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What Liberal Media?: The Truth About Bias and the News Hardcover – Bargain Price, February 5, 2003

3.3 out of 5 stars 271 customer reviews

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Hardcover, Bargain Price, February 5, 2003
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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.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (February 5, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465001769
  • ASIN: B0009K762G
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (271 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,005,016 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Hardcover
No myth in American political life has a more successful and less founded life than what Eric Alterman calls the myth of the So-Call Liberal Media (SCLM). That myth is the subject of this exceptionally researched, well-documented, and articulately written book. Unfortunately--though I hope I am wrong--the myth is so well entrenched at this point that I fear that this book will not get nearly the attention that such wretchedly written screes as Ann Coulter's SLANDER (the most ironically titled book in publishing history, given its rampant disregard of facts) and Goldberg's BIAS (with his bizarre obsession with Dan Rather and scant concrete documentation).
Alterman examines charges of liberal bias in the media in two ways. First, he looks at charges of liberal bias in specific media. For instance, he examines television, print journalists, radio and the Internet, and contemporary intellectual life. In all these, with varying degrees, he finds instead of a liberal bias, a very strong conservative bias, especially in newspapers, radio, and television. He then goes on to examine charges of liberal bias in covering a variety of topics. He discusses charges of social and economic bias, before going go to analyze the media's coverage of the Clinton administration, the 2000 election, the Florida recount, and George W. Bush.
One of the more surprising things that Alterman shows is the fact that a large number of conservative members of the media understand that the myth of the liberal media is utterly false. He also shows many of the reasons the Right has been so successful in promulgating this myth. One reason is clearly the conservative tilt of many of the media moguls.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is reasonable, well-presented and filled with detailed, footnoted facts that, together, demolish the myth of the liberal media. Alterman's takes on on the likes of Coulter, O'Reilly, Limbaugh, Goldberg and the rest of the right-wing victim class are on target and devastating. Of course, since -- as laid out neatly by Alterman -- the media is deeply in the pockets of multi-national coporations to whom liberalism is anathema, expect this book to be attacked mercilessly. No matter -- the truth wins out. Required reading.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a MUST READ. It is a complete and very well documented refutation of one of the Big Lies the Conservatives repeat endlessly, namely that of the "Liberal Media." Granted, there exist a few liberal magazines, such as Mother Jones, The Nation, The Proressive, and Z, and a handful of liberal websites, such as truthout.org and democrats.com. But against these, there are six TV networks and four radio networks, none of which dare to be left of center, and hundreds of newspapers, only a very small percentage of which ever stray left of center.

Alterman explains and documents the forces which prevent any significant degree of progressivism from appearing in the overwhelming majority of newspapers, magazines, and radio and television broadcasts. He finds only two liberal radio talk show hosts, both on one small station in California late at night and thru the wee hours of the morning. I remember three liberal talk show hosts in New York City, Fred Gale, Alex Bennett, and the gretest talk show host of all, Malachy McCourt, all of whom were forced off the air by a steady barrage of conservative complaints and threats to boycott advertisers. (Read more in Malachy's book Singing My Him Song)

Many conservative reviewers fault Alterman for using anecdotal evidence; they (perhaps intentionally) miss the point. Yes, he provides a leaven of anecdotal evidence, which he uses to illustrate points he has made and to make for easier reading; nothing but facts and analysis thereof can be terminally boring, and Alterman does not bore, nor should he!
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