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June 24, 2007

Overwhelmingly, Reporters Donate to Dems' Campaigns -- So What?

Topics: Follies of the Mainstream Media

In his op-ed piece on Friday (via Real Clear Politics), Barton Hinkle noted the recent investigation by MSNBC into patterns of political giving by reporters that found 87 percent of those who gave donated money to Democrats; 12 percent gave to Republicans. One percent gave to both parties. Even for the most clueless casual reader or viewer of the news, obviously there's a pattern here somewhere.

And although I found Hinkle's article interesting, it really didn't tell me anything I didn't already know; after all, everyone who can read or watch the news on TV knows reporters are, for most part, not only left-leaning but far-left-leaning, and report accordingly. However, what I did find interesting was his examples:

... Take immigration, a subject on which national feeling is running particularly high right now. Most of the coverage frames the issue as a question about the "rights" of families struggling to make it in their new country, and the bureaucratic hurdles that stand in the way of their achieving happiness. In truth, the subject has a lot more nuance than that.

... IT MIGHT be worth noting that the Mexican government has opened up several new U.S. consulates in recent years (Mexico now has 47 consulates in America -- more than any other country, and 35 more than Canada) through which it has issued more than 3 million matricula consulars. Those are ID cards illegal immigrants can use to open bank accounts, obtain driver's licenses, create utilities accounts, and so forth. Mexico has been pressuring American banks and police departments to accept the cards as legitimate forms of ID. In short, the Mexican government is paving the way for illegal immigrants to establish permanent U.S. residency.

Details such as that probably would be of considerable interest to man-in-the-street America. Slate's Mickey Kaus picks apart some very interesting survey numbers from a recent poll of swing-district voters by Democracy Corps, a Democratic polling firm. According to the figures from James Carville and Stanley Greenberg, immigration trumps both health care and the economy among voter concerns. Even when coupled with a statement that "we need to get control of the border and bar illegal employment," allowing illegal immigrants a potential "path to citizenship" loses by a 59-37 margin. Americans are generally pro-immigration -- but they're fed up with the illegal kind.

If you're wondering whether the media are out of tune with that sentiment, try to recall the last time you saw an article or news segment questioning the motives or tactics of illegal immigrants -- rather than, say, the Minutemen border-patrol vigilantes. On immigration, many reporters and editors have consciously chosen sides.

Even more insidious is the entirely unconscious bias that leads a reporter to use loaded language -- such as referring to "the gun lobby" (boo, hiss) but "supporters of abortion rights" (clapclap-clap).

That's why the news about campaign donations is interesting, but probably overblown. There are arguments for news organizations banning contributions by reporters, as some do. There is also a strong argument not to do so: To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, if there is a wasp in the room you want to know where it is.

IT'S PROBABLY preferable to know when a reporter has strong political leanings, or at least to be able to find out, than to have to wonder what part of the news you aren't getting. And admittedly biased reporting sometimes can prove superior to reporting that purports to objectivity, such as The New York Times' coverage in the run-up to the Iraq war. As MSNBC reports: "One of the recurring themes in the responses is that it's better for journalists to be transparent about their beliefs, and that editors who insist on manufacturing an appearance of impartiality are being deceptive to a public that already knows journalists aren't without biases."

The real question isn't so much whether reporters have preferences -- most human beings do -- but whether they can set aside those preferences long enough to tell a story straight.

And as we all know, when it comes to setting aside their preferences, and agenda, long enough to tell a story straight - they can't, and they don't, and therein lies the problem with the media today.

So, the political leanings of reporters does indeed matter when they skew their reporting to influence us to follow their views. At the very least, reporters should be required to divulge their bias, such as begining their articles with, "... my name is _____, and I'm a far-leftwing, liberal-progressive, anti-war, socialist commie who donated ____ dollars to the Democrats last election." This will suffice to give most readers a clue to the level of the reporter's dementia and the degree in which the article should be taken on face value.

Posted by Richard at June 24, 2007 7:44 AM

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