It’s been said that people probably get tired of conservatives complaining about bias in the major media.
But conservatives reply that they just get tired of the bias.
One clear, if not precisely major, example appeared this week when National Review Online published a leaked campaign memo prepared last December for Michelle Nunn, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Georgia.
While the memo contained considerable analysis and advice that offered lots of political ammunition to Nunn’s Republican opponent, David Purdue, including notations that she’ll be perceived as “a lightweight,” “too liberal” and “not a real Georgian,” one paragraph at the end was revealing about her campaign’s relationship with state and national media outlets.
As NRO writer Eliana Johnson noted, “Her strategists are optimistic that the media won’t prove much of an obstacle. They write that at some point her opponent … will be ‘shoveling research’ against her. But they say they anticipate they will often have ‘fair warning’ about negative news stories and can work to ‘kill or muddy’ them.”
Johnson quoted Kennesaw State University political scientist Kerwin Swint on Nunn’s expected media advantage: “I would love to know what kind of already-formed relationships they have in Atlanta and even in the national media that they’re planning on using as sources and conduits of information,” Swint said. “It’s certainly interesting to see it in writing like that.”
So, would all the conservatives who are surprised that a prominent Democrat’s campaign expects favorable media treatment please stand up? OK, stay seated, then.
I take up this topic because the Maine Heritage Policy Center, the state’s premier conservative public policy think tank, held its annual Freedom and Opportunity luncheon this week and had as its principal speaker Brent Bozell, who runs the Media Research Center (www.mrc.org), a group formed in 1987 to expose news coverage where viewpoints come often, if not exclusively, from the portside perspective.
Sure, you can say there are (much smaller) media sources that tilt to the right, but once you get past the editorial pages of The Wall Street Journal (and only those pages) and a bunch of commentators (not news anchors) on Fox, you run out of substantial examples pretty quickly.
On the other hand, the much-more-heavily watched major networks, national newspapers and what’s left of the newsmagazine industry give Bozell and his staff what the military calls a “target-rich environment.”
Anyone who is interested can visit the Media Research Center’s website and start clicking page after page of links.
For example, as Bozell noted, liberal media often play a game that conservatives have labeled “Name That Party,” in which Republicans accused of malfeasance have their affiliation listed high up and often, while Democrats get theirs buried or simply omitted from news stories.
He listed a half-dozen prominent examples of each, most of them familiar to his audience, but this is a game that readers can play, too, and I encourage you to do so.
He also cited weak or non-existent national coverage of the Internal Revenue Service scandal, in which “the most-feared agency of the federal government was used to persecute conservative political groups,” and noted that dozens – if not hundreds – of continuing critical stories about the Veterans Affairs Department, Obamacare and foreign affairs in the Middle East and Ukraine no longer receive wide play.
And what is covered is often misreported. For example, take casualty figures from Gaza, in which hundreds of deaths are reported without question as involving civilians, with the United Nations cited as a source.
But the U.N. gets its numbers from the terrorists of Hamas – whose interest is in inflating civilian numbers and downplaying their own losses, and who locate their weapons in houses and hospitals, use ambulances to transport fighters and rockets, and expend relief supplies to dig tunnels to kill and kidnap Israeli civilians.
And did you read the story recently that Hamas used forced child labor to dig those tunnels, and at least 160 children died in the effort?
I found that figure in the July 28 Jerusalem Post, which got it from the Journal of Palestine Studies, which is not unsympathetic to the Palestinian cause. And that was a 2011 report. How many more children have died in the effort since?
But this is also worth noting: A Google search turned up dozens of citations of the story. But nearly all were on conservative websites (and a column Wednesday on the WSJ’s op-ed page), while none – none! – were published as news by any major American media outlet.
As Bozell noted, the good news is that Americans with Internet access are no longer limited to the selective reporting of liberal sources.
But the flip side is that, if you want the full story, you’ll have to track it down on your own.
M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a freelance writer and speaker. He can be contacted at: