The incredulity begins with the title What Liberal Media?
, journalist Eric Alterman's refutation of widely flung charges of left-wing bias, and never lets up. The book is unlikely to make many friends among conservative media talking heads. Alterman picks apart charges made by Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, George Will, Sean Hannity, and others (even the subtitle refers to a popular book by former CBS producer Bernard Goldberg
that argues a lefty slant in news coverage). But the perspectives of less-incendiary figures, including David Broder and Howard Kurtz, are also dissected in Alterman's quest to prove that not only do the media lack a liberal slant but that quite the opposite is true. Much of Alterman's argument comes down to this: the conservatives in the newspapers, television, talk radio, and the Republican party are lying about liberal bias and repeating the same lies long enough that they've taken on a patina of truth. Further, the perception of such a bias has cowed many media outlets into presenting more conservative opinions to counterbalance a bias, which does not, in fact, exist, says Alterman. In methodically shooting down conservative charges, Alterman employs extensive endnotes, all of which are referenced with superscript numbers throughout the body of the book. Those little numbers seem to say, "Look, I've done my homework." What Liberal Media?
is a book very much of 2003 and will likely lose some relevance as political powers and media arrangements evolve. But it's likely to be a tonic for anyone who has suspected that in a media environment overflowing with conservatives, the charges of bias are hard to swallow. For liberals hoping someone will take off the gloves and mix it up with the verbal brawlers of the right, Eric Alterman is a champion. --John Moe
From Publishers Weekly
While the idea that a liberal bias pervades the mainstream media has been around for years, it gained new currency with the 2001 publication of Bernard Goldberg's Bias and its 2002 successor, Ann Coulter's Slander. Alterman (Sound & Fury; Who Speaks for America?; etc.) now seeks to debunk the notion and goes so far as to argue that bastions of alleged liberalism like the Washington Post and ABC News "have grown increasingly cowed by false complaints of liberal bias and hence, progressively more sympathetic to the most outlandish conservative complaints." He largely succeeds: whatever your politics, Alterman delivers well-documented, well-argued research in compulsively readable form. His chapter on business journalism, for instance, is a thrill-ride through the excesses of late 1990s optimism and the subsequent crash in stock valuations and mood. But he also counters that while the economy was peaking, major media outlets virtually ignored traditional left-wing issues like labor rights, which had been neglected, and income inequality, which was growing. In contrast, he says, the media fawned over chief executives while almost totally failing to confront corporate fraudsters. Alterman also observes that the center of American politics has shifted to the right in the last several decades, which he attributes to efforts by conservative think tanks and their financial backers. Whether readers agree with Alterman or not, his writing on the business of opinion making is eye-opening. This book will be required reading for anyone in politics or journalism, or anyone curious about their complicated nexus.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.