Explaining media bias — to a biased member of the media

March 26, 2013

Eric Alterman criticizes my recent commentary in The Sun on major media bias ("Liberal media bias is beyond doubt, March 18) because, he claims, I lacked "supporting evidence" in claiming his book, ""What Liberal Media? The Truth About Bias and the News," had "evidentiary problems" ("Vatz's baseless attack," March 21). He unsurprisingly quotes variously liberal sources as finding his thesis well-proved. In several e-mails to me, he recklessly analogized me to the reckless Joe McCarthy, ending with addressing me as "Joe." Very adult.

As I explained to him, it is impossible to provide full analysis to every example one cites in a 600-700 word op-ed piece, but I shall be happy to now, quoting just a few problems in his work from a book review I wrote for a major journal in my field, the Fall, 2003 issue of Qualitative Research Reports in Communication. Incidentally, Mr. Alterman's book was required reading in my class for years.

Mr. Alterman disputes the existence of most liberal bias and even argues that there is much conservative bias in the media (p. 1, p.11, p. 15). He concedes that there may be some liberal bias here and there in the media, but he undercovers it and claims without proof it is not "overwhelming" in the significant areas of abortion, gun control, campaign finance reform, gay rights and the environment (pp. 108-109).

Mr. Alterman is simply not careful with his generalizations in his book and often his evidence is conspicuously selective. For example, he cites a 1996 Freedom Forum poll of Washington bureau chiefs and congressional correspondents as "the right's Rosetta Stone..." He simply ignores the very long list of other media surveys that reveal as well that elite journalists skew left or liberal in comparison to public opinion.

There are also glaring omissions in his work. For just one example, absent is any careful analysis of National Public Radio. In his very selective and limited analysis of this source of liberal bias (NPR), he simply claims that it was inadequate in criticizing corporate wealth. There also has been a long concern about allegedly anti-Israeli reporting by NPR, which is also unaddressed by Mr. Alterman.

I could go on, but the point is that one cannot write a lengthy treatise about every supporting point in an op-ed piece. But a writer should have knowledge about criticisms he makes, and I do. Mr. Alterman doesn't.

Richard E. Vatz, Towson

The writer is a Towson distinguished professor and author of "The Only Authentic Book of Persuasion," (Kendall Hunt, 2012).

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.