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What Liberal Media?: The Truth About Bias and the News Paperback – Bargain Price, March 1, 2004

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Editorial Reviews Review

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (March 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465001777
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465001774
  • ASIN: B0002X1JN2
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (271 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,545,422 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 26 people found the following review helpful By James P Dahlberg on July 1, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is a surprisingly candid appraisal of the media's move to the right (following the country's rightward movement). While it is partly a polemic, it is hardly a direct response to Bernard Goldberg's overstated book, "Bias." An iconoclast, Alterman hardly hews the party line for the liberals. It is a good read for both conservatives and liberals as long as one retains a good skeptical ear. I liked it very much.
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96 of 133 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Stamper VINE VOICE on September 19, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Instead of taking on the conservative critics directly, Alterman's book instead asks us to reconsider who and what we consider liberal. He does a fine job making his own case, but he seems to approach the material from a different set of premises than those who decry the bias. Alterman lists the areas of the media like talk radio that are dominated by conservatives. He then names all the famous conservative pundits on political shows. He also examines the number of conservative think tanks like the Heritage Foundation.
He doesn't refute or even examine the conservative point that talk radio thrives simply because conservative ideas weren't getting play anywhere else. Alterman is also troubled that more TV pundits are conservative, and though I can name more conservative pundits too, Alterman goes further. He also lists Democratic pundits like Morton Kondracke and Christopher Mathews as conservatives. Cokie Roberts, the daughter of a Democratic House member, is a conservative. He even suggests that David Broder is a conservative.
He quotes Broder quite thoroughly praising Reagan's approach while criticizing Clinton's. What he doesn't address is Broder's almost religious faith in the Federal Government and politicians to solve people's problems. I remember reading Broder's criticism of term limits. Broder couldn't imagine how anything would get done in Washington without a permanent political class to run things.
But Broder criticized Clinton for his methods and that makes Broder conservative. He doesn't imagine that liberals like Broder were frustrated that an engaging President missed an opportunity to promote liberalism, because of his own character flaws. It's the same reason Broder might like Reagan's style, wishing a liberal could turn up with such good political instincts.
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23 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Tom Moran on September 9, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Eric Alterman has set himself the unenviable task of being the guy with the shovel walking behind the elephants in the circus parade. The "elephants" in this case are right-wing writers such as Bernard Goldberg and Ann Coulter, both of whom have made names for themselves (and bestsellers) decrying what they claim is the leftist bias in what they like to call the "mainstream media."
Having worked in the "mainstream media" myself, I'm in a position to know that this position is ridiculous, and Alterman makes a strong case that the reverse is true -- that a well-funded and hysterical right-wing cabal have so terrorized the media that they display a conservative, rather than a liberal bias. Whether it's the contempt that they showed to Al Gore during the 2000 campaign (as opposed to the fawning coverage that Bush received from Frank Bruni in, of all places, The New York Times) or the non-coverage of Bush's financial misdeeds as opposed to the massive coverage of Clinton's non-existent "crimes" concerning Whitewater, the press has chosen to cravenly cave in to the Republican line.
"Unbeknownst to millions of Americans," writes Alterman near the end of this book, "who continue to believe that the media are genuinely liberal -- or that conservatives and liberals are engaged in a fair fight of relative equality -- liberals are fighting a near-hopeless battle in which they are enormously outmatched by most measures." If you've been watching Fox's "fair and balanced" coverage you might not believe this at first, but Alterman makes a strong and convincing case.
This is an important book that needs to be read.
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16 of 22 people found the following review helpful By William Hare on June 29, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Talented political journalist Eric Alterman has undertaken a correction operation that has been badly needed for some time. He substitutes factual analysis for the shrill hyperbole and uncontrollable screed unleashed by Coulter. It should be noted that it was George W. Bush's cousin, John Ellis, who launched the wave of network projections toward his relative in the early morning following election day in November 2000. This gave Bush the presumed look of a winner, undermining any election challenge on the part of Vice-President Gore. This important fact, sadly, has been reported all too infrequently. Coulter laments that it has been mentioned at all, adding this to her foolish list of left wing media preferential treatment.
Alterman has plenty of ammunition, and it is appropriately aimed at Coulter along with Fox Television, which absurdly promotes the claim of objectivity. In addition to being owned by strongly rightward leaning Rupert Murdoch, Fox's news director is former Republican campaign point man for Nixon, Reagan and Bush I, Roger Ailes. Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly run an adjunct of the Bush Communications room which is every bit as partisan as that run by White House press secretary Ari Fleischer. O'Reilly rules as sole arbiter of the truth. Confront him with a fact he cannot answer and you are promptly booted off the air, as evidenced by the treatment accorded articulate liberals such as Bob Fertik and Bill Hartung. Interestingly, both Fertik and Hartung have challenged O'Reilly to debate anywhere but his own program. There has been no response from O'Reilly, who, like Rush Limbaugh, pulls a fast plug when the going gets tough.
On the subject of Limbaugh, how much air time has he been provided to launch a never ending procession of half truths?
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