- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 15, 2005

If The Washington Post is like most big metropolitan newspapers, it will dismiss the recent study of the media by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, which found that American newspapers were three times more likely to print negative news about President Bush than about Sen. John Kerry.

After all, says Philip Bennett, the managing editor of The Post, “[m]ost big, metropolitan and urban newspapers were built in a strong Democratic tradition because they came from [an] urban environment and traditionally voted Democratic. So they tend to, on the editorial side, support Democratic views.”

Mr. Bennett said this in an interview with China’s People’s Daily, the government-controlled newspaper. Mr. Bennett concedes “there is a mood of great suspicion about the media.” Why’s that? “I think there is a perception among some of [The Post’s] readers that we are hostile to the Bush administration or representing our own political point of view in our news coverage.”

“Perception” is a malleable term — news coverage can be spun in multiple ways. But here’s his take on the administration, Iraq and the U.S. media: “One of the jobs of [The Post’s] correspondents in Baghdad is to tell our readers what the Bush administration is trying to hide.” For example, “Bush says democracy is advancing in Iraq, but our correspondents say the situation there is much more complex than that.” Well, no argument that Iraq is “complex,” but with the recent successful elections, an observer doesn’t have to be an administration stooge to concede that democracy is “advancing.”

Mr. Bennett thinks the U.S. media is “not aggressive enough in challenging and testing the statements the [U.S.] government is making,” which is a matter of perception, too. He says the controversy over weapons of mass destruction “is a good example of how difficult it is to independently verify the government’s claims” — so far, so good — “when the government is lying to you.” But The Post’s own editorial page agreed with the British and Senate intelligence reports that there was no deliberate attempt to mislead by either Prime Minister Tony Blair or Mr. Bush.

Mr. Bennett also thinks the United States should not be the leader of the world because of the “colonial question.” He is “impressed” with China’s Communist leaders for their “degree of preparation, engagement, knowledge and vision that they have of China.” All in all, this was a very telling interview.

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