A note to my conservative friends

Oct.
30
A few things about the practice of journalism and the American news media on which the conservative movement and I agree.

The attempted “sting” against me and my NYU colleague Clay Shirky by James O’Keefe (which you can read about here and here) had its intended effect. It sent even more culture war resentment my way than is normally sent my way. (“The most striking thing about this is the lack of any ethical consideration whatsoever…”)

So I thought it might be good time to address my conservative friends and readers, not on the differences I have with them but on a few areas of (possible) common ground.

I don’t think this will change a thing. It won’t increase mutual understanding, correct for caricature or open space for honest dialogue. There is no such hope for such in the culture war climate we have in the United States, especially around the performance of the news media. But it’s worth doing anyway. Here, I am going to speak to what I take to be common attitudes within the conservative movement generally, based in part on things I hear coming at me from the right. So when I say “you” I really mean tendencies, not individuals.

1. You think the New York Times is “a liberal newspaper” and so do I. In 2004 the New York Times public editor, Daniel Okrent, said just that: The Times is a liberal newspaper, in part because it reflects the city in which it is edited. Here’s what I wrote about Okrent’s column:

One Sunday morning he called the New York Times a liberal newspaper. And even though he meant “…on social issues only!” it was still a profound moment in the history of the Times— and I believe a liberating one. He said it was his most important column and he’s right.

Recently Bill Keller, the former executive editor of the Times, endorsed that view. He also said it’s extremely important for journalists to try to distance themselves from the beliefs they have going into a story.

2. You think the mainstream press should stop claiming it has no view of the world and so do I. The way I read them, conservatives often get exasperated (get real, Jay, they are regularly enraged…) at the way mainstream journalists present themselves as viewless and “above it all,” such that if you’re dissatisfied with their portrait the likely reason is that you refuse to face reality as it is, because that’s what news reports from mainstream journalists do: they depict reality, not the way you see it or I see it but simply “…the way it is.”

I think this attitude is corrosive and mistaken. Not only have I criticized it, under the heading The View from Nowhere, I have tried to suggest what might take its place.  This is what I wrote:

I could be wrong, but I think we are in the midst of shift in the system by which trust is sustained in professional journalism. David Weinberger tried to capture it with his phrase: transparency is the new objectivity. My version of that: it’s easier to trust in “here’s where I’m coming from” than the View from Nowhere. These are two different ways of bidding for the confidence of the users.

In the old way, one says: “I don’t have a horse in this race. I don’t have a view of the world that I’m defending. I’m just telling you the way it is, and you should accept it because I’ve done the work and I don’t have a stake in the outcome…”

In the newer way, the logic is different. “Look, I’m not going to pretend that I have no view. Instead, I am going to level with you about where I’m coming from on this. So factor that in when you evaluate my report. Because I’ve done the work and this is what I’ve concluded…”

If the View from Nowhere continues on, unchallenged, trust in the news media will probably continue to decline.

See also Conor Friedersdorf, Stop Forcing Journalists to Conceal Their Views from the Public.

3. You think NPR should stop supporting itself with taxpayer dollars and so do I. Writing about an earlier stunt by James O’Keefe, which resulted in the forced resignation of NPR’s CEO, Vivian Schiller, I advised NPR thusly:

* Abandon viewlessness as the official ideology at NPR. Replace it with pluralism. Meaning: NPR acknowledges that the people who work for it have a diverse mix of views and starting points. It is unreasonable to expect that these won’t factor into their work, but it is perfectly reasonable to hold everyone at NPR to basic standards: accuracy, fairness, intellectual honesty and transparency. That means you can click on the name of any editorial staffer and find out where they’re coming from

* Renounce the two percent or so of its budget that it gets directly from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting or other federal agencies, eliminating that as an hot button issue. (NPR finances are explained here.)

4. You think I should just admit I’m a liberal. So do I. I try to practice what I preach to journalists: that it’s easier for people to trust in “here’s where I’m coming from” than the View from Nowhere. I don’t pretend to be a person without political views or starting points. Since 2004 I’ve had an FAQ at my blog that includes this statement.

Politically, where are you: left, right, middle of the road, liberal, conservative?

