I saw this absurd piece by Deborah Howell, the Washington Post ombudsperson, on Saturday, but I had other things to do so no time to write anything. Having established by quantitative means that the Post had a crush on Obama the previous week, she now attempts to make a more substantive case with a recommendation for how to avoid it. Here's more substance:
Tom Rosenstiel, a former political reporter who directs the Project for Excellence in Journalism, said, "The perception of liberal bias is a problem by itself for the news media. It's not okay to dismiss it. Conservatives who think the press is deliberately trying to help Democrats are wrong. But conservatives are right that journalism has too many liberals and not enough conservatives. It's inconceivable that that is irrelevant."
Journalism, like academia, seems full of crazed liberals such as myself. A neighbor of mine, a journalist for a major newspaper, has confirmed this (so it must be true). The liberal dominance of journalism–the fact that many reporters are liberals in other words–ought to raise at least two more questions: (1) why's that? and (2) does it affect their readers (not their reporting–you can't tell that, after all, because only academic liberals would be able to study whether it has)? I can't answer (1) with anything but the speculative–because liberals live in a reality-based world, reporters who report on the world, come to share those views. Or perhaps one could say reporters are cynical nihilists, like many godless liberals, so therefore, etc. Anyway, the answer to (2) seems more important. Since Howell discounts liberal bias going out in the form of reporting, there out to be evidence of a "liberal tilt" in the reading of that reporting. I don't really know what that would be, short of something like this: "I have an unjustified feeling of good will toward Obama and Nancy Pelosi."
Anyway, here's the funny part. Howell suggests that this perception of bias on the part of people who don't believe the stories anyway–that is, people already immune to bias–is for newsrooms to hire more conservative journalists:
Are there ways to tackle this? More conservatives in newsrooms and rigorous editing would be two. The first is not easy: Editors hire not on the basis of beliefs but on talent in reporting, photography and editing, and hiring is at a standstill because of the economy. But newspapers have hired more minorities and women, so it can be done.
Rosenstiel said, "There should be more intellectual diversity among journalists. More conservatives in newsrooms will bring about better journalism. We need to be more vigilant and conscious in looking for bias. Our aims are pure, but our execution sometimes is not. Staff members should feel in their bones that unfairness will never be tolerated."
Perhaps the new affirmative action hires of conservative journalists could write for the irony page, where they can report on the failure of affirmative action programs and the like.
Update. Just saw this on Political Animal–it's a better post on the same topic with some good links.