Friday, September 14, 2007

The fun-hall mirror of Washington political advocacy has just reflected a real laugher. To wit: The Op-Ed pages of the nation’s 1,400 or so daily newspapers are said to overrepresent the conservative point of view. The newspapers have done this through their choice of nationally syndicated columnists, a choice which ensures that “just as in so many other areas of the media, the right has the upper hand.” The author of this conclusion is Media Matters, which finds conservatism run amok even in the New York Times.

Let’s unpack the numbers. Rather than a conservative media beachhead, Media Matters says that syndicated-columnist readership breaks down to about 125 million readers for columnists it identifies as “progressives” (the word “liberal” has become soiled currency among even liberals), as compared to 152 million readers for conservatives. This is a modest conservative advantage that, it turns out, might be owed to one or two columnists. It may be that more readers prefer Cal Thomas and George Will, the giants of syndication, than Maureen Dowd or Frank Rich, so more newspapers publish their columns.

The study does not consider unsigned newspaper editorials, like this one. That’s convenient, since unsigned editorials around the country are overwhelmingly liberal. Local columnists, too, are not represented in this study. That’s another serious limitation, since local columnists usually reflect local opinion, not to mention being often the most read. Nor is there consideration of liberal bias in the news pages, which is well documented. The media affliction is not conspiracy against the masses, but consensus of the elites.

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