Alterman_what_liberal_media_ch02_man_who_owns_you - A...

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Alterman, What Liberal Media? (2003, 2004) 2 You're Only As Liberal the Man Who Owns Yo'u " REPEAT so M ETH ING often enough and people will believe it" goes the adage, and this is nowhere truer than in American political journalism. As four scholars writ- ing in the Journal ofCommunication observed in a study of the past three elections, "claiming the media are liberally biased perhaps has become a core rhetorical strategy by conservative elites in recent years." As' a result, these unsupported claims have become a "necessary mechanism for moving (or keeping) analytical coverage in line with their interests."l Another way of saying this is that conservatives have success- fully cowed journalists into repeating their baseless accusations of liberal bias by virtue of their willingness to repeat them ... endlessly. The psychological effects of conservatives' persistent attacks on the SCLM are sig- nificant. In seeking to explain why, well before 9/11, President Bush's life was "more pleasant than Clinton's ever was, even at the start of his presidency," Washington Post White House reporter John Harris pointed to "one big reason for Bush's easy ride: There is no well-coordinated corps ofaggrieved and methodical people who start each day looking for ways to expose and undermine a new president." Harris expanded on the difference: There was just such a gang ready for Clinton in 1993. Conservative interest groups, commentators and congressional investigators waged a remorseless campaign that they hoped would make life miserable for Clinton and vault themselves to power. They succeeded in many ways. One of the most important was their ability to take all manner of presidential miscues, misjudgments or controversial decisions and exploit them for maximum effect. Stories like the travel office firings flamed for weeks instead of receding into yesterday's news. And they colored the prism through which many Americans, not just conservative ideologues, viewed Clinton. It is Bush's good fortune that the liberal equivalent of this conservative coterie does not exist. 2 You're Only As Liberal As the Man Who Owns You • 15 It does not matter that the evidence for liberal bias often disintegrates upon careful scrutiny. works anyway. To be fair, it is enormously difficult, to design an intellectu- ally respectable study that tells us much of significance about journalistic bias because no one can control for events. George W. Bush earned enormously more generous cov., erage in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks than he had in nine previous months of his presidency. But the composition of the press corps was obviously unchanged. Did reporters turn less liberal overnight-in which case, the entire argument about the SCLM is now consigned to history'sproverbial dustbin? Or did the composition ofthe relevant issues change? And in an atmosphere of constantly changing issues, how is it possible to measure, scientifically, the treatment the issues receive in the media?
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Alterman_what_liberal_media_ch02_man_who_owns_you - A...

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