The Liberal Media:Every Poll Shows Journalists Are More Liberal than the American Public — And the Public Knows It

Conclusion: A Double-Standard on Diversity

For years, enhancing the diversity of newsroom staffs has been a central priority for reformers both outside and inside the news media, particular within the rarified media elite. Of course, when they talk about more “diversity,” media chiefs almost always mean increasing the percentages of women reporters, African-American reporters, Asian-American reporters, Hispanic reporters, or representatives of other demographic minorities. Their argument: a newspaper or television station cannot be fair and balanced if its staff does not reflect the community they serve.

The media have taken the need to improve their demographic diversity very seriously. The American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) each year categorizes more than 50,000 individual newsroom employees to determine the precise percentages of minorities and women who work at the nation’s newspapers. The editors’ October 1998 statement on diversity insisted upon the following goal: “The nation’s newsrooms must reflect the racial diversity of American society by 2025 or sooner. At a minimum, all newspapers should employ journalists of color and every newspaper should reflect the diversity of its community.”

But when it comes to the political and ideological make-up of newsrooms, the media’s pro-diversity logic breaks down. On the one hand, those who wish for more demographic diversity say reporters are not interchangeable — a white male reporter and an Hispanic female reporter, for example, would make different decisions about how to cover a news story as a consequence of their different backgrounds and experiences. Thus, a diverse news staff would help a news organization remain sensitive to all sides, resulting in better and fairer news coverage.

But few in the media acknowledge the corresponding requirement for ideological diversity. While it seems obvious that audiences would benefit if the news, especially political news, was reported and edited by a diverse mixture of liberals, conservatives and moderates, most influential media figures deny that journalists’ political views affect the news. Either journalists are so lacking in ideology, or their professional norms are so strictly enforced, that it makes utterly no difference whether newsrooms include more liberals — and far fewer conservatives — than the communities they cover.

All of these studies show the news media are far more liberal than the public, and the most elite news organizations — the networks, big newspapers and newsmagazines — are the most liberal of all. The Media Research Center’s documentation of media content over the past two decades shows this liberalism does skew the news.

Journalists, after all, are not robots — their profession requires them to make choices. Liberal journalists often choose story topics that represent a liberal agenda, they choose to interview liberal-leaning policy experts, and they question officials from a mainly liberal perspective. At the same time, they rarely choose to focus on issues representing the conservative agenda, they choose to minimize the number of conservative policy experts they interview, and they rarely challenge public officials with questions representing a conservative point of view.

Individually, such decisions may be entirely defensible, but collectively they push news content to the left. And while conservative journalists may make entirely different choices, introducing a rightward bias, it is an indisputable fact that liberals in the media vastly outnumber the conservatives.

It’s not a vast left-wing conspiracy, but the effect is the same. The media elite would like us to believe that their news is impartial, objective and non-partisan. But the news they produce is slanted — tilted in favor of liberal policies and liberal politicians and against conservative policies and conservative politicians.

If news reporters were as ideologically diverse as their readers and viewers, it follows that much of the bias that tarnishes the media elite would disappear. If executives, editors and producers insisted on equal treatment of conservatives and liberals, much of the public’s confidence in the news media ability to be fair and objective would be restored.

The public clearly sees the media’s bias. It is up to the media to acknowledge it.