During 30 years in the newspaper business, I watched as the newsroom herd of independent minds followed the cowbell of liberal bias over a cliff. Every year it got worse, leading to the great leap for Obama that caused a cartwheeling free-fall of credibility. No wonder more than half the nation that calls itself conservative has turned its back on newspapers and the liberal Big Media networks. Big Media has lost its monopoly to talk radio and the internet, and circulation and viewership is falling like a poleaxed heifer.
So what is the answer from Liberal Land?
Today’s Wall Street Journal op-ed page has a column by Lee Bollinger, president of Columbia University, home of one of the most famous and respected journalism schools in the country. If you doubt his liberal credentials, this is the same guy who led the University of Michigan into a losing war for affirmative action.
And his answer, after much hand-wringing and rumination: Government should fund the media. Why not, he argues, when the press already takes money from big business, through advertising? And how is it any different from government-paid public defenders who oppose government prosecutors in court? Besides, he says, we already depend on government-sponsored news from BBC and NPR.
He wants the Fourth Estate to be “consolidated and augmented with those of NPR and PBS to create and American World Service,” he writes. “Let’s demonstrate great journalism essential role in a free and dynamic society.”
Except that NPR and PBS are to great journalism what “Piss Christ” is to Rembrandt. They are a joke, an insult, a travesty to millions of conservatives who are compelled to provide tax subsidies for liberal propaganda and big-government cheerleading on government-run radio and TV.
NPR is home to hosts such as Dianne Rehm, whose has a voice like broken glass on a chalkboard even when she is not revealing her hostility toward Republicans or her hatred of President Bush. Although broadcasts often include talented and informative features that are non-political, the overall effect is of a plummy chorus of condescending intellectualoid liberals you could find in any faculty lounge on any campus in America. The cliches they spout are could be satire if they weren’t so self-serious. War bad. Capitalism evil. Minorities noble. Conservatives stupid. And bigger government is always the answer, even to questions that have never been asked.
NPR and PBS are simply what most journalists in most newsrooms would like to be if they could shed the last remaining shreds of professional standards. And witnessing the disinformation, laziness and bias of the mainstream media, I am less and less inclined to mourn its demise. The local paper I used to work for, The Cincinnati Enquirer, carries a relentless parade of liberal pundits “balanced” by one or two real conservatives. Letters are increasingly written by the same small huddle of “frequent callers” who are allowed to perpetrate the most breathtaking lies and fallacies without correction, such as “Bush tax cuts caused our trillion dollar deficit because the rich don’t pay taxes.”
This is the echo chamber of the liberal newsroom. I hold out hope that someday the editors will step outside and meet some real people and see how poorly they represent their community. I hold out hope that their extreme sensitivity to diversity will someday attend one of those involuntary seminars on diversity of thought and opinion.
But give them government subsidies, and we would not get that. We would get much more of the same. Subsidizing the media in the government feedlot would give us what we always find in a feedlot: a herd that is fat, dumb and lazy while it waits for the government run packing plant, leaving behind nothing but knee-deep fertilizer.
It would give us more cowbell.