Parting Shots

Why Media is Biased

Forgive me if I feel America’s elite (and not) media is just a bit isolated from ordinary America

By Dave Skinner

Let’s cut to the guts on this library potboiler, please. I’m a voracious reader. But if I kept every book I’ve read, I’d live in a bookcase with a roof, with no room for power tools. Therefore, my library is downtown and always has been.

Is there a leftie vibe at the Flathead County library? Sure, it seems to me there are more left-wing than right-wing political screeds in the new book section, so sometimes I walk out disappointed and empty-handed. But I’ve seen the same at nearly every library I’ve visited recently.

Still, I’m squarely among the screaming majority of library cardholders who check out books that interest us, on ideas that interest us. We find censorship and book bans repellent. Nobody assigns us what we should read, unless it’s for school. I (or we) choose, and we want lots of choices, to make for ourselves, to take home – or leave in the stacks. 

Bottom line, if your kid checks out a PG-rated LGBTQ graphic novel and you are shocked, SHOCKED, whose fault is that, really? Yours alone.

So, let’s look at another kind of slant, in a related area: Journalism.

Is journalistic slant real enough to really matter?

Well, two main skills are required of journalists, of all writers, actually: 1) Ability to observe; and 2) Ability to write so readers “see” what the writer sees. Simple enough, even I can do that.

Writing is a given in journalism, but observation is sometimes not.

When you and your besties “remember” some epic shared adventure, do you all remember it exactly the same way? Nobody does, not even credentialed reporters.

When more than one bylined story about an event/issue/topic comes out, while the general outlines are similar, the “details” are often quite different. But “truth is in the details,” right?

I’ve actually seen “name” reporters, sitting side-by-side in their reserved front-row “press box” seats, pick different focal points or quote different zingers.

Further, when I’m actually at an “event” rating coverage, I often wonder afterwards, “Gosh, was Reporter X at the same event?” Yes, but obviously paying attention to different shiny objects!

Normally, that’s OK. Normally, we have shared experiences or attitudes that lets everyone look at a common “big picture,” literally be on the same page. Journalists share experiences, too, but aside from interviews, the sharing is mostly with each other. 

More important, the upper ranks of America’s news media (and those hoping to join those upper ranks) share much with ordinary America.

Years ago, I made a pilgrimage to the Center of the Journalistic Universe, Midtown Manhattan. It was a blast, including a “man-on-the street” television interview about, get this, bear hunting – down in the depths of the concrete canyons? Nuts! Even nuttier, every media door I darkened was between 57th and 34th Streets, Third and Eighth Avenue, an hour’s easy stroll from end to end. Never mind how only one of the nearly 30 journalists I met with had ever met a Montanan or visited. One “flew over Billings.”

So forgive me if I feel America’s elite (and not) media is just a BIT insular and isolated from, yep, ordinary America.

I’ve unsurprisingly never been offered writing work in either New York, or in “news.” Rather, my best work has been with specialized “niche” or “trade” publications, and best of all, in depth. Similar to being able to read interesting books, I relish being able to dig deep into topics that interest me.

That my editors, all with journalism degrees (mine is in business) and general-news reporter experience, tended to be conservative isn’t coincidental, either. Summarizing many long discussions, my bosses went “niche” because they had to spread themselves too thin over too many topics of “general interest.” Now, they could drill deep into topics that fascinated them, but more important, fascinated readers who appreciated, even demanded that deep drilling.

But there’s one “niche,” in-depth field dominated by liberals: Politics.

Why? If you’re a liberal, fascinated by politics, you need government (usually more) to “succeed.” It’s a natural fit. If you’re conservative, doing fine at something you like without government help, you’re already succeeding, in your natural fit.