Editor's Notes at EditorsNotes.com

Sunday, September 26, 2004

CBS Guard Docs and ... Conservative Media Bias?

SF Chron:

If ever a story should destroy the myth of liberal media bias, it is the flap over Dan Rather's flub.


Just four months ago, lest we forget, the New York Times issued its own mea culpa, acknowledging the repeated use of dubious information in its coverage of the run-up to the Iraq War [...].


The critical difference between the two stories is that the Times' mistake was actually the far more serious of the two.


Yet against all logic, the CBS mea culpa is getting much more ink and air time than the New York Times case. The Times itself is one example. The paper ran its own apology on Page 10, but, perhaps drunk on schadenfreude, played the CBS confession above the fold on the front page.


Why? The answer lies in the political impact of each issue, and reveals much about political coverage in the mainstream media. The Times' apology, by acknowledging the flaws of the administration's claims, hurt President Bush. The CBS apology obviously helped him, casting a pall of doubt over the entire issue of whether young Lt. Bush did his duty during the Vietnam War. The difference in play given to each of the two apologies is only the latest evidence of a growing, and yet little remarked, conservative media bias.

I do not suggest that conservative apparatchiks crashed news meetings around the country and demanded front-page play for the CBS story. But I do suggest that as the country's political spectrum has become ever more conservative -- dragged "to the right, to the right, farther to the right," as Tom Frank puts it in his brilliant new book, "What's the Matter With Kansas?'' -- media organizations have shifted, too.