I ran across this interesting entry from a blogger named M. Petrelis. He's done some digging into political contributions by "journalists, reporters, publishers and others who work at print media outlets." He writes: "I went back to the best web site for searching FEC files, http://www.tray.com/, and pored over recent donations . . . . I limited my searching to the two most recent election cycles, except for Time and Newsweek, and Rupert Murdoch, because of the influence each wields."
Petelis searched more than fifty newspapers, magazines, wire services, and names of publishers. His findings are interesting and not one bit surprising. Almost all the money went to Democrats. One sobering finding: "President George Bush didn't receive a single donation from any outlet or reporter in my search."
We all have our opinions about candidates, but to me, one true sign of partisan commitment is donating money. (The other is donating time, to knock on doors, work a phone bank, etc.) Full disclosure: I donate to President Bush. Why? Because I believe it is important that he be re-elected. I also donate to John Thune in South Dakota. Why? Because I believe it's important to keep the Senate in Republican hands. I am an unabashed partisan. I'm fortunate to have the means to donate, but it doesn't matter whether it's $1,000 or $25; when you donate, you're putting your money where your mouth is.
So here we have irrefutable evidence of deep partisan commitment by members of the news media, who are supposed to be reporting on these candidates. This is not surprising in the least, but it is shocking. (A subtle but important difference.) And-- big surprise!-- the commitment all runs one way-- to the Democrats!
Maybe I am getting jaded in my old age (and I'm only 49!), but I am to the point where I don't know whom to believe in the news media anymore. Everything I read seems slanted one way or the other. Even Fox News, which I truly enjoy, seems to slant the news. They don't do it nearly as much as the other TV networks, and they do it in the direction most pleasing to me-- but they do slant it. I think the lesson is that we have to read and evaluate carefully and get our news from a number of sources (other than the major free broadcast networks, which are worthless; I have not watched NBC, ABC, or CBS for years now), and to recognize that every news report comes with the bias of the reporter, or the editor, or someone in the delivery chain.
All that aside, what is truly distressing about this situation is this: The journalists who bear these deep biases, and who slant their reporting accordingly, either don't acknowledge the bias don't even recognize it. As the great Dan Rather has recently said: "Most reporters, when you get to know them, would fall in the general category of kind of common sense moderates."
I read that and I don't know whether to laugh or cry. Does he truly believe that? Can he possibly believe that? The scary notion is that he actually might!
Anyway, to the point (or one of them): What looks, reads, or sounds like objective reporting is usually nothing of the kind. What is passed off as news reporting is really, at its heart, more like commentary. (Just read the front page of the L.A. Times sometime and you'll see what I mean.) That makes the reporting misleading to the average reader or listener. And that is an ethical and intellectual crime.