Unlike my ancient predecessor, this Tullius hasn't had his hands chopped off. With hands attached I offer my thoughts on philosophy, religion, politics, and whatever else I find worth mentioning. I'm conservative religiously and politically (though I have some serious libertarian leanings). I value reason and freedom but also traditions and "Oldthink." I relish being on the wrong side of history when history is wrong--part of a philosopher's job is to be unpopular.
Tuesday, February 17, 2015
How Biased is the Media? A Freakonomics Interview
Tim Groseclose answers questions about his research on media bias here. By my lights what he says below is plausible and interesting.
Q. Why does liberal media bias exist in the first place? What would you suggest as a way that a) journalists could be more aware of their own bias and limit it in their reporting; or b) the profession of journalism could attract a more unbiased (or merely more representative) cohort? –Jack
A. The main reason why bias exists, I believe, is simply that newsrooms are filled overwhelmingly with liberals. Here’s the most important fact to know, if you want to understand media bias: If you poll Washington correspondents and ask “Who’d you vote for last election?”, about 93% will say the Democrat.
Why are newsrooms so liberal? I don’t know, except that I suspect that it’s mainly self-selection. I believe that there is something in the DNA of liberals that makes them want to pursue careers like journalism, academia, and the arts.
A manager or owner of a media outlet could try to counteract this by trying to hire more conservatives, but he will have a hard time trying to find conservatives who want to be journalists. He’ll either have to pay conservative journalists more or be willing to hire conservative journalists who are not as good at reporting as liberal journalists. It’s a hard problem for a news-outlet manager to solve. I basically believe we’re in an equilibrium – that liberal bias is basically here to stay.
How can journalists be aware of their own biases? One way is to read Chapter 11 of my book, “The Anti-Newsroom, Washington, County, Utah.” In the chapter I search for a place that votes the opposite of a newsroom – 93-7 for the Republican. It’s basically impossible to find such a county, but one that comes close is Washington County. I interview lots of people in the county to give the reader a sense of what political views in the anti-newsroom are like. If journalists think about how conservative, and maybe even strange, views are in the anti-newsroom, they may begin to realize how liberal, and maybe even strange, views are in actual newsrooms.
And if a journalist is really serious about understanding his or her own biases, he or she could visit Washington County, Utah. One of its residents, Tom Seegmiller, has agreed to host such journalists. Seegmiller is the owner of Dixie Gun and Fish and the Locker Room, an athletic supply store. If such journalists are interested, they should contact Seegmiller at one of his two businesses. Seegmiller is even willing to take such journalists to church with him. And if they desire, Seegmiller is willing to take such journalists hunting with him.