Jewish World Review April 2, 2002 /20 Nisan, 5762

Nat Hentoff

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Liberal bias in the media?


http://www.NewsandOpinion.com | Bernard Goldberg, for 28 years a persistently fair, probing reporter for CBS News in the tradition set there by Edward R. Murrow, has written a current best-selling book, ""Bias A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News," .

His detailing of liberal bias in the media has been fiercely attacked by such mandarins of journalism as Tom Shales of the Washington Post, Michael Kinsley of Slate, and Tom Goldstein, dean of Columbia University's School of Journalism.

One of Goldstein's former colleagues at CBS News, Eric Enberg, has charged that Goldberg has committed "an act of treason." In my longtime experience as a reporter, I have found that the two groups most thin-skinned when criticized are the police and journalists.

Yet, Goldberg accurately points out -- among many examples -- that when he asked a senior producer for "CBS Evening News" how often she went to conservative women's organizations to comment on Congressional votes or Supreme Court decisions on women's issues, "She couldn't think of a single time."

Goldberg himself is pro-choice, pro-gay rights, and describes himself "as an old-fashioned liberal." He does not maintain that there is a conspiracy among liberal journalist to distort the news. Rather, many of them -- especially in the big dailies -- "share the same values on ... abortion, gun control, feminism, gay rights, the environment, (and) school prayer."

They believe that decent, mainstream Americans think as they do. After all, how many of their friends are pro-life or believe that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed all racial preferences in education and the workplace?

An even more substantial illumination of instinctive, rather than deliberate, bias in the media is William McGowan's "Coloring the News." McGowan, widely published in major newspapers, is also an insider. His extensive research notes testify to the facts -- not just assumptions -- of his findings.

For example: Ward Connerly, a California Board of Regents member, who has spearheaded attempts in that state and in the nation against racial preferences, is himself black. As I can attest, he is a man of principle and courage. Yet, McGowan reports, "an editorial cartoon in the Oakland Tribune features him with a KKK hood and rope hanging nearby."

McGowan also quotes the confession of a San Francisco Chronicle reporter that "newsroom culture definitely sent a message that it was okay to go after Connerly ... without considering what he was really saying."

If I were editor of a newspaper, I would ask all reporters and editors to read "Coloring the News," and to assess its relevance to their experiences of newsroom cultures.

A personal story: some years ago, I received the National Press Foundation's award for "lifetime distinguished contributions to journalism." When I came to Washington, where the late Meg Greenfield of the Washington Post presented the award, I ran into a member of the jury that selected me. "You almost didn't make it," she said. "There was quite a fight. It wasn't about the quality of your work," she reassured me.

Although I am against capital punishment, am pro-labor, and vote as an independent, none of that would have counted with some members of the jury who were pro-choice.

Though I am non-religious, I'm pro-life, and that almost did me in.

A book that merits more attention than the mainstream press has given it also speaks to the instinctive stereotyping by many Americans -- not only journalists -- whose cherished belief in diversity does not include diversity of ideas with which they don't agree. The book, by the emphatically independent Tammy Bruce, is "The New Thought Police: Inside the Left's Assault on Free Speech and Free Minds."

Bruce, former president of the Los Angeles chapter of the National Organization for Women, is pro-abortion rights and an activist lesbian. Yet, she campaigned against the successful gay and lesbian drive to get Dr. Laura Schlessinger off television.

A true believer in free speech, she describes how rampant political correctness is limiting the diversity of views on college campuses, Hollywood, and television.

Everyone's right to freedom of conscience is not self-executing. We have to be careful to give everyone a hearing.



JWR contributor Nat Hentoff is a First Amendment authority and author of numerous books. Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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