Cover image for What liberal media? : the truth about bias and the news
What liberal media? : the truth about bias and the news
Alterman, Eric.
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Publication Information:
New York : Basic Books, [2003]

Physical Description:
xiv, 322 pages ; 24 cm
Bias, slander, and bs -- You're only as liberal as the man who owns you -- The punditocracy part one: television -- The print punditocracy -- The punditocracy iii: radio and the internet -- The punditocracy iv: experts and the world of ideas -- What social bias? -- What economic bias? -- The Clinton Administration -- The 2000 election -- Florida -- "W's world".
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The question of whose interests the media protects--and how--has achieved holy-grail-like significance. Is media bias keeping us from getting the whole story? If so, who is at fault? Is it the liberals who are purported to be running the newsrooms, television and radio stations of this country, duping an unsuspecting public into mistaking their party line for news? Or is it the conservatives who have identified media bias as a reliably inflammatory rallying cry around which to consolidate their political base as they cynically "work the refs?" The media has become so pervasive in our lives that regardless of exactly where on the ideological fence you sit, the question of media bias has become all but unavoidable.Most of the criticism (and anger) has so far emanated from the political Right, which has offered us the rather unconvincing argument that a systematic Left bias is destroying the quality of news and debate in our country today. Journalist and historian Eric Alterman begs to differ. What Liberal Media? confronts the question of liberal bias and, in so doing, provides a sharp and utterly convincing assessment of the realities of political bias in the news. In distinct contrast to the conclusions reached by Ann Coulter, Bernard Goldberg, Sean Hannity, and Bill O'Reilly, Alterman finds the media to be, on the whole, far more conservative than liberal, though it is possible to find evidence for both views. The fact that conservatives howl so much louder and more effectively than liberals is one significant reason that big media is always on its guard for "liberal" bias but gives conservative bias a free pass. After reading What Liberal Media? you will understand that the real news story of recent years is not whether this newspaper, or that news anchor, is biased but rather to what extent the entire news industry is organized to communicate conservative views and push our politics to the right--regardless of how "liberal" any given reporter may be.

Author Notes

Eric Alterman is a political & cultural columnist for "The Nation",, & Intellectual & is a senior fellow of the World Policy Institute. He has contributed to "Rolling Stone", "Mother Jones", "Elle", "The New Yorker", "Vanity Fair", "Harper's", "The New Republic", "The New York Times" & "The Washington Post". He is the author also of two works of political commentary & analysis "Sound & Fury" & "Who Speaks for America". He lives in Manhattan.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Conventional wisdom: the media tilts (sometimes tips over) to the Left. The truth, as Alterman lays it out, is quite the opposite. He walks readers through the reasons righties have been able to bash the media as liberal, among them the fact that many journalists vote Democratic. Then he explains why most of these justifications are straw men: journalists don't decide what's news, their corporate masters do; the advent of talk radio (thanks to the abdication of the FCC) has become a right-wing mouthpiece the Left has yet to counter; print and television journalists are an inbred little group who do more to protect each other than to uncover any weaknesses in the system. Alterman also effectively goes beyond the title's argument and explains the economic bias of the corporate media as well as the social biases of journalism (here liberalism does count). His analysis of the 2000 election's "storyline" (Gore stiff and pendantic, Bush fun) shows the depths to which journalism has sunk. Highly readable and well documented, this makes an effective antidote to Slander [BKL My 15 02], Ann Coulter's screed (which Alterman takes on full force); it will be interesting to see if he gets the same amount of media time she did, despite his being neither leggy nor blonde. The myth of the liberal media is an idea that is gaining currency; this is a strong opening salvo in that much-needed discussion. --Ilene Cooper

Publisher's Weekly Review

While the idea that a liberal bias pervades the mainstream media has been around for years, it gained new currency with the 2001 publication of Bernard Goldberg's Bias and its 2002 successor, Ann Coulter's Slander. Alterman (Sound & Fury; Who Speaks for America?; etc.) now seeks to debunk the notion and goes so far as to argue that bastions of alleged liberalism like the Washington Post and ABC News "have grown increasingly cowed by false complaints of liberal bias and hence, progressively more sympathetic to the most outlandish conservative complaints." He largely succeeds: whatever your politics, Alterman delivers well-documented, well-argued research in compulsively readable form. His chapter on business journalism, for instance, is a thrill-ride through the excesses of late 1990s optimism and the subsequent crash in stock valuations and mood. But he also counters that while the economy was peaking, major media outlets virtually ignored traditional left-wing issues like labor rights, which had been neglected, and income inequality, which was growing. In contrast, he says, the media fawned over chief executives while almost totally failing to confront corporate fraudsters. Alterman also observes that the center of American politics has shifted to the right in the last several decades, which he attributes to efforts by conservative think tanks and their financial backers. Whether readers agree with Alterman or not, his writing on the business of opinion making is eye-opening. This book will be required reading for anyone in politics or journalism, or anyone curious about their complicated nexus. Agent, Tina Bennett. (Mar. 1) Forecast: While it may not have the built-in audience of Bias or Slander, which both had conservative talk radio as a marketing engine, this book will be aided by Alterman's own brand equity: he has media columns in the Nation and on, contributes to numerous publications and has three other books to his credit, as well as a forthcoming fifth, When Presidents Lie, to be published by Viking later this year. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Do the media lean to the Left or the Right? Bernard Goldberg argued for the Left in his best-selling Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News. Alterman, media columnist for the Nation and author of Sound and Fury: The Making of the Punditocracy, counters that the whole idea of a predominantly liberal press is a pernicious myth. Calling for a more open-minded approach to the discussion of media bias, Alterman documents the range of conservative media outlets in all formats, showing that the conservatives far outnumber the small and underfunded liberal media. He further challenges the notion of liberal bias by highlighting the consolidation of major media into the hands of a smaller number of corporate owners, whose focus on profits encourages a conservative slant to news. To support his argument, Alterman relies on recent political history and media transcripts. Readers who have been bombarded by complaints about a too liberal press will welcome Alterman's articulate counterargument. Both academic and public libraries will want to add this book to their journalism collections.-Judy Solberg, George Washington Univ. Libs., Washington, DC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Preface to the Paperback Editionp. xi
Preface to the Hardcover Edition and Acknowledgmentsp. xv
1 Introduction: Bias, Slander, and BSp. 1
2 You're Only As Liberal As the Man Who Owns Youp. 14
3 The Punditocracy One: Televisionp. 28
4 The Punditocracy Two: Printp. 45
5 The Punditocracy Three: Radio and the Internetp. 70
6 The Punditocracy Four: Experts and the World of Ideasp. 81
7 What Social Bias?p. 104
8 What Economic Bias?p. 118
9 The Clinton Administrationp. 139
10 The 2000 Electionp. 148
11 Floridap. 175
12 W's Worldp. 192
13 The (Really) Conservative Mediap. 225
Conclusion: An Honorable Professionp. 262
Afterword: "Operation Iraqi Freedom"p. 268
Notesp. 293
Indexp. 337
Reader Discussion Guidep. 353