The Republican nominee for vice president, Paul Ryan, was recently asked if "the mainstream media is carrying weight for Barack Obama." The congressman answered that it "goes without saying that there is definitely media bias... I'm a conservative... I'm used to media bias... I've long believed, long felt that there is inherent media bias, and I think anybody with objectivity would believe that is the case... I think most people in the mainstream media are left of center and, therefore, they want a very left-of-center president versus a conservative president like Mitt Romney."
Ryan's opinion that the media is liberally biased is a long-standing perspective amongst Republicans in Washington. In April, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) stated that "Journalists are very liberal... Obama is protected by journalists. And we aren't." During the Republican National Convention in Tampa last August, a billboard over a local freeway opined, "Don't Trust the Liberal Media." In the same month, disgraced Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin accused the "liberal media" as out to get him.
Last February, The Media Research Center, a watchdog group that monitors "liberal bias in the news", had two large billboards erected in New York City's Times Square with the words "Don't Believe the Liberal Media!" The group's president explained, "We promised this 2012 campaign would be the most expansive, most exhaustive and consequently the most expensive operation in our 25 years... this is the most important election in our lifetime and the American people are sick and tired of the left-wing media deciding who will govern our country." It is worth noting that the last 60 years have seen six Republican presidents with a combined time in office of just over thirty-six years compared to five Democratic presidents with only twenty-three years in office -- so how effective the "left-wing media" has been in deciding who will govern our country is questionable.
It could also be argued that thanks to a recent and massive shift by Republican lawmakers, and their conservative constituents, to the far right wing of their party, what was once labeled 'liberal' now includes formerly moderate, independent, and even some right-of-center beliefs. Regardless, Ryan and other conservatives have a valid argument that, for decades, the mainstream media has been liberally biased. And this notion seems to be gaining increased traction with conservatives in towns all across America. But what is never answered when Ryan and others paint the media in such a partisan way is why that is. Why is the mainstream news media so historically liberally biased?
As I wrote in a piece last year, the news media seems to get the most consistent backlash for being liberal, more than teachers or even Hollywood. The Fox News Channel was even built in part to counteract all the "bias" out there in the news media. The same liberal media that makes up the vast majority of our war correspondence, our White House and congressional correspondence and our daily news briefings that cover every area of foreign affairs and domestic policy, and it all airs or streams twenty-four hours a day, everyday of the year. So couldn't it be argued that it is members of the news media that are the most qualified to pick a side?
As a liberal myself, I am proud that the news media often leans left. The fact that it is their sole purpose to intricately monitor our laws, our lawmakers, our wars, our allies and enemies, our domestic and foreign policy, our current events, only makes me confident that I am leaning the right way. I would rather my ideology be in line with the reporters embedded with our troops on the battlefield, or with a veteran newsman who has covered Congress and the White House for twenty-plus years. Simplistically, I would compare this to buying a toothbrush that four out of five dentists agree is the right choice -- I'll take that one. Furthermore, is it that liberals are drawn to a career covering the news or is covering the news making them more progressive? I would more likely believe the latter. Are we to believe that it is a giant conspiracy that is sending all these liberals kids into a life of reporting the news? Not likely.
Even with all this liberal bias out there, a recent Pew Research report found that political ideology in the U.S. held steady in 2011, with 40 percent of Americans continuing to describe their views as conservative, 35 percent as moderate, and 21 percent as liberal. So while the 'liberal media' does not seem to be having a dramatic effect on ideology it does beg the question -- shouldn't the country be leaning in the same ideological direction as the people who cover this stuff for a living?