Each year liberal journalists, instead of honestly acknowledging their liberalism, describe themselves as Dan Rather defined himself in an exchange on CNN's Crossfire on June 24: "an honest broker of information" whose motto is "play no favorites."
For the 12th straight year, the Media Research Center in Washington, D.C., in late November mailed to a panel of judges evidence of the way Dan Rather and others play favorites. On May 26, for example, Mr. Rather himself gushed about Hillary Clinton's "political lightning" and how she is a "crowd-pleaser." (Which crowd?)
As a judge each year, I've seen repeatedly how the most influential newspapers play favorites while pretending to be objective. Ted Kennedy, according to New York Times reporter Adam Clymer, "deserves recognition not just as the leading Senator of his time but also as one of the greats in the history of this singular institution." Janet Reno, according to Juan Williams of the Washington Post, is approaching "Abe Lincoln status. People just assume she's honest, honest Janet Reno." (Which people?)
Mrs. Clinton won the most media plaudits this year, with Diane Sawyer one of many who crooned about her "political mastery." Time's Lance Morrow swooned: "I see a sort of Celtic mist forming around Hillary as a new archetype (somewhere between Eleanor and Evita, transcending both) at a moment when the civilization pivots, at last, decisively-perhaps for the first time since the advent of Christian patriarchy two millenniums ago-toward Woman."
The worst bad guys made their appearance early in the year. According to Newsweek's Eleanor Clift, the House managers who tried to convince senators that the impeached Bill Clinton should be convicted were like Ku Klux Klan "night riders," and "all they were missing was white sheets." A New York Times story about the impeachment trial opened with an analysis by psychotherapist Ellen Mendel of how she "feels the same despair that she did as a girl in Nazi Germany."
Each year those who parrot press attitudes receive lots of air time, but journalistic ventriloquism was never more evident than when Peter Jennings opened this year's Feb. 4 World News Tonight by choosing one man to represent all. "We begin tonight with the voice of the people from the Senate gallery today," Mr. Jennings intoned, describing a spectator during the impeachment trial who had to be removed for yelling, "Take the vote and get it over with."
Newsweek's key players regularly identified their own preferred positions with those of "the people" or with wisdom generally. Eleanor Clift praised "Northeastern Republicans" who split off from their southern colleagues, showing "the aspect of the party that's still in touch with the people." (Which people?) Similarly, Jonathan Alter called a tax cut "one of the most irresponsible pieces of legislation to come down the pike in a long time.... Every economist of all stripes [sic] knows that it's just totally irresponsible!" (Many conservative economists favored the cut, but if they don't accept the conventional wisdom, maybe they don't count as economists.)
Time's Margaret Carlson did Mr. Alter one better. She attacked tax cuts as not only "irresponsible" but stupid: "The only thing that could explain this love of tax cuts is a lowered IQ." (Talking about IQ, here is her explanation of why tax cuts are a waste: "If I get $100 back, I can't go fix a school or clean a river.") In general, those who deviated from liberalism were either stupid or evil. On foreign policy, journalists labeled critiques of the Clinton kiss-up-to-China policy "witch hunts" (Newsweek's Evan Thomas) or replays of McCarthyism (Time's Tony Karon).
Never say that journalists don't have a sense of history. Ignoring all the revelations of John F. Kennedy's hyper-philandering, Today co-host Katie Couric wrote about "those golden years" of the Kennedy administration. But when tragedy ruined restoration hopes, Newsweek's Alter wrote of John F. Kennedy Jr., "He was more than our 'Prince Charming,' as the New York tabs called him. We etched the past and the future on his fine face."
Such quotations by themselves suggest much but prove nothing. The Media Research Center, however, has done an array of statistical studies concerning selection of sources and interviewees, ideological labeling of groups, ways of framing stories, and so on. It has found a significant tilt to the left theologically and politically, and a refusal among many reporters to acknowledge that publicly.
Conservatives sometimes respond to that evidence by suggesting that media liberals should not present their views. But I'm pro-choice concerning media: Let ideas compete on all the pages of publications and on television news shows, so that readers and viewers have a choice. Here's my challenge to the editors of Time and Newsweek: We at WORLD have proclaimed our theology. Why don't you declare yours?