In Their Own Words:
Journalists and Bias

How much store should Americans put in the media's protestations that political bias has nothing to do with what comes out of newsrooms? Time and again, at Accuracy in Media, we hear the refrain, "I might have my own opinions, but they do not affect what I report." Oh, bosh. Few reporters can put their prejudices aside when they sit down before a word processor or stand before a microphone. Furthermore, many prominent journalists have the professional honesty to admit just that.

Following is a sample of statments from journalists themselves about how bias does play a role in news coverage, and the cavalier attitude too many news organizations towards fairness. Accuracy in Media intends to update this compilation from time to time, so your contributions are invited.

--Joseph C. Goulden
Director of Media Analysis
Accuracy in Media

Richard Harwood, former assistant managing editor and ombudsman, The Washington Post, Op Ed column, 8 March 1996:

"American journalists--probably a majority--try with varying degrees of success to keep their partisan allegiances out of their work. But the journalist without those allegiances is rare indeed, as every poll and sociological study of the work force has confirmed. In nearly half a century in the news business, I have never known a political writer, for example, who was 'indifferent' to the outcome of a presidential election. And the major newspaper that has no social and community values, values that are expressed in what it chooses to print and not to print, is a very rare institution."

Harwood, Op Ed column, Washington Post, 28 October 1990:

"You are not 'entitled' to a letter to the editor,to an op-ed piece or even to a paid advertisement; if we don't like it, we don't print it. to ask for 'equal time' on the evening news or in the morning newspaper is, very often, to bay at the moon. You have no 'right' to fair treatment, no 'right' to be quoted accurately or in context or even quoted at all in news reports, broadcasts, or commentaries....If your reputation is soiled in a front-page story under a four-column hadline, it is most unlikely to be cleansed in the same spot (if it is cleansed at all)."

Evan Thomas, Washington bureau chief, Newsweek Magazine, on Inside Washington, 11 May 1996:

Commenting on Speaker Newt Gingrich's charge that the media are biased,, Thomas stated, "This is true. There is liberal bias. About 85 percent of the reporters who cover the White House vote Democratic. They have for a long time. Particularly at the networks, at the lower levels, among the editors and the so-called infrastructure, there is a liberal bias. There is a liberal bias at Newsweek, the magazine I work for."

Bernard Goldberg, CBS News correspondent, The Wall Street Journal, Op Ed piece, 13 February 1986:

"There are lots of reasons fewer people are watching network news, and one of them, I'm more convinced than ever, is that our viewers simply don't trust us. And for good reason.
"The old argument that the networks 5and other 'media elites' have a liberal bias is so blatantly true that it's hardly worth discussing anymore. No, we don't sit around in dark corners and plan strategies on how we're going to slant the news. We don't have to. It comes naturally to most reporters."

The Freedom Forum/Roper Center survey of 139 Washington-based bureau chiefs and congressional correspondents, April 1996.

Question #49: How would you characterize your political orientation?

22 % Liberal
39 % Liberal to Moderate
30 % Moderate
7 % Moderate to Conservative
2 % Conservative

Question #53: Did you vote for Bill Clinton, George Bush, Ross Perot, or some other candidate?

89 % Bill Clinton
7 % George Bush
2 % Ross Perot
2 % Other