I see that Sean Hannity had a special show last night documenting the alleged “history of the liberal media”. This is a key element in the Republican story of recent history. In fact, I think it is something of a deus ex machina in that story.
Television news–excluding Fox News, obviously–is dominated by liberals. I’m willing to admit that, actually. But note that I say “dominated by”, not “biased in favor of”. This may seem somewhat strange, but I think that while most individual journalists lean towards liberalism, particularly social liberalism, they try to keep their biases in check. (I suspect that that’s the first thing they teach you in journalism school.)
It is my belief that, rather than creating a liberal bias in the media, this concentration of liberalism has the effect of making a conservatives a type of entity which the media covers with uncomprehending interest. If “familiarity breeds contempt”, as the old line goes, then unfamiliarity has bred a kind of fascination.
The press in general tends to display their liberalism not, as you might expect, by always deriding or marginalizing conservatives, but by treating them as if they are some exotic type of creature they have never seen before. They react, not with outrage, but with surprise and curiosity when they hear a conservative spout some standard talking point.
For example, last year then-Senate Candidate Rand Paul said that he liked the 1964 Civil Rights Act insofar as it desegregated public places, but was uncomfortable with it desegregating private ones. This is a fairly typical libertarian position, but the press reacted like they’d never heard it. They did not smear Paul as a racist, however, despite what some people might say.
They reacted with a general lack of understanding and a realization that this was controversial. They knew this wasn’t what they all believed about the Civil Rights Act, and so they were just sort of puzzled.
This process repeats itself on issue after issue. Liberal journalists simply do not know that much about Conservatives, and so always cover them with a curiosity and, oftentimes, interest. In fact, while their coverage is not always glowing, I believe it may provide the Conservatives with an advantage in terms of getting their issues covered.
Incidentally, Eric Alterman wrote a very interesting book called What Liberal Media? that examined some of these issues. The book has a lot of flaws, particularly in just how broadly Alterman is willing to define “bias”, and obviously he’s a liberal himself; but it’s still one of the better books I’ve read on the topic.