In an op-ed at the Wall Street Journal Monday, a former head of CBS News confirms what the nation has known for some time, whether parts of it wanted to admit it or not: the mainstream media has become “unrelentingly liberal.”
Van Gordon Sauter, who served as president of CBS News from 1982-83 and then again in 1986, says that two out of the three leading cable news networks, claiming neutrality to the last but spurred by their “fear and loathing of President Trump,” have accelerated what was a creeping tilt toward leftism to become the mouthpiece of “the resistance.”
The news media is catching up with the liberalism of the professoriate, the entertainment industry, upscale magazines and the literary world. Recent arrivals are the late-night TV hosts who have broken the boundaries of what was considered acceptable political humor for networks.
To many journalists, objectivity, balance and fairness—once the gold standard of reporting—are not mandatory in a divided political era and in a country they believe to be severely flawed. That assumption folds neatly into their assessment of the president. To the journalists, including more than a few Republicans, he is a blatant vulgarian, an incessant prevaricator, and a dangerous leader who should be ousted next January, if not sooner. Much of journalism has become the clarion voice of the “resistance,” dedicated to ousting the president, even though he was legally elected and, according to the polls, enjoys the support of about 44% of likely 2020 voters.
Interestingly, Sauter lays out the reasons that the situation has devolved to the extent that there is no going back. “The media likes what it is doing. Admires it. Celebrates it. There is no personal, professional or financial reason to change. If anything, the gap will expand,” he writes.
But he does believe, as Mediaite’s Dan Abram’s has suggested, candor could help the profession survive, even if it’s not likely to win viewers from the Trump-faithful.
Dan Abrams, ABC’s chief legal-affairs anchor and founder of the website Mediaite, has a novel but valuable idea for the media—candor. Speaking to the matter at February’s Rancho Mirage Writers Festival, Mr. Abrams said “I think the first thing that would help . . . is to admit . . . that the people in the media are left of center.”
It would be delightful if a publisher, an editor, a reporter, would just say: Yes, I am left of center! I’m proud of it. I think our reporting is accurate. It best serves the public. And the credibility of the media. So there!
There’s also another option available to cable news: hire reporters who don’t think in lockstep with the head office and let them work. The product will become more balanced and fair without the resistance types ever having to change a thing. Or do the concepts of autonomy, individualism, and objectivity in journalism frighten you too much to let it in?