Misulonas: The bias against the liberal media

Joseph Misulonas

Many media pundits attribute Newt Gingrich’s win in the South Carolina primary last Saturday to his attacks on the liberal media during his recent debate performances.

The day before the primary, Gingrich called John King “despicable” for asking a question about his ex-wife alleging in an interview that Gingrich asked her for an open marriage. Based on that question, I think we can infer that Newt Gingrich knows despicable behavior.

But was John King despicable for asking Gingrich about this Nightline interview? Absolutely not.

The amount of debates that have taken place in this primary are making Charlie Sheen’s media barrage look restrained. The candidates, more or less, all agree on the same fundamental ideas (Ron Paul excluded), and rarely in these debates do we hear the candidates offer anything new. If we don’t ask the candidates questions about their personal lives, CNN might as well just show a re-run of one of the November debates.

Gingrich used this question to unload on one of his favorite talking points – the “biased liberal media” myth.

If you have never watched Fox News, here is what I mean by the “biased liberal media” myth: That all the major news outlets have a bias against conservatism and are actively engaged in trying to make liberals look good and conservatives look bad.

This is simply not true. Journalists are taught to remain objective in their reporting. Objectivity is a point of pride for many professional journalists. While there is no denying that publications such as The New York Times or The Washington Post have liberal leanings, they contain their political statements to the editorial page, just like conservative publications such as The Wall Street Journal do.

Almost every news organization, whether it be newspaper, magazine or broadcast television, is owned by a media conglomerate run by wealthy, conservative CEOs. If their organizations were too liberally biased, wouldn’t they intervene?

Conservatives generally point out that the mainstream media won’t report on the same stories and issues as Fox News.

Essentially, conservatives want the media to criticize liberals more often. The problem with that is the media has to remain objective. While the economy is in bad shape, the media cannot lop all their criticism at President Obama. It would be unfair.

Gingrich has been particularly focused on attacking the media in recent weeks. Besides the confrontation with King, he got into a heated exchange with Fox News’ Juan Williams over comments Gingrich made about blacks demanding paychecks, not food stamps, and earlier this week he criticized NBC’s Brian Williams for instructing the audience at Monday’s Republican debate to refrain from applauding and cheering.

It is no surprise that Gingrich’s recent rise in the polls is coming at the same time as his attacks on the media have increased. Conservative voters are buying into this liberal-bias-in-the-media myth.

The problem isn’t that conservative voters are consulting only conservative news outlets. That is entirely their choice. My problem is that this liberal-media bashing is limiting conservative voters’ scopes of information.

A recent poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University showed that Fox News viewers are less informed than people who watch no television news. Fox News viewers are subjected to these attacks on the media, and it’s convincing them not to consult other news sources. The New York Times and The Washington Post may be considered liberal newspapers, but that doesn’t mean the things they report are false.

The same thing goes for liberals reading the Wall Street Journal. Just because you don’t agree with a paper’s editorial board doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read the paper.

People should seek knowledge as much as possible.We shouldn’t limit our scope to newspapers and news shows that reinforce our own opinions. We should try to expand our horizons and become more well-rounded and well-informed citizens.

Politicians need citizens to be knowledgeable. If we want our country to start heading in the right direction, we need voters who are well-informed when picking the leaders who will solve our problems.

Politicians and the media don’t have to be at war. In fact, they can both be tools in making our country less problematic.

Joseph Misulonas is Medill sophomore. He can be reached at [email protected]

All opinions expressed in this column are solely the opinions of the columnist and do not reflect the views of The Daily Northwestern. If you would like to respond to the column, you may comment below, email the columnist or submit a 300-word letter to the editor to [email protected].