- The Washington Times - Monday, May 24, 2004

Liberal thinking may be catching up with the press, according to a survey of 547 journalists released Sunday.

The poll found that only 7 percent of the nationally based journalists called themselves “conservatives” while 34 percent described themselves as liberal and 54 percent as moderate.

Among the general public, according to a separate Pew poll from earlier this month, 33 percent call themselves conservative, 20 percent liberal and 41 percent moderate.

“The assumption has been that as time went on, the mainstream media was becoming less liberal as people looked for an alternative voice. But the survey shows this is not true at all. The mainstream news outlets are more liberal than ever,” said Brent Baker of the Media Research Center.

Amy Mitchell of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, which conducted the poll with the Pew Research Center and the Committee of Concerned Journalists, said the survey “found a more definite liberal tilt in journalists than in the general public. And when there is a situation like that, there is the potential for problems in coverage.”

“The fact that journalists described themselves as liberal doesn’t necessarily mean their viewpoints carry through. But it creates more possibility that it will happen,” she said, adding that “well-rounded newsrooms should aim to represent a diversity of viewpoints” that include a variety of ideologies, religions, races and other factors.

But some journalists seemed reluctant to acknowledge any liberal dominance: 60 percent of national print and 58 percent of national broadcast journalists could not “think of any” news organization with an “especially liberal” tilt in its coverage.

“Since the respondents must realize how the left-wing tilt of their profession would be interpreted by conservatives, it’s a safe bet to assume that a significant number of actual liberals called themselves moderates,” Mr. Baker added.

Asked whether they could name “conservative” news organizations, 78 percent of print and 86 percent of broadcast journalists said they could. Seven out of 10 cited the Fox News Channel.

The same group maintained their virtue, however. Among print journalists, 74 percent said an ideological tilt in coverage was a “bad thing”; 69 percent of the broadcasters agreed.

Among both groups, 55 percent said coverage of President Bush was “not critical enough,” a sign that the press “had lost its critical edge,” the poll said.

The pollsters did not offer hard conclusions.

“The real question is how journalists rate their own ability to keep their point of view out of their coverage,” observed Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center.

The survey found that 46 percent of the nation’s top reporters and editors felt the press “let ideological views show too often.”

The poll itself — which included both national and local print and broadcast journalists and executives — was conducted between March 10 and April 20. The entire survey can be viewed at the Pew Research Center Web site (http://people-press.org).

Meanwhile, a variety of poll numbers in the past two decades suggests that the population of conservative journalists is falling.

A 1981 survey of 240 print and broadcast journalists by Robert Lichter and Stanley Rothman found that 19 percent said they leaned right. A 1988 survey of 1,037 newspaper reporters by the American Society of Newspaper Editors found 15 percent leaned “conservative/Republican.”

Four years later, 16 percent of 1,410 journalists polled by the Freedom Forum were Republican. By 2001, A Kaiser Family Foundation survey of 300 reporters found that only 6 percent were conservative.

Contact Jennifer Harper at jharper@washingtontimes.com or 202/636-3085.

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