Paul Andersen: Fair Game
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
Is it any wonder why the new Ayn Rand movie – “Atlas Shrugged” – has received tepid reviews? Aside from two-dimensional characters and ranting monologues, there is another reason for a poor reception.
Consider who’s reviewing it: members of the liberal media. There’s no liberal alive who can cheerlead for the philosophy called “Objectivism” that Rand promotes in her book. It’s too brutally self-centered and materialistic to attract a true liberal.
Conservatives bemoan the media as liberal when confronting a prevalent liberal bias. There are conservatives in the media on Fox News, talk radio, right wing blogs and a handful of periodicals, but they don’t make up the rank and file of reporters, editors, columnists, and broadcasters – the people who end up controlling the majority of news content and editorial slant.
Wikipedia describes “liberal media bias” with survey results from the 1986 book on American journalism, “The Media Elite”: “The survey found that most of the journalists surveyed [New York Times, Washington Post, broadcast networks] were Democratic voters whose attitudes were well to the left of the general public on a variety of topics, including such hot-button social issues such as abortion, affirmative action, and gay rights.”
The goal of objectivity in reporting was seen as lacking in these media liberals: “The authors concluded that journalists’ coverage of controversial issues reflected their own attitudes, and the predominance of political liberals in newsrooms therefore pushed news coverage in a liberal direction. They presented this tilt as a mostly unconscious process of like-minded individuals projecting their shared assumptions onto their interpretations of reality.”
This is natural because, no matter how emphatically a reporter claims objectivity, bias is bound to creep in through vocabulary, sentence structure, placement of information, sources, etc. Objectivity is a prevailing myth about journalism. Everyone has viewpoints on particular issues, and those viewpoints aggregate into a bias, subtle or not. The best one can expect is an effort for fairness.
When I worked at The Aspen Times under Bil Dunaway and Mary Hayes, the liberal staff took direction from a liberal editor and liberal publisher. The news angle tilted toward the left and the paper projected a liberal bias for Aspen. Over time, that bias helped nudge Aspen toward the left, where it more or less remains. Aspen is unusual in that conservatives and liberals mix here, with Republican and Democrat elite owning homes, recreating together, and supporting arts and charities together. But when they read the local news, it’s printed in liberal newspapers.
What’s remarkable is that the opinion shapers of the media are usually liberals. Why would conservatives abandon media careers when they can become powerfully influential? The answer, in part, is income. Most career track conservatives seek wealth. Journalists are, by and large, career track liberals who are not in journalism to get rich. There are other rewards. Liberals gravitate to journalism to advance their truths, and they do so unabashedly, often stirring cultural reform and the consternation of conservatives.
Liberal journalists believe in a deeply personal social contract. They believe in social justice, equal opportunity, open government, environmental regulation, minority rights, the welfare state, the equitable distribution of resources, individual rights over corporate dominance. They challenge the conservative agenda at every turn and at every level of society.
Ayn Rand and her Objectivists would have despised the liberal media because there is a note of altruism among liberal opinion shapers who sacrifice financially for what they consider a noble profession. To “fight the good fight” is to follow one’s passion through the written or broadcast word. Income is secondary to the privilege of influencing policy and guiding history.
Not all journalists are crusading liberals bent on social reform, but enough are that the liberal media is a force in global affairs. Controlling the airwaves and buying ink by the barrel gives the media a major role where liberal dominance reaches far and wide.
Most journalism careers require a vow of poverty that conservatives are reluctant to make. This isn’t the plan of liberals or the result of a liberal conspiracy; rather, it’s a personal preference, a choice. Most media jobs are like performing public service – as long as ego doesn’t get in the way.
If the media pay scale were higher, it might attract a broader cross-section of ideologies, but as long as publishers and broadcasters, many of whom are conservatives, pay low-ball wages in pursuit of personal profits, the trend will, ironically, remain liberal.
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