Alterman_what_liberal_media_ch08_economic_bias - W hat E...

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Alterman, What Liberal Media (2003, 2004) 8 What Economic Bias? PERHAPS THE EASIEST BIAS to identify in the media is that of business journal- ism. When it