Thursday, January 12, 2006

A New Spine for the Media

by Scott Shields

It's long been my belief, and I know I'm not alone in this, that the root of right wing bias in the media isn't so much ideology as intimidation. The right has done an incredible job of bullying the press over the past few decades, largely through accusations of liberal bias. The end result is the 'he said, she said' back and forth that is too frightened to inject any sort of context into the reporting.
Much to their credit, Knight Ridder has pushed back on the Republicans' media intimidation tactics. see here In December, Knight Ridder put out a story that discussed Samuel Alito's history of working "to weave a conservative legal agenda into the fabric of the nation's laws." As would be expected, the GOP immediately lashed out in a coordinated attack, with various elected officials and talking heads disputing the piece, claiming liberal bias.

More than a few media outlets would have responded with a timid "correction," or more likely, stories more friendly to and less probing of the subject, Judge Alito. But not in this case.

This hysteria over a carefully researched article that documents the obvious - that Samuel Alito is a judicial conservative - is the latest example of a disturbing trend of attacking the messenger instead of debating difficult issues.
Fact-based reporting is the lifeblood of a democracy. It gives people shared information on which to make political choices. But as people in new democracies risk their lives to gather such information, in this country fact-based reporting is under more relentless assault than at any time in my more than 40 years in Washington.

The GOP would like to think that it's possible to intimidate the press from reporting any and all facts that may portray them in an unflattering light. Their recent history of dealing with the traditional media gives them good reason to think that. So it's refreshing to see an organization like Knight Ridder stand up and loudly proclaim that they stand behind their reporting and that the GOP is full of crap.


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