In the movie Field of Dreams, James Earl Jones intones about the one constant in America over the decades: baseball. In the 15-year history of WORLD, amid liberal and conservative administrations, the end of one cold war and the beginning of another, we've also pointed out from time to time one more constant: liberal media bias. We don't spend much space on this in WORLD anymore: It's so obvious, and we'd rather provide a positive alternative than harp on the negative. But for 14 years now, since I'm a journalism professor, the Media Research Center right after Thanksgiving has asked me to help select the winners of its annual awards for "The Year's Worst Reporting." I planned to say no this time, until I read a prophecy from the beginning of the contest year by Newsweek's Jonathan Alter. Writing about George W. Bush in the light of last November's disputed election, he commented, "However agreeable and successful he turns out to be, the new president is doomed to be seen by many Americans as a bastard." Newsweek thought that was clever; I think that's going too far, so it was time to wade into the muck once again and see:
- The usual anti-Christian bigotry. Newsweek bloviated thusly: "In John Ashcroft's America, he said in 1999, 'We have no king but Jesus.'... Can a deeply religious person be Attorney General?"
- The usual psychobabble. NPR's Nina Totenberg said the GOP and its "moderates" are "in an abusive relationship ... the moderates are the enablers and the conservatives are the abusers."
- The usual kneejerk responses to problems. ABC's Elizabeth Vargas on July 31 breathlessly announced, "More trouble at the nation's amusement parks, two dozen people injured. Why won't Congress let the government regulate those parks?"
- The usual closed-mindedness on abortion. CBS Early Show co-host Jane Clayson announced at the beginning of one discussion, "First off, we should say we're not here to debate the right and wrong of abortion, just different generations' commitment to reproductive rights."
After Sept. 11 I hoped to see a new maturity in the press, and initially some change was evident. Dan Rather made patriotic statements and Lance Morrow wrote in Time, "For once, let's have no 'grief counselors' standing by with banal consolations, as if the purpose, in the midst of all this, were merely to make everyone feel better as quickly as possible. We shouldn't feel better.... Anyone who does not loathe the people who did these things, and the people who cheer them on, is too philosophical for decent company.... This is the moment of clarity. Let the civilized toughen up, and let the uncivilized take their chances in the game they started." Soon, though, the moment of clarity turned into weeks of fog, as the moral relativism and amoral multiculturalism taught at most universities, and cemented at most major media offices, reasserted themselves. Steven Jukes of Reuters wrote, "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter." CBS foreign correspondent Allen Pizzy said on Oct. 14, "freedom is a perception that lies in the eyes of the beholder." The rewriting of history also recommenced. The dean emeritus of the White House press corps, Helen Thomas, said that "Throughout his eight years in office, President Clinton warned us that the next great menace was international terrorism." This is the same Bill Clinton who taught Wahhabi Muslims that American presidents are moral lowlifes who might lob a couple of public relations-guided missiles at tents left behind, but would not take any serious action. Christian parents who raise boys learn the question to ask when meditating on the proper punishment for a transgression: "Is it boy or is it sin?" Boy nature-impetuous, adventuresome, sometimes ruled by the moment-can get young males into trouble. Parents need to help their charges become more responsible, but we should not assume the malice of sin unless direct disobedience is evident. Our response to secular liberal reporters should be similar: "Is it ignorance or malice?" Most journalists have grown up in non-biblical homes and will naturally see people with biblical perspectives as weird. In my experience, patient explanation to most local reporters can at least educate them to the point where they are capable of writing a fair story-and that's what most desire. It's different with lots of the big boys. I hesitate to assume malice, but I have no explanation other than hatred of Christ for some stories generated by CBS's 60 Minutes and The New York Times in particular. That hasn't changed in the aftermath of Sept. 11, and I shouldn't expect it to. As we celebrate the birth of Christ this month, it's vital to remember that Herod and his courtiers wanted to kill Him, and they still do.