Yesterday was the official publication day, I’m happy to say, for P&R Publishing’s new edition of Prodigal Press, a book on the past and present of American journalism I wrote 25 years ago. The new edition includes updates and added material from my friend Warren Cole Smith, and still shows how American journalism has abandoned its Christian roots, with resultant fear, loathing, and a wide variety of journalistic, legal, ethical, and economic problems.
In 1988 newspapers were still cash cows and network news ratings were high. Critics of Prodigal Press said I was exaggerating the problem of press bias. They said Newsweek might occasionally tilt left, but network newscasts still played it down the middle and the Associated Press was rock-solid in its adherence to objectivity in the sense of balancing subjectivities, with liberals and conservatives receiving equal space and editors vigilantly removing loaded adjectives from their young reporters’ prose.
Then, evidence of bias was exceptionally clear on questions such as how we should treat unborn children, so I followed up Prodigal Press with another book, The Press and Abortion. But on coverage of some political and economic issues back then I had to grit my teeth and say to hostile reviewers, wait and see. Since what we believe about God inevitably affects what we say about man, I proposed that we watch the cloud on the horizon that then seemed, to some, smaller than a man’s hand.
That cloud has now has filled the sky and is pelting us with not only rain but also hail. Few press defenders say liberal bias is a myth, for the evidence is overwhelming. For some examples of the way even the former bastion of down-the-middle coverage, the Associated Press, has tilted, see this feature I wrote for WORLD magazine in April 2012. The good news is that the past quarter-century has also seen an expansion of alternatives—notably talk radio, blogs, Fox News, and WORLD.
Listen to Marvin Olasky talk about the new edition of Prodigal Press on The World and Everything in It: