Accuracy in Media

Conservatives are often held up by the liberal media as a rare species to be studied and explained to their viewers and readers. It is a nuisance that they used to not have to worry about. Perhaps that is why the New York Times has a writer for whom conservatives are his beat. And perhaps it explains the recent New Yorker profile of Hugh Hewitt, lawyer, teacher, radio host, and author of the book Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation.

Hewitt, a Renaissance Man of the New Media universe, previously worked for then-former President Nixon at his Western White House in California, and in the Reagan Justice Department, where he worked with current Supreme Court nominee John Roberts.

Hewitt is representative of a radical shift in how many people now get their information. It used to be that the only TV news available was the big three broadcast networks airing only 15 minutes a day on their evening news. That evolved to 30 minutes a day in the late sixties. At that time, the only real national newspaper was the Wall Street Journal, though the New York Times was still the “paper of record.” Then in the seventies came cable and CNN, about the same time as C-SPAN and Nightline, the late night ABC News show, which grew out of nightly coverage of the 444 days that Americans were held hostage in Iran following the revolution that brought Ayatollah Khomeini to power.

In 1987, the Fairness Doctrine was eliminated by the Reagan administration. It had required that equal time must always be given to people holding opposing political views to those expressed on broadcast TV or radio. At the time, many conservatives, including AIM founder Reed Irvine, opposed this change, because the Fairness Doctrine at the time seemed like the only way conservatives could get their opinions heard. Reed later acknowledged that he had been wrong on this one.

The end of the Fairness Doctrine marked the beginning of a new era for conservatives. With Rush Limbaugh leading the way in radio, and later Fox News in broadcasting, plus the Internet, and later book publishers, conservatives have made great strides in their ability to get their views out into the marketplace of ideas. If you factor in the impact of the blogosphere, it is clear that things will never be the same. The blogs, for example, showed the world that the documents CBS used as evidence in their story last September about President Bush’s National Guard service were phony, leading to an investigation and the firing or resignation of several top CBS producers.

According to The New Yorker article by Nicholas Lemann, “Conservatives love to complain about journalism.  They have been devising their own version of what journalism ought to look like: faster, more opinionated, more multimedia, and less hung up on distancing itself from the practice of politics than the daily-newspaper and network news versions.”

This is where the left gets it wrong. It is Lemann’s view that the daily newspapers and network news play it straight, and those conservatives are the ones who are biased. But the public largely sees through that. That is perhaps why Air America, the left-wing radio network that started last year, is doing so poorly in the ratings and financially. Something called the Democracy Alliance plans to raise and spend $200 million to create a new “progressive” infrastructure to compete with the conservatives. But no matter how much money they spend, they may not be able to sell their liberal ideas. 

Hugh Hewitt echoes Bernard Goldberg’s book, Bias, when he talks about the mainstream media establishment as ideologically compatible people and “a self-perpetuating elite.” When asked by Lemann if the mainstream media has a proclivity to blend journalism and politics, Hewitt said yes, that both the New York Times and Washington Post function as political tools for the liberals. Polls also serve this function. “Polling is an activism tool,” he says. “Every time the Washington Post or the New York Times runs a poll, they are attempting to influence legislation. They are engaged in activism. It’s mediated, though. Our way is not mediated.”

One example of liberal bias in The New Yorker story is Hewitt’s revealing radio interview with ABC News White House correspondent Terry Moran. “There is, Hugh, I agree with you, a deep anti-military bias in the media,” Moran said. “One that begins from the premise that the military must be lying, and that American projection of power around the world must be wrong. I think that that is a hangover from Vietnam, and I think it’s very dangerous.” 

With those statements, Moran was justifying the emergence of conservative blogs to monitor and check the power of the liberal media, driven by what Moran concedes is a “dangerous” anti-American attitude. We salute Hugh Hewitt, a media pioneer.

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