Thursday, March 28, 2002

There's been a lot of talk in the blogsphere recently about bias in the press, and measures thereof --- particularly how it can be demonstrated with numerological games about how often people can be described as "left-wing" vs. "right-wing". So, for example, you might have thought from its Moonie ownership and overt, hard-right-wing editorial line that the Washington Times is a right-leaning newspaper, but that would be naive --- the Daily Howler shows (using one Young Republican's chosen metrics, subsequently endorsed by Andrew Sullivan) that the paper is actually biased to the left. Who knew?

Some cynics might suggest instead that this may demonstrate the methodology as a whole is, perhaps, flawed. Which is not to say that the media is entirely free of bias.

Take the Washington Post, for example --- a classic example of the mainstream, liberal, biased media. Or at least, the mainstream, biased media. Take their coverage of the Whitewater investigation, in which, as Avedon Carol notes, the Post never seemed to criticize Ken Starr. At all. It seems Starr, while on the bench, had saved the Post from a million-dollar libel judgment. Which may have something to do with Sally Quinn brushing off clear evidence of Starr's illegal leaks by saying

Starr is not seen by many Washington insiders as an out-of-control prudish crusader. Starr is a Washington insider, too. He has lived and worked here for years. He had a reputation as a fair and honest judge. He has many friends in both parties. Their wives are friendly with one another and their children go to the same schools. He is seen as someone who is operating under a legal statute.

Quinn's husband, Ben Bradlee, put the matter even more plainly:

He's a man for whom The Washington Post has this tremendous respect because he finally got rid of a $2 million libel suit against the Post, and as far as I'm concerned he can do no wrong.

Which may not be exactly the bias that conservatives are complaining about, but that's not to deny the validity of their main point --- in this case, the Post sure does seem to have been overtly biased.

(Bradlee and Quinn posts, and more, are quoted by Carol from an article by Todd Gitlin).


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