“It’s not a conspiracy. It’s a deeply entrenched bias.”


imageHugh Hewitt today offered a simple illustration of how media bias works and why, although it’s not a conspiracy, it dooms any hope of neutrality in journalism:

In the past I taught a big journalism class at University of California at Irvine for my friend Libdell (ph).  He was teaching journalism at night to 250 students and he asked me to guest lecture. So I said the first thing we’re going to do is sort you so put your backpacks on your back and we’re going to move you around.

“All of you people who are pro-life please move to the right side of the room and those of you who are pro-choice move to the left side of the room or the middle of the room.”

And of course there are very few pro-life students at that point so you’d get maybe, out of 250 students, 50 pro-life who are on the right.

“Now would the rest of you who are opposed to capital punishment move to the left and those who are in favor of it move to the right.”

And I’d keep sorting them by the standard issues. I’d get them finally so that the people who were pro-choice, and the people who were anti-capital punishment, and the people who were anti-guns, and the people who were pro-regulation, I’d get them all sorted out.  And very fairly – I’m not mad at people who are left-wing or right-wing, I’m just sorting them out.

And now a newspaper – if I’m looking from left to right, I’ve got them sorted out by ideology. And the people on the left side of the auditorium are the hardest core liberal lefties. And today’s newspapers are written, edited, and produced by people who only sit on this side of the room, and I’d point at the left. And I said:

“Now if I ask you to put out a newspaper from the people who are on the left side of the room and the same newspaper covering the same stories from people who on the right side of the room. Will they be the same newspaper?”

And the light went on. It’s not a conspiracy. It’s a deeply entrenched bias. Because they all live in the same bubble.

Could there be any doubt?  Too often conservatives fail to pick up an easy win proving media bias by overreaching, insisting that the media is in on a vast left-wing conspiracy.  There’s no conspiracy.  Conservatives and liberals just see the world differently from one another.  And the media is stocked with more liberals than conservatives.

A lot more.  Tim Groseclose estimates in that “the Democrat-to-Republican voting rate of journalists” is approximately 96-to-4 or 95-to-5.  As in, out of a hundred.  Indeed, such imbalances are not even reproducible in nature. Groseclose observes that one would have to cobble together a four-way cross-section of all of Barack Obama’s most reliable demographics – non-religious, low-income, non-Walmart-shopping union members – to even come close to such a reliable bloc.  And still, of that group, “only” 90% voted for Obama.

Bias begins well before the actual reporting.  No matter how forcefully a journalist insists he writes “straight copy,” the copy was never the problem.  It’s the mosaic of stories that a stable of 95-96% liberal reporters will choose to cover.  That cohort will never hope to fairly cover issues like abortion, self-defense, economic liberty, criminal justice, taxation, and every other issue tinged with ideology.

That’s why the media fails to achieve neutrality.  And fails badly.  And it’s why the false neutrality drives conservatives bonkers.


Tim Kowal is a husband, father, and attorney in Orange County, California, Vice President of the Orange County Federalist Society, commissioner on the OC Human Relations Commission, and Treasurer of Huntington Beach Tomorrow. He also blogs at Ordinary Times. The views expressed are his own. You can follow Tim via Facebook or Twitter. Email is welcome at timkowal at gmail.com.