Why the Mainstream Media Isn't Liberal
Conservatives often refer to the mainstream media (aka MSM) as the "liberal media," and liberals think that claim is nonsense, and they frequently call the mainstream media the "corporate media." Independent progressive talk show hosts see part of their role as covering topics the "biased" and "corporate" media won't cover. The following are some reasons why progressives believe the liberal media is a myth.
Without a doubt, when it comes to issues like gay rights, women's rights, minority rights, and immigration, the media tends to lean to the left. And I think that's why conservatives may believe there's a liberal bias. But here are three reasons many liberals disagree.
Cenk Uygur - The "Liberal Media" Is Actually Highly Conservative
1. Trump Campaign Coverage
When Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president, the media was instantly all over his campaign despite his anti-liberal, racist, and misogynistic views. Yes, the MSM called him out for those views but still continually covered his campaign. Cable news stations, including CNN, the supposed Clinton News Network, aired a large number of his campaign speeches live, something they rarely did for other candidates during the primaries. Not only did they air a lot of his speeches, they would often air the empty podium before he came out on stage. Trump got a whopping $5 billion in free media coverage from the so-called liberal media. CNN also hired former Trump advisers as political commentators.
If the mainstream media really was so liberal, Donald Trump wouldn't have been the one getting all that free media attention and it wouldn't have been his campaign people getting hired to rep for him on CNN. That attention would instead have gone to Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders. Yet Sanders, the most liberal of all the candidates, was largely ignored for months even though he was attracting massive crowds. In November 2016, Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman interviewed Bernie Sanders and she said this:
"You were having the largest rallies of anyone, including Donald Trump, certainly far surpassing Hillary Clinton. But what Donald Trump had that you didn’t was the media...He didn’t have to travel. He was piped into everyone’s homes...They showed more of the open podium waiting for Donald Trump than ever playing your speeches. That’s what—those were all the candidates that night [Super Tuesday]. And they played all their full speeches. They did not play one word of your speech. You were speaking in Phoenix, Arizona, to the largest rally of any of those people that night. They didn’t even speculate where you were."
Progressive Talk Show Host David Pakman Addresses Problems With the "Corporate" Media
2. War Coverage and Views
Another thing progressives accuse the mainstream media of is being pro-war. In 2003, Phil Donahue was fired by MSNBC for his anti-war views during the run-up to the war in Iraq. MSNBC at the time was owned by General Electric, a company that would profit from the war. Anti-war critics who were skeptical of claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction rarely got airtime on major networks. The same was true for critics who feared that the war in Iraq would become a quagmire. They were rarely given a chance to express their views.
3. Climate Change
Climate change is another issue liberals are passionate about and it's another area where the mainstream media frustrates them. On this issue, the major news organizations engage in what's often called "false balance." Balance can be a good thing, especially in cases like the run up to the Iraq war. But balance becomes a problem when you give both sides equal weight in situations where that isn't justified. A comic humorously addressed false balance this way:
"...so we'll be talking with Dr. Jenkins from the National Institute of Health about the results of his 3 year study. And then for a different take we'll talk to Roger here, who I understand has reached the opposite conclusion just by sitting on his couch and speculating."
Even journalists who are part of the mainstream media agree with concerns about corporate influence on what they report. Forty percent of journalists say they've either avoided covering a topic or softened their tone on an issue because it might have gone against the interests of the corporation they worked for. Half of journalists say that stories are routinely ignored if they conflict with the company's economic interests. One example is a refusal to air stories critical of pharmaceutical companies who advertise on their networks.
Back to Campaign Coverage
So why did the mainstream media ignore Bernie Sanders for so long? Maybe because they thought his policies wouldn't be good for corporations. Because the media giants are corporations. Maybe they thought he wouldn't be good for rich people. Because media giants are run by very rich people. That could also explain why the media paid no attention to Occupy Wall Street until it became too big to ignore even though they provided significant amounts of coverage of the fledgling conservative Tea Party movement.
During his interview with Amy Goodman, Bernie Sanders agreed that his campaign was largely ignored.
"Turns out that from January 1st, 2015, I think, through November 2015, ABC Evening News had us on for 20 seconds...And it wasn’t much better on NBC or CBS, all right. And that’s just the simple truth...Amy, correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the guy who’s head of CNN said, "Hey, Trump has been fantastic for us." I mean, literally said that. "We’re making huge profits from Trump." And the point to be made is, we had the misfortune of actually trying to talk about the problems facing America and providing real solutions. Trump was tweeting out about how ugly or horrible or disgusting or terrible his opponents were, in really ugly terms. Perfect for the media. That is a great 12-second sound bite. But to talk about why the middle class is in decline or why we have massive levels of income and wealth inequality can’t be done in 12 seconds. And second of all, it’s not something that they are, frankly, terribly interested in."
You can read the full interview at alternet.org.
Liberals believe the mainstream media isn't concerned about most of the progressive issues they care about: helping the poor, raising the minimum wage, income inequality, making college affordable, people over profits, single payer healthcare, preserving social security, etc. They believe the media cares about ratings over substance (the trope "If it bleeds, it leads" is an example). According to many progressives the mainstream media exists to make money and lots of it, not to help ordinary people or make the world a better place. Independent media exists on both the left and the right to make up for what many see as deficiencies in the reporting of mainstream news organizations that fail to address many issues they care about. You could say the media's only ideology is to make money, which leaves both liberals and conservatives dissatisfied.