Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Pew survey of journalists

The Pew Center has concluded a survey of journalists at more than 500 media outlets in the US. Here's a summary of its findings.

Additionally, many have pointed to this E & P story which notes that the study found newsrooms dominated by liberals and moderates, something conservatives say proves the existence of a liberal bias in the media.

Other findings in the survey contradict this charge, however. As FAIR notes,

It's interesting to look at the stats from the study that aren't getting much play. For example, among national news executives -- the people whose job descriptions involve setting policy at media outlets -- only 16 percent describe themselves as ''liberal.'' Sixty percent call themselves ''moderate,'' and 19 percent ''conservative.'' With 79 percent of media bosses identifying with something other than ''liberal,'' what happens to the myth of the ''liberal media''?

It's also curious why this 79 percent (or 84 percent) of the bosses who are not ''liberal'' end up hiring a workforce that is 41 percent ''liberal'' (or ''very liberal''). Could it be that they are confident that the institutions of media outlets will prevent these ''liberals'' from expressing viewpoints that their non-liberal bosses object to? Or could it be that there are so few qualified ''conservative'' journalists that the ''moderate''-to-''conservative'' bosses just can't find more than 7 percent to hire?

Finally, it's worth asking what journalists mean by ''liberal.'' When people were asked to name a ''liberal'' outlet, the most common response was the New York Times. Think of the Times' most prominent ''scoops'' in recent years: Whitewater, Wen Ho Lee, Judith Miller's reports on WMD. If this is what constitutes ''liberal'' reporting, than the fact that 41 percent of national reporters describe themselves as ''liberal'' is bad news indeed.
Notwithstanding issues of political affiliation or bias, perhaps the most significant finding by Pew is that a growing number of journalists feel commercial pressures are having a negative impact on their craft.