Monday, June 27, 2005

When will the network media and other “mainstream” outlets finally stop pretending to be balanced?

Last week, for instance, the Big Three — ABC, NBC and CBS — had a wonderful time covering White House adviser Karl Rove’s remarks at a conservative gathering in New York. As the Media Research Center reported, the day after Mr. Rove gave his talk, ABC’s World News Tonight was on the story. CBS and NBC, both on their respective morning and evening shows, joined in a day later.

However, the same three networks didn’t bother to mention Sen. Dick Durbin’s Senate floor comments from June 14. It wasn’t until Mr. Durbin apologized June 21 — seven days later — for equating American soldiers to Nazis and other barbaric regimes that ABC’s and NBC’s evening news programs first aired the original comments. CBS didn’t do so until Friday, and then only on its morning program.

Major newspapers weren’t much better. While The Washington Post gave front-page coverage to Mr. Rove’s comments the day after he said them, it took three days to give an inside story to Mr. Durbin’s. The New York Times, USA Today and the Los Angeles Times performed even worse.

The suppression of Mr. Durbin’s remarks might come as a surprise since lately the media has been all too eager to publish every outlandish criticism of the American military. But the exception also proves the rule: His indefensible comparison strengthens the critics’ point that the left’s anti-military bias has reached absurd levels. To publish it would only undermine the media’s contention that its own anti-militarism is balanced and refined.

Of course the media is not obligated to treat all scandalous comments equally. Coverage often depends on the reaction to the comments. By that standard, however, it seems fair to believe that the public is more sensitive to a U.S. senator’s slander of American troops, than it is to Mr. Rove’s comparison of liberals and conservatives. A Pew Research Center for the People and Press study found that “the percentage [of Americans] saying press criticism weakens American defenses has been increasing in recent years and now stands at its highest point [since] 1985 [47 percent].”

And it’s been known for a while that public opinion is turning against the media. Editor and Publisher cited a Gallup survey earlier this month which found that “public trust in newspapers and television news continued to decline … in the United States, reaching an all-time low this year.” What’s surprising is that the establishment media seems intent on doing nothing about it.

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