Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Russert Took Media Bias Seriously

Excerpts from a WSJ column today by Bernard Goldberg, former CBS News correspondent with my comments below the star line - - -

[W]hat made Tim Russert different, and better, I think was his willingness to listen to -- and take seriously -- criticism about his own profession. He was willing, for example, to keep an open mind about a hot-button issue like media bias -- an issue that so many of his colleagues dismiss as the delusions of right-wing media haters. (Trust me on this one, I worked at CBS News for 28 years and know Dan Ratherpersonally.)

In 2001, my first book, "Bias," came out. It was an insider's look at bias in the media. Not one network news correspondent would have anything to do with me. I couldn't get on any of their morning news shows to talk about the book (which was a national best seller), or their evening shows or their weekend shows or even their middle-of-the-night news shows.

No one in network television wanted to discuss the issue, no matter how many Middle Americans thought it was important. (emphasis added)

Russert was the lone exception.

He had me on his CNBC interview show, and we talked about bias for a full hour. He had me on his show two other times. About five years ago, we turned the tables and I interviewed him for a book I was writing on the arrogance that I believe pervades too much of American journalism.

Tim was a big proponent of diversity, but he wanted to go further than the usual stuff. "I am for having women in the newsroom and minorities in the newsroom -- I'm all for it. It opens up our eyes and gives us different perspectives. But just as well, let's have people with military experience; let's have people from all walks of life, people from the top-echelon schools but also people from junior colleges and the so-called middling schools -- that's the pageantry of America . . . You need cultural diversity, you need ideological diversity. You need it."

Tim understood that without that kind of diversity, journalism would be in trouble. He knew it wasn't good for journalism or America if almost all the people reporting the news lived and worked in the same bubble.

"There's a potential cultural bias. And I think it's very real and very important to recognize and to deal with," he told me. "Because of backgrounds and training you come to issues with a preconceived notion or a preordained view on subjects like abortion, gun control, campaign finance. I think many journalists growing up in the '60s and the '70s have to be very careful about attitudes toward government, attitudes toward the military, attitudes toward authority. It doesn't mean there's a rightness or a wrongness. It means you have to constantly check yourself."

"Why the closed-mindedness when the subject comes around to media bias?" I asked him.

"That, to me, is totally contrary to who we're supposed to be as journalists. . . .

If someone suggested there was an anti-black bias, an anti-gay bias, an anti-American bias, we'd sit up and say, 'Let's talk about this, let's tackle it.' Well, if there's a liberal bias or a cultural bias we have to sit up and tackle it and discuss it. We have got to be open to these things."

His many friends in journalism -- the ones who spend their lives inside that comfortable, elitist bubble -- would do well to take those words to heart. Facing up to their biases and making a conscious effort to get rid of what Tim called "preferred positions" on important social issues (for abortion and against guns, for example) would be a lasting tribute to Tim.

Goldberg’s entire column is here.


Goldberg’s column is both a powerful tribute to a colleague and a powerful reminder of one of the most serious and insidious problems facing America today: media bias which often bleeds over into outright dishonesty.

We saw that, for example, when Dan Rather and CBS News went days assuring us the anonymous source of what proved to be forged Texas Air National Guard documents was “unimpeachable,” when they knew all the while he was long-time Bush-hater and Democratic activist Bill Burkett.

“Facing up to their biases and making a conscious effort to get rid of what [Russert] called ‘preferred positions’ … would be a lasting tribute to Tim.”

But I doubt that will happen. More likely, most MSMers will continue peddling their biases and bashing those few like Goldberg who call attention to what they’re doing.


Anonymous said...

Russert and Goldberg both have (had) an ability to spot an elitist phony. It's what makes Goldberg a pariah among his peers and it's what makes Russert's death a major loss to the nation. When Goldberg unloaded on the elitist bias that permeates today's media, he became fair game for the cheap shot which is the mainstay of jerks like David Gregory, Chris Matthews, Matt Lauer, and others of their ilk. Russert was in a safe position where he wasn't vulnerable to any of his "peers" (actually none of the poseurs of MSM are even remote peers of Russert), so he was not targeted by them. Check the body of his work and you'll see he was an honest professional reporter and he came from very humble circumstances. If Goldberg likes him, he must have been special.
Tarheel Hawkeye