So conservatives aren’t alone. Liberal bias at the Los Angeles Times even annoys its editor John Carroll, according to a leaked memo.
Last year the Los Angeles Times sacked a hapless sports reporter who had used the Times‘s e-mail system to send a blistering note to Republican Congressman Bill Thomas that began, “Surely, you can’t be that stupid.” Now John Carroll is cracking the whip on more important staffers. LAobserved.com posted this week a Los Angeles Times staff memo in which Carroll told editors and reporters that “we are not going to push a liberal agenda in the news pages of the Times.” He is “serious” about “purging all political bias from our coverage.”
“I’m concerned about the perception — and the occasional reality — that the Times is a liberal, ‘politically correct’ newspaper. Generally speaking, this is an inaccurate view, but occasionally we prove our critics right. We did so today with the front-page story on the bill in Texas that would require abortion doctors to counsel patients that they may be risking breast cancer,” he wrote in the May 22nd memo.
Carroll noted the obvious unfairness to pro-lifers in the article: “The apparent bias of the writer and/or the desk reveals itself in the third paragraph, which characterizes such bills in Texas and elsewhere as requiring ‘so-called counseling of patients.’ I don’t think people on the anti-abortion side would consider it ‘so-called,’ a phrase that is loaded with derision.”
He also noted that the article made no attempt to treat seriously the view that a link between abortion and breast cancer exists: “…I wondered as I read it whether somewhere there might exist some credible scientist who believes in it. Such a person makes no appearance in the story’s lengthy passage about the scientific issue. We do quote one of the sponsors of the bill, noting that he ‘has a professional background in property management.’ Seldom will you read a cheaper shot than this. Why, if this is germane, wouldn’t we point to legislators on the other side who are similarly bereft of scientific credentials? It is not until the last three paragraphs of the story that we finally surface a professor of biology and endocrinology who believes the abortion/cancer connection is valid. But do we quote him as to why he believes this? No. We quote his political views. Apparently the scientific argument for the anti-abortion side is so absurd that we don’t need to waste our readers’ time with it.”
Scott Gold’s article contained other tricks of bias that Carroll didn’t mention. Take a look at this one: “…critics say the law is a thinly veiled attempt to intimidate, frighten and shame women who are seeking an abortion.” Who are these “critics”? Do they include by chance the Times reporters huddled around Gold’s desk?
The “critics say” trick is a familiar one in the Times. In a story questioning the Pentagon’s embedded reporters policy, they trotted out the phrase to advance their own assertion: “Some critics say these policies raise questions about the balance and sensitivity of wartime media coverage…”
“Some critics say” is the Times‘s euphemism for “Our opinion is…” Times reporters frequently speak through their sources. When they want to nail pro-lifers, they tee up over-the-top quotes from abortionists and Planned Parenthood officials.
Scott Gold thought this quote fair enough to include in his story about the disputed link between abortion and breast cancer: “‘They [pro-lifers in Texas] don’t care what science says,’ said Claudia D. Stravato, chief executive of Planned Parenthood of Amarillo and the Texas Panhandle. ‘It’s like talking to the Flat Earth Society.'”
Then he let abortionist Dr. Bernard Rosenfeld take a shot: “‘There is absolutely no medical validity to this,'” Rosenfeld said last night. ‘Nobody seriously believes this.'” Planned Parenthood’s Carol J. Stahl got to pile on too: “They must be extremely cynical people to refuse to accept facts and to depend on scaring people to pass their agenda.”
Carroll’s memo is long overdue. Up to this point Times editors have usually denied the existence of liberal media bias. Its media critic David Shaw calls it a mere “perception.” Its Op-Ed page — so uniformly liberal it doesn’t even include the token tame Republican columnist, à la Debra Saunders at the San Francisco Chronicle or William Safire at the New York Times — ran last December a near-banner headline, “The Media Bias Myth,” for a Neal Gabler piece that actually asserted the existence of a conservative media bias.
In a March column David Shaw showcased Eric Alterman’s book, What Liberal Media?. Even as he disparaged “ranters on the right,” Shaw, a monitor of journalistic probity, promoted the work of a ranter on the left. He said that he went to lunch with Alterman and found that he makes “a persuasive case that there really isn’t a pervasive liberal bias in the media.” Shaw couldn’t resist, however, relating Alterman’s lunchtime musing that “Dan Rather and Peter Jennings and Tom Brokaw want nothing to do with the people who listen to talk radio and drive pickup trucks.” Then apparently they went back to scratching their heads over the “perception” of a liberal media bias.
In an earlier column, Shaw had admitted that “on issue after issue — race relations, gun control, the environment, government spending, gay rights, capital punishment — I think most journalists are more liberal than are most other Americans.” But Shaw said he “honestly believes” that journalists don’t allow these views to color their coverage. According to his curious theory, journalists are disciplined enough to edit out ideological bias, but they can’t resist more superficial ones, such as biases toward “fluff,” “sensationalism,” and acrimony.
Carroll’s memo punctures the usual denials of liberal bias. If the bias weren’t real, if it weren’t seeping into news coverage, he wouldn’t have to write a memo telling staffers to knock off the “liberal agenda.”
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