Romenesko today highlights a debate between liberal columnist/blogger Eric Alterman and conservative commentator Tucker Carlson on media bias — if it exists, and whether it leans left or right. As you might expect, Carlson argues that the bias trends liberal, Alterman that it’s conservative.
They are both right. As Carlson accurately observes, the elite media — especially in big-city newsrooms — hold views far to the left of average Americans on such issues as gay marriage, reproductive choice and gun control. Now, you and I might think it’s to the credit of folks who work for those media institutions, but there’s no doubt that conservative views on such cultural and social issues are rare within the media, and common elsewhere.
And Alterman is absolutely right that the same elite media want nothing to do with organized labor, and that they’re at least partly responsible for the fact that a large plurality of Americans mistakenly believes Iraq had something to do with 9/11. Moreover, as Alterman wrote in his book “What Liberal Media?,” the same liberal journalists who say they vote for Democratic presidential candidates have made a full-time sport out of torturing them: giving Bill Clinton a far rougher time than the public did over his personal failings; spreading untruths about Al Gore such as falsely claiming he’d said he’d “invented the Internet”; and providing too much (i.e., any) credence to the swift-boat liars who tried to bring down John Kerry.
So even though I think Carlson and Alterman are both right, I think Alterman is more right on what really matters: how the media cover electoral politics, and why that coverage works to the benefit of Republicans.