My views on issues would be standard Upper West Side Liberal Jewish babyboomer— even though I don’t live in that neighborhood. I am a registered Democrat. I supported Rudy Giuliani, a Republican, over David Dinkins (D) and I am fan of the job Bloomberg has done as mayor. I’ve written for Harpers, the Nation, Columbia Journalism Review, Chronicle of Higher Education, New York Times, Washington Post, Salon and Tompaine.com, to list a few, but not the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard or the Washington Times. I was media editor at Tikkun magazine for a while. That should be enough to place me on your spectrum.

Update: April 2008. As I mentioned here, I am a supporter of Barack Obama for president and I hope he wins. I haven’t given money, or donated time, or been in contact with the campaign, but I voted for him in the primary and intend to do so again in November, 2008. Just thought I should make that clear in this space.

5. You think Dan Rather engaged in outrageous misconduct back in 2004 and so do I. Every conservative who participates in media critique remembers the episode in the fall of 2004 when CBS aired a deeply flawed documentary on George W. Bush’s Air National Guard record. Dan Rather, then the anchor of the CBS Evening News, not only defended the work but attacked the people who were questioning it. I thought Rather was very, very wrong and I wrote about it repeatedly. A representative clip, from the day after CBS released a big report on the episode.

Dear Dan Rather: “Lest anyone have any doubt,” you said in your statement yesterday, “I have read the report, I take it seriously, and I shall keep its lessons well in mind.”

I still have my doubts. Perhaps these would be lessened if, for example, you had bothered to spell out which lessons you saw for yourself, and for CBS News in the review panel’s report.

  • Was it the lesson about the deadly consequences of dismissing criticism because you think you know the motivations of the critics?
  • Was the lesson that a prudent journalist ought to fear and respect the fact-checking powers of the Internet?
  • Or was it that by stretching yourself thin you had stretched thin the credibility of the very network you thought you were serving by taking so many assignments?
  • Maybe the lesson is not to apologize when you think you did nothing wrong.

We have had post-mortems that were published before, but not as detailed as this. What lessons are in the report for you, Dan Rather, will be established in public discussion, as the findings sink in. Today, for example, we are discussing, in rhythm with the news cycle, whether CBS News showed political bias in its mishandling of the Air National Guard story. Tomorrow it will be some further refinement.

I would not go so far as to say that you, Dan Rather, need to write a blog. You don’t. But take the money you spend on the person who is sometimes called your spokeswoman, and hire yourself a skilled blogger, to do a Dan Rather Reports blog. Here you post additional source material, put tapes of your interviews, and also explain yourself, react to crtics and follow up on stories aired by 60 Minutes.

Participating in debate around the blog and online journalism worlds could be as simple as lose the spokesperson and meet with your personal blogger for 20-30 minutes a day. He does the rest. Morning talks are turned into posts quoting you; your blogger gets the links to go with them and “runs” the blog, including comment sections. Whenever you want to write, you do.

The blogger is a feedback loop and fail safe device. Part of what she does is monitor the online world for what is being said about Dan Rather and his reporting. Such a person, well connected to the discussion, would have been extremely valuable to you during the twelve-day period, Sep. 8-20, 2004. After six months of your blog, statements like this from Linda Mason, your new vice president for standards: “Dan does think he’s constantly attacked. If we backed off every story that was criticized, we wouldn’t be doing any stories…” would be rendered inoperative by reason of being inane.

One more: a bonus agreement between you and me. You think heavily-edited programs like 60 Minutes should release all the footage from their interviews so we can judge how fair the final product is, and so do I.

That’s five-and-a-half patches of common ground. If I think of more, I will add them to this post.

52 Comments

  1. Jay Stevens says:

    You didn’t say this anywhere in the post, but I think it’s in the subtext, but I assume you feel these same ideas and principles apply universally. That is, Fox News should be just as transparent about its, er, political orientation as Jay Rosen and the New York Times.

    Which is another way of saying I’m not sure if conservatives would agree with any of these ideas. In conservo-world, Fox News is actually unbiased, bravely reporting the truth in the face of the liberal-fascist worldview of the MSM. Pointing out the Times’ liberal slant isn’t for the sake of transparency, but to discredit the paper’s occasional and uncomfortable ability to factually pick apart conservative talking points…

    • Sam Penrose says:

      Jay Stevens —

      Writing as a liberal who agrees with everything in this post of Jay R.’s, I believe you are making what Paul Krugman identifies as the mistake of thinking your opponent is a mirror image of you. Fox is a key player in the Republican party; the NYT and other liberal media Rosen discusses have very different relationships with electoral politics. For the NYT, understanding itself as liberal is an existential crisis and remaining independent of the Democratic machinery a moral imperative. For Roger Ailes, playing a role in Republican electoral politics comes before producing news, in every sense of “comes before”.

