- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 23, 2002

Big media is taking a bashing these days.

Former CBS reporter Bernard Goldberg's book "Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News," hit the top spot on the New York Times best-seller list last week.

William McGowan, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute in New York, is also making waves with his "Coloring the News: How Crusading for Diversity has Corrupted American Journalism."

Media analyst Robert Lichter, director of the Center for Media and Public Affairs in the District, says journalists cannot ignore a topic that is atop the nation's leading best-seller list.

"Books like these force journalists to rethink issues they would rather not think about," he says. "Whether they change anyone's mind is anyone's guess. But you can't change anyone's mind if you are not forced to think about the topic."

But one of Mr. McGowan's premiere targets, the New York Times, will not be critiquing the book, according to two staffers contacted by The Washington Times. On Saturday, the New York Post lampooned the Times' decision by dubbing it "a book that's not fit to review."

Both writers have taken pains to not align themselves with conservative causes. Mr. Goldberg, who grew up in a blue-collar Democratic family, says he is for homosexual and abortion rights. Mr. McGowan, a registered independent, says he does not vote Republican.

Despite the apparent impartiality, any criticism will roll off the backs of its intended targets, says Stan Rothman, director of the Study for Social and Political Change at Smith College and a longtime media analyst.

"They ignore these people," he says of the networks, "because it would require a change in how they view the world. The majority of journalists strive to be fair, but they are not dead horses, so they tend to be left of center. And the public as a whole knows it. Plus, the journalism schools and those who teach them are more to the left than the journalists themselves."

When asked to comment on a "newsmaker" lunch given yesterday at the National Press Club on the topic of abortion, at which only one viewpoint, that of Kate Michelman of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, was presented, Mr. Rothman guessed its organizers think they are "doing the right thing."

"Their attitude is all reasonable people believe in abortion," he says. "They would believe she has a good perspective and that the other side is not worth repeating."

Mr. McGowan's book argues that political correctness in American newsrooms has resulted in "journalistic malpractice."

Describing cases such as that of black obstetrician Dr. Patrick Chavis, seemingly a poster boy for affirmative action whose career was lionized in national media, Mr. McGowan says his subsequent disgrace after one patient died after a botched liposuction and a criminal investigation for other professional misconduct was barely reported on by these same newspapers and magazines.

The New York Times, for instance, "ran nothing to amend its false portrait of an affirmative-action hero, or to question the legitimacy of a race-conscious social policy that had made him a doctor," Mr. McGowan wrote.

"The average news exec is a 50-something white guy who the last thing he wants in his basket is a problem on the race issue," he said. "So they let themselves get steamrolled again and again. There is so much sanctimony and moral preening going on in this agenda.

"Whether the issue be the integration of gays and women into the military, AIDS, abortion, gay marriage or gay adoption, the press has tended to side with gay and feminist groups, trimming its news-gathering zeal to filter out realities that might undercut the cause," he says.

Newsrooms started a crusade to diversify their ranks around 1992, he says, making senior editors' salaries dependent on the number of minority journalists they either hired or promoted. Special intern programs for minorities were created by organizations such as the Freedom Forum, whose parent organization, the Gannett Corp., had an exceptionally stringent diversity policy at its top-selling newspaper, USA Today. Editors were required to run photos of minorities above the front-page fold and reporters' evaluations were weighed on how many times they quoted minorities vs. white sources.

But instead of improving news coverage, Mr. McGowan says, such workplace engineering has fostered dishonesty.

"Much to the chagrin of news organizations who thought they could leverage diversity to bolster sagging readership and viewership, the new minority readers and viewers never really materialized," he writes. "In fact, the push for diversity has pushed away many white, middle-class readers and viewers who often find the ideologically skewed reporting on diversity sharply at odds with their sense of reality."

As diversity efforts have brought in more minorities of every sort, newsrooms have become Balkanized kingdoms where "certain groups feel more empowered in the journalistic shouting match than others," he writes.

Those who dissent keep silent.

"People can read the signals and they don't want to speak up," he said. "I had bureau chiefs in Washington for major newspapers who didn't want me to use their names because they could lose their jobs. Those who toe the line get promoted and end up at the better news organizations, whereas those who do not end up in career backwaters or career Siberias or get retaliated upon."

Others have found fault with media for hiring only certain types of reporters. Former ABC-TV religion reporter Peggy Wehmeyer, a highly rated professional who got dropped from the network last year ostensibly for economic reasons, faults networks for their "lack of diversity when it comes to religious beliefs and ideology."

"As much attention as the media give to make sure that there's representation and diversity in the area of race, gender and even sexual orientation," she told Baptist Press, "I think it's time for the media to pay attention to ideological diversity, especially when it comes to religion."

But Islam has gotten a free ride, says Mr. McGowan, who calls American Muslims "the new objets du jour of journalistic solicitude."

"Although there were indeed some hateful acts committed against Muslims in America or those confused for Muslims post-September 11, these acts have been exaggerated by the press," he says, "with facts rarely supporting the PC generalization that America was overtaken by a fit of 'anti-Muslim fervor' as the New York Times characterized it.

"If a publisher was interested in real diversity rather than diversity on the cheap, he would hire, for instance, a female reporter who opposes abortion, or a born-again Christian, or for that matter, a Republican. I don't necessarily endorse the viewpoints of any of these groups, yet researching this book has convinced me that these viewpoints, and others considered 'retrograde,' are systematically excluded from today's newsroom."

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