A reader, upset that the Washington Post’s stance on same-sex marriage didn’t represent his/her views on the matter, wrote as much to a WaPo reporter who responded that same-sex marriage is one of the core ‘civil rights issues of our time.’ Eventually, the dispute went upstairs to the ultimate referee, the WaPo’s ombudsman, who presented both sides to readers in an attempt at fairness.
In response to the ombudsman, Taranto writes:
‘That “libertarian” is quite a dodge. Most journalists are anything but libertarian in areas where that would mean siding against the left, such as guns, education, taxes, nonsexual health care and nonmedia corporate free speech. And as blogress Mollie Hemingway notes, Pexton’s disparagement of those who disagree with him as “religionists,” which means zealots, is invidious. Was Martin Luther King a religionist?’
One key to the fairness question lies in keeping the market open, and the market signals coming into papers and news-gatherers, whatever their persuasion. Some papers were quite ‘conservative’ themselves when it came to protecting their own interests and revenue streams after the rise of internet technology. Most still haven’t found as effective of a revenue stream to fund their activities. Journalists are naturally going to self-select, and many do think of themselves as cultural gatekeepers in pursuit of justice and ‘fairness,’ and probably are more liberal often times. What’s important is that as a group they’re not overly protected in their self-selection by law or political favoritism.
Addition: As for people with conservative views, they are often closeted minorities in our universities, misrepresented and misunderstood in many media outlets, and maligned as old, white, and out-of-touch in much of the popular culture at large (The Footloose Theory). That means an uphill climb through the current institutional landscape.
Another Addition: Elections can change a lot, so we’ll see where we are in four years regarding partisan bias, and whether or not the press earns some respect back from the people.
Here’s John Stossell, discussing how his libertarian views were seen as outside the norm while working at ABC news:
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