- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 26, 2002

Former CBS newsman Bernie Goldberg's book "Bias" has hit No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list, and its thesis is that CBS News ignores the plight of regular Americans and embraces political correctness. Mr. Goldberg also sees a bias to the left, which is usually the case when political correctness is in play.

As a former CBS News correspondent myself, I agree with Mr. Goldberg when he says conservative voices are neglected on CBS. But I don't think Dan Rather and the crew consciously try to get liberals elected to office or actively lobby for left-wing causes. Although Mr. Rather is clearly a Democrat and did a Texas fund-raiser to prove it he is far too aware of the left-wing label directed at him to go over the top.

The real problem at the network news organizations, and in the TV world in general, is a lack of diversity. There should be television affirmative action to recruit people who are regular folks and not Ivy Leaguers, children of privilege or knee-jerk lefties. Here's a good example: Last week, I spoke to more than 100 television news writers in Pasadena, Calif. After 27 years in the TV news business, I know a lot of these people. And guess what? I don't know one not one conservative TV writer. All of them are either liberal in their politics or moderate.

To demonstrate my point, I asked the writers this question: Why is it that every time an article is written about me I see the word "conservative" in front of my name? And if it's not "conservative," it's "blowhard," "combative," "acerbic," and on and on. There's always an adjective in front of Bill. Now, if you want to think I'm conservative, that's fine. But if you're going to label me, then label every TV commentator.

PBS recently announced that Bill Moyers is getting a new program. Yet not one writer put the word "liberal" in front of Mr. Moyers' name. There is no more liberal commentator than Mr. Moyers. So where was the "liberal" tag?

Same thing with Geraldo Rivera. I have never seen an article calling him "the liberal Geraldo." I mean, come on… if Geraldo isn't a proud member of the left, then Alan Dershowitz is going camping with Jerry Falwell.

Want more? Always, the Fox News Channel is labeled a conservative network. Yet, you never see an article about NPR branding it a liberal enterprise. What's that all about? Currently, I have a best-selling book, and I wanted to get the word out on NPR because their listeners are book friendly. So, my PR people called a bunch of NPR stations. None of them would invite me on.

News blackout? I had invitations from every major radio program in the country, including Howard Stern. But not one NPR station had any time for me? This is what Bernie Goldberg means when he says that liberal bias in the media is exclusionary and pervasive.

Say what you want about the Fox News Channel, but we seek out all points of view. Yes, some of those views are right-wingers who are positively giddy they are getting on national television because they rarely had the opportunity in the past. So you do see more conservative voices on the News channel, and that's why it has been branded right wing.

But the truth is, a few dozen primarily white guys have had a stranglehold on network television news since the 1950s. These men usually lived in Manhattan or the posh sections of the District. They often came from wealthy families and were Ivy educated. They knew or cared little about Emma living out there in Tupelo, Miss.

And those who worked below these powerful men were very aware that any kind of deviation from the party line would not be healthy for their careers. Thus, TV news did not question the Kennedy infidelities or the Gulf of Tonkin incident, or even Watergate very much. Newspapers broke all the big stories while TV news tentatively watched history unfold. Network news also did not seek out opinions from the heartland, preferring to stay Beltway-friendly.

That is all over now. Talk radio and cable TV news have made it difficult for the networks to bury important stories or to ignore politically incorrect voices. The establishment media and some TV writers hate this, but tough questioning and the sound of many voices on the news is here to stay. And you can label that anything you want.

Bill O'Reilly is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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