      Note that nothing about this analysis pre-supposes that Keller’s relationship with his profession and politics is morally superior to Ailes’. Well, almost nothing: the mores of professional “journalism” might. From a political perspective, Ailes’ Brechtian preference for using words and images as hammers to shape reality has a certain moral clarity in comparison to those who see reporting as an ethical act in an of itself.

      If you this sounds rather esoteric, it’s not. Here one account among many of Fox doing its primary work of shaping who runs our government: http://www.tnr.com/article/politics/magazine/94953/fox-news-gop-candidates

      • TheLastBrainLeft says:

        This is really a bunch of crap. FOX News may be conservative, and has been from the beginning by deliberate design, but there is no more of a connection between them and the GOP than other media outlets and the Democrats. Check out how many former journalists now work for the Obama administration. Protip: none work for Fox News.

    • coloradojim says:

      Actually, this just shows your own bias. I think pretty much all conservatives (including even the Fox News personalities) admit that Fox has a right-center bias.

      The real frustration is that NYT, CNN, PBS, MSNBC, ABC, NBC, CBS, WaPo, ect. do not admit their own. Really, other than Fox, is there another major player in the print or TV world that is right-center? Or even just non-left or left-center?

      Given that, I think Fox is a pretty small pebble in the public news media world. And look at the uproar on the left over that. Imagine if there ever gets to be TWO non-left-wing national TV news outlets…. Will Dan Rather explode?

      • The Wall Street Journal, and it, not Fox News, is the real center-right counterbalance to the NYT. Fox News is more like a conservative tabloid TV network. Reminds me a bit of the NY Post but with more politics.

        While the NYT and all publications should be honest about what they are and who they employ, too many conservatives try to conflate Fox News, The Washington Times, the work of James O’Keefe, etc. with mainstream media outlets. Most of those conservative outlets end of being a conservative caricature of center-left or centrist mainstream media outlets.

        The Economist is by many accounts center-right or centrist (it’s very name tips its hand). The Financial Times is center-right. There are plenty of really good news outlets that aren’t center-left.

        Fox News is the counterbalance to MSNBC and neither are center-anything.

        • I’m embarrassed by using the wrong its in that last comment. Love these nested comments though.

        • Charles says:

          The Economist, leans left, and always have. As an economist, I know this to be true. Their liberal bias comes out in their non economic articles.

          • bille says:

            “The Economist, leans left, and always have. As an economist, I know this to be true. Their liberal bias comes out in their non economic articles.” (errors in the original)

            I’m not certain how your expertise applies. You claim that the bias is visible in non economic articles. Your background is in economics. Yet you claim to have special knowledge which uniquely qualifies you to make the distinction. You are over-reaching. As a fellow economist, I know this to be true.

    • Bill says:

      Bypassing a bunch of hot air…. ‘you nailed it!’

  2. TJIC says:

    > * Renounce the two percent or so of its budget that it gets directly from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting or other federal agencies,

    Why just renounce the 2% that it gets DIRECTLY? We all know that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is the fig leaf that allows NPR to get 50% of its funds from taxpayers after they’ve been laundered through the CPB.

    Cut the 2%, yes, and ** ALSO ** shut down all government funding of the CPB, and then I’d have no more problem with the existence of NPR than I do w any left-wing or right-wing magazine, radio station, etc.

    Pluralism is great. … I just loathe being forced to pay to subsidize views that I find antithetical.

  3. This is well put, but yes, as Jay Stevens suggests, whether they are true points of agreement or not surely depends on whether they stem from the same understanding of whether the “view from nowhere” is possible or desirable. The implication of the tone of James O’Keefe’s hilariously pathetic “sting” is that your (or the NYT’s) liberalism is an outrage, not that everything would be fine if we were all more upfront about having a perspective.

  4. David Parsons says:

    I’m a conservative. I expected this article to contain snark and condescension, but there was none. What the hell is going on here? I think I’ll come back and read more.

