Friday, February 4, 2011

Definitions matter and the media is liberal

"It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is."  - William J. Clinton

As our former president knew, definitions matter.  So does the presentation of the question.

Joshua Greenman of the New York Daily News writes this piece today concluding that "Democrats don't control the media."  And, to give Greenman some credit, I agree that Democrats don't control the media . . .  but only as he defines the terms and poses the question.

Let's start with the question itself.  Does anyone "control" all aspects of media?  Of course not.  It is not possible to "control" the dissemination of all viewpoints across all spectrums - to decide what is said, who says it, and how across every newspaper, radio station, television station, blog, and website in and out of the country.  So, of course, it is quite easy to point to examples of the non-existence of a clear impossibility.  And, Greenman does do that well.  But who couldn't?

And how does Greenman define "the media"?  Traditionally, I think, most folks would consider the "news" departments at newspapers, radio stations, and television channels to be a part of the media.  Not the editorials or op-ed columnists.  Not the disc jockeys or talk-show hosts.  And not the weatherman or the stars on the sit-coms.  You know, the media used to be all the folks who sometimes still claim unbiased neutrality and always used to claim it.  But Greenman makes sure to include all possible outlets of information including Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin, neither of whom would fit into a traditional "media" definition, and neither of whom would ever claim to be neutral.

The truth is that liberals (if not Democrats) do dominate (if not control) almost every traditional media outlet (if not the entire media).

I'll give Greenman real credit for his column.  It is an interesting take on the success that conservatives have had in labeling some policies and getting a message out through a formerly-upstart cable news channel and other new "media" channels.  But the conclusion that these successes prove that liberal Democrats don't control the dominant ABC News, CBS News, NBC News, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Associated Press, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and every other major newspaper in the country, is ludicrous.  And, for now, despite the rise of alternative news outlets on cable and the internet, those old-school media outlets still matter.

If you don't believe me, watch the news tonight, or read any newspaper you can find today.  Or, if you're looking for something objective, check the records of newspaper endorsements by party in recent elections.

Liberal bias exists in traditional media folks.  The traditional media just hates it when we notice.

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