Article Summary and Analysis: News media’s credibility problem goes beyond charges of political bias by Alexandra Marks

Article title: ‘News media’s credibility problem goes beyond charges of political bias’ By Alexandra Marks, Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / June 27, 1996


The author of the article contends that the instances of biased reporting in the American news media are not due to personal biases and prejudices of the reporters. The common perception among American citizens of an alleged liberal bias of journalists stems from a few comprehensive surveys whose participants were media professionals. While most journalists and other media professionals hold liberal attitudes, in reality such personal beliefs have very little effect on the news content that they choose and prepare. The author cites a few underlying cultural and systemic factors for the liberal bias manifest in news reports. In other words, by perusing the opinions of media industry personnel and analysts tries to make a distinction between the manifest bias and liberal ideology.

Coinciding with the decline in public confidence on media industry is the disturbing trend of incompetence among journalists. This phenomenon is more obvious in the electronic media – especially Television – where many talk show hosts don’t have the requisite expertise and range of knowledge to hold forth on issues of international diplomacy and economics. These “celebrity journalists” seem to pick and choose stories that serve their own career prospects as opposed to keeping the interests of the viewers in mind.

The prime example of this distortion is evident from the fact that Bill Clinton’s personal relationships garnered more media coverage and critical analysis when compared to his involvement in the Whitewater scandal. This malaise afflicting the mainstream media industry in the United States is due to a marked deterioration in the journalistic standards as a result of commercial careerism. And the few journalists who adhere to values of honesty, objectivity and integrity find many challenges in their way, as the example of CBS journalist Bernard Goldberg illustrates.

A suitable explanation for the prevailing liberal bias in the media is not so much due to ideological leanings as cultural ones. This condition affects the two main subjects of journalists –culture and economy – in two different ways. A typical cultural issue is homelessness in America. Almost every report on the issue exaggerates the statistics, not so much because the journalists hold liberal views on the economy, but because they hold such views on culture. This is so because the media industry draws its personnel predominantly from the upper-middle classes these days. This demographic section tends to hold fiscally conservative opinions while being culturally liberal. So the opening premise of the essay, namely the liberal bias in media, is applicable in coverage of cultural topics. This bias is almost absent when it comes to stories on economies, as the author succinctly concludes.

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