    As for the comments, though, they bring up Fox News out of the blue, and attack it. Liberals appear to be obsessed with attacking Americans’ favorite cable news channel, on journalistic grounds. That’s a ridiculous exercise that only reinforces the belief of conservatives that the thing liberals care about most is control of information and conformity of opinion.

  5. Bryan V. says:

    I think you’ve given them enough rope, Jay.

  6. jayackroyd says:

    Jay,

    When you and Stuart Zechman joined us at Virtually Speaking, (http://bit.ly/vVecG4) one of the points he raised is that the mainstream media is not liberal. It’s centrist. (I put up a post recently at eschaton that explains what I mean by that: http://bit.ly/vvNVyT)

    I think Stuart is correct. The Times isn’t liberal. It’s sympathy lies with the Democratic party elites and not with the leadership of the Republican party, but that doesn’t make the Times “liberal,” because the leadership of the party rejects movement liberalism.

    A different way to express this is to say the Times is part of the 1 percent, something that is reinforced to me every Thursday, when my dead tree edition is accompanied by a full color 168 page magazine of chronometer or real estate porn.

    The Times lives by access, so you see stories like today’s above the fold lead, http://nyti.ms/tGA33j that represents administration stenography, carrying forth the Iran is a threat thing, the US gets to own the Gulf thing.

    This is not “liberal” coverage. It’s institutional coverage. It’s being on the same team as the government officials that are there sources.

    It’s not journalism. And, it’s not “liberal.” Nor does it reflect the interests of the 99.

  7. What upsets us right-wingers is not that you don’t admit your biases to us, but that you don’t admit your biases to yourself.

    A good example is the conservative reaction last night to one of your tweets, where you said “News is built on conflict. Like, say, the conflict between the 1 percent and the 99.”.

    Right-wingers can see the biases in this short statement, but you can’t see it yourself. Instead, you see their reaction as confirming whatever low opinion you have of right-wingers.

    Objectivity doesn’t demand that you can’t prefer side, but it does demand that you understand the other side, or at least, that the other side exists.

  8. Unlike your liberal supporters above, I disagree with the assumption that “I believe you are making what Paul Krugman identifies as the mistake of thinking your opponent is a mirror image of you.” Or, that stating these common grounds is somehow a waste of time.

    I am in stark contrast to your political views, but found this post enlightening and educational–even though we do disagree on most other things. It’s not about giving people a “rope,” this has been the problem with our system and attacks on each other.

    I very much appreciate this post and will pass this onto my conservative friends, contrary to your commenters beliefs or those who portray us as right-wing-nut-job-teabaggers, we care about this country as much as you do and finding some common ground is important, or we’re all doomed to divisiveness.

    I pity anyone, right or left, who lacks the ability to think critically and remain open to dialogue (not political rhetoric).

    Thanks Jay :-)

    • Steph says:

      “…contrary to your commenters beliefs or those who portray us as right-wing-nut-job-teabaggers, we care about this country as much as you do.”

      LOVE this statement. I trend toward the right more so than the left (I’m one of those nutjob Ron Paul supporters) but I think that in any discourse it is critical to recognize that whether we are right or left, both our sides care deeply about our country and despite our different approaches, wish to better it. One of the biggest mistakes each of us makes is making the assumption that the “other side” is trying to destroy our nation.

    • Sam Penrose says:

      Maria Reyes-McDavis: the Krugman quotation I used that you cite was in reference to Jay Steven’s view of Fox News, not to jay Rosen’s view of conservatives. Please reread my comment; I think it is clear.

  9. CJN says:

    I’m with Dan on this one. I’m a card-carrying member of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy, but I think there is a lot of good stuff in this note. You’ve gained a reader.

    However, let me ask you the following: Honestly, how many liberals do you think would agree with the majority of your points? Or perhaps the more relevant question, how many liberals would consider any of your points all that important? Wouldn’t the vast majority simply wave their hand and say, “Oh, who cares about Dan Rather? Rush Limbaugh Glen Beck Sarah Palin target maps Gabby Giffords RABBLE RABBLE RABBLE!”

    I mean… this post went up at 12:31. Fifteen minutes later someone was already waving the Fox News boogey man mask.

    • It’s important to keep in mind that Jay is a journalism professor and the vast majority of journalists — regardless of personal political leanings — were appalled by Dan Rather’s actions.

      Now, as to the question as to whether or not the majority of journalists would be willing to admit their biases and then go about their work, I’m not sure a majority of journalists would support that. In fact, I see considerable push-pack from journalists on this idea because they still believe that they can someone how be dispassionate observers far above the fray.

      The view from nowhere is institutional. Bloggers, particularly tech bloggers, are at the leading edge of destroying this mindset.

      • CJN says:

        I’m not sure if I agree with your characterization of how the “vast majority” of journalists reacted to Dan Rather’s 60 Minutes piece, Patrick. Remember, although “fake but accurate” has now become a punchline, that phrase first appeared (without irony!) in a NYT news article about the controversy: “Memos on Bush Are Fake But Accurate, Typist Says.”

        Again, that’s from a news article by-lined by two reporters, not from an unsigned editorial or an op-ed column. It’s pretty hard to argue with the notion that, in 2004, at least, the NYT was clearly representative of the “establishment view” in journalism. And they were most decidedly NOT “appalled” at what Dan Rather did.

    • Sam Penrose says:

      I am a liberal, and I agree with all 5 points.

  10. He doth protesteth too much me thinks.

  11. Heather says:

    I came over from James’ Twitter feed.

    I find this post refreshing and honest. Thank you for writing it. As divided as we are right now as a country, I will take your five patches of common ground. Oh, that they would grow! Not that they would force us to drop our individual beliefs, but that we would each see the individual in our opponents, rather than a caricature. It pains me when I hear the words Teaba**** and Libt***. Really? This is what passes for serious, thoughtful discussion?

    I wish with all my heart that our country would believe Geo. Washington when he said in his farewell, “The unity of government which constitutes you one people is also now dear to you. It is justly so, for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very liberty which you so highly prize. But as it is easy to foresee that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed, it is of infinite moment that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.”

  12. James Preston says:

    Thank you for the reasoned post.

    @Jayackroyd, sorry to bring facts into the discussion, but the only peer-reviewed statistical study ( http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/polisci/faculty/groseclose/Media.Bias.8.htm ) demonstrated pronounced left-wing bias in the media.

    As for this post, what is most concerning to me is the classroom instruction itself. It appeared to me to demonstrate a complete disregard for journalistic ethics and a primer on how to disguise a political agenda as news coverage.

    How, for example, could the Times help market the viability of an unknown like Barack Obama as a presidential candidate?

    Forget your agenda: teaching budding “journalists” to continue these practices of agenda journalism represents hypocrisy of the highest order.

    • jayackroyd says:

      I urge folks to click through on the link James cites here. It’s from 2004, and isn’t particularly fact based. But YMMV. Do please assess for yourself whether the study supports James’ assertion.

      I’d add, James, that I am absolutely, positively not claiming an absence of bias in the media. But I am not asserting a conservative bias. My claim is the media has a centrist bias, a bias that conforms with Jay’s Voice From Nowhere, and the Sphere of Acceptable Discourse.

      This centrist bias is decidedly not liberal. It’s, if anything, institutional. Like the Times report this morning on US policy in the Gulf, the major media outlets present the point of view of the US Government.
      (http://nyti.ms/vSALsS) There are exceptions, of course, but they generally prove the rule, most spectacularly with Lichtblau and Risen’s story on illegal NSA wiretaps that was suppressed by the Times until they were forced to go public by the pending release of Risen’s book on the subject.

      • This.

        If the mainstream media has an overriding bias its towards an institutional View From Nowhere. It is more aligned with those in power — the political elite, cultural elite, business elite — than anything else.

  13. John says:

    Our politics are different, but i respect your integrity and honesty. The marketplace of ideas need not fear diversity, only deceipt masked as objectivity.

    2 thumbs up for your candor.

  14. Charlie says:

    You are right, Mr. Rosen, I do agree with your five-and-a-half points. However, being willing to admit that they have a political opinion does not exempt journalists from attempting to report the truth. Driving an agenda, secret or not, is not the ideal of an ethical, professional journalist, as I understand it.

    I once had a business partner who would suggest ways to operate our business that clearly favored his financial position over mine. I would argue against his methods, but he would use them anyway, feeling completely justified, because he had told me how he was going to screw me. That attitude, of course, ended our partnership. This reminds me of what your article implies; as long as they come out and tell you their biases, journalists can feel free to report only what helps their respective causes. That does not sound like a free and responsible press, to me.

    The other issue I have with the current situation in the media is that, while liberals feel free to rail against any discrimination against them in any venue, real or perceived, they have no qualms whatsoever with the insidious, systematic discrimination that has been practiced against conservatives in the media for longer than I have been alive. If the shoe were on the other foot, liberals would be screaming for Affirmative Action for liberals in journalism, to right the egregious injustice.

    So, while I agree with your 5-1/2 points, I’m not quite ready to open champagne to toast the breakthrough it represents in journalistic ethics.

    • Jay Rosen says:

      Champagne? There is nothing to celebrate, so indeed hold the champagne. As I said above, this post will change nothing. “It won’t increase mutual understanding, correct for caricature or open space for honest dialogue. There is no such hope for such in the culture war climate we have in the United States.” That’s not a disclaimer, that’s a statement of fact.

    • Bradford says:

      Wow, well said. Best comment on the page!

  15. Joe Eagar says:

    Mr. Rosen, I appreciate your words of agreement. This story doesn’t seem to be taking off (yet, at least), and I think James O’keefe made a big mistake on this matter.

    However, I do want to remind your readership that American politics is a blood sport, and that this kind of gotcha journalism developers discipline and character. We on the right have learned to appreciate this.

    That doesn’t make it right, or fair, and it reminds me a little of social pillarization. But I don’t see how we can avoid things like this. I imagine in a generation or two things will change, but until then there’s nothing anyone can do.

  16. Joe Eagar says:

    Oh, and I listened to the full audio file that O’keefe released. That was an awesome talk, and it definitely put Rosen and Clay more on the side of us whiny media critics than newspapers like the New York Times.

    If I were a student at NYU, I’d take Rosen’s class, despite the large cultural and political differences between us.

  17. Extremely good post. I’m a reporter who greatly admired O’Keefe’s earlier efforts. But I think he has failed completely with the “To Catch a Journalist” series.

    This latest alleged sting just showed two media critics talking and joking about their place in the media ecosystem, and that of the students. Nothing remotely wrong here; indeed, much of it has already been said openly by Jay. And I agree with the vast majority of it. Journalism would be better off if more reporters had his openness.

    There’s plenty of ripe media targets for O’Keefe; but he’s been remarkably inept about going after them. He needs to rethink his whole strategy if this is all he can muster.

  18. Thx for an excellent post Jay.

  19. Doug says:

    I appreciate many of the sentiments expressed above.

    But consider: one of the more vexing questions of recent vintage relates to the treatment of Barack Obama by journalists during the run-up to the 2008 election. How did a relatively unknown community organizer — with minimal experience and documented connections to Marxists, virulent racists, domestic terrorists and antisemites — rise to the presidency?

    Well, in part, thanks to “journalism” classes like this in which disguising a certain political agenda becomes the paramount task (as opposed to actual reporting).

    http://directorblue.blogspot.com/2011/10/james-okeefe-strips-new-york-times-bare.html

  20. Jose Quiles says:

    In all the discussion printed above, we all fail to recognized a simple fact. It is what the main stream media
    defines Left, Right, Center, Conservative, Liberal, Republican and Democrat nowadays. It seems that we are all living in a fictional World. People such as John V Lindsay or Nelson Rockefeller would be consider leftist sympathizers in today’s USA. And the offspring of the John Birch Society is now consider center of the road.

    • Joe Eagar says:

      If the John Birch point were true, why is Glenn Beck off the air and why doesn’t Ron Paul lead in the polls? I’m a little sick of this kind of self-deception. You *want* what you said about the John Birch society to be true, since it lets you label large numbers of people–those unwashed masses who make up 40% of the population and call themselves “conservative.” Oh no! Hitler is coming back! I get to feel self-righteous because I’m denouncing fascism (not that only lefties get a kick from denouncing fascism, pretty much everyone does).

  21. Steve-O-Reno says:

    Why is it, that I must know so much of those bringing me the story and so little of the actual story?

  22. Tim says:

    You have conservative friends?

  23. JSF says:

    Mr. Rosen,

    Before I got into politics, I studied how to be a reporter.

    You are on the “Right,” track with this post; However, journalism needs some serious reform.

    As a politico, I don’t mind partisans who play a role on the battlefield of ideas — it is not the reporters role to do the same.

    The reason why Fox news and Talk Radio have an audience is because there seems to be no Old Media that represents our views at all. In news articles, I have seen many reporters get the branches, beliefs and people wrong just out here in LA (and when I was on the Hill during the 90’s).

    I mentioned reform. Here is what I mean:

    1) CJR is run by a former Nation editor. I read CJR and they never hold Left magazines (or channels) to the same standards as Fox news or the WSJ. Can someone cry “Conflict of interest?” By not doing so, feeds into the rise of alternate media.

    2) Ezra Klein and JournoList 1.0 and 2.0 — Again, why should reporters play on the partisan battlefield? Their role is to report WHAT is going so the public can make the decisions on their own.

    Until someone holds Ezra Klein and JournoList accountable, how can anyone politico, partisan or Blogger of the Right trust the Old media?

    Call it out and expose all their members for putting their hands on the scale during 2008.

    3) Explain what role Jonathan Alter plays in a magazine like Newsweek. There are too many reporters who want every Democratic Administration to be “Camelot,” and every Republican Administration to be “Watergate,”

    Can the media grow up already? The Old media is supposed to speak “Truth to Power,” whatever the party designation.

    I have a saying, “There are no Woodward and Bernsteins during Democratic Administrations,” Alter proves the point for me.

    OK, thanks for listening. And this a good start with this post.

  24. Don Hicks says:

    Mr. Rosen,
    Thank you for the “common ground.” Unfortunately, as you state, it won’t make a difference because you’re just saying the obvious.

    My problem with the MSM is not that what they report is biased, that’s obvious. My problem is with what they don’t report.

    The most recent comparison is the coverage of the Herman Cain sexual harassment accusations vs. the John Edwards sexual affair accusations in October 2007. In addition, there are several examples of Obama 2008 campaign corruption, of which I know the press were aware by their own admission, that went unreported before the election.

    What are they not telling me today?

  25. shawn says:

    You are lying because I see your lips moving in the latest O’Keefe video out today.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=my4J8KPaIiY

    Lamestream indeed

  26. Chris says:

    Hi Jay,

    I like how you’re pointing out where we agree, and it is heartening a liberal media leader is willing to do that these days. I think there needs to be a distinct and highlighted difference between fact and opinion in every news report and story. Something that irritates me about the media is how biased is used to shift opinion one way or the other. Most citizens don’t pay close attention to politics and want snipits. The liberals have controlled the snipits forever and I believe they are now losing that control because of social media and talk radio. Liberalism can’t compete for viewers or readers nationally because people don’t like reading/hearing commentators complain about how society isn’t a rosie place for those who make bad decisions. Based on that I believe liberals will have to double down on Hollywood and Academia to get the word out. It’s not looking good for liberal journalists.

    @ChrisOnly1USA

  27. You give O’Breitbart way too much credit. A simple hearty “fuck you” would have been sufficient.

  28. This is a great post from Jay, and (most of) the comments are so refreshingly thoughtful for this very fraught subject. Reading them makes it clear why conservatives feel under attack from the MSM, which leaned left for years.

    As a Liberal (centrist version), I can describe the parallel anger from Liberals: the comfortably leftist point of view of the MSM in years past has shifted center-ward, so Liberals also feel that the media is biased against them, as well as cowardly and “caving in.”

    What puzzles me is this: why do we let these differences control us? We all know that the prime directive of news media is to cover conflict, and this leads to a focus on, and exaggeration of, conflict. Whether a given news source leans left or right is less important than its need for conflict. With MSNBC firmly on the left and Fox on the right, sort of built-in screaming squads, how can we find the reasoned solutions we so desperately need?

    Most Americans hate political corruption and the government/corporate complex, yet we are driven like cattle to condemn these things from our separate pens, mooing at each other and drowning out any possibility of collective action to change it. This is a classic divide and conquer strategy and it is working very well.

    I believe the people have to change – our focus on liberal vs conservative, on the team mentality – and the MSM will follow. We can reach over the media and the politicians (whose careers are also made by these conflicts) to connect and find our own solutions. This is the digital age! Let us connect.

  29. […] the argument made by NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen, who found some areas on which he and conservative […]

  30. David says:

    Why bother addressing this to your “conservative friends and readers” if you acknowledge it will not contribute to change and understanding? Make your points to us and tell us how knowing our commonalities with the enemy will help the people who read you and are influenced by you. Otherwise, it just feels like a very misdirected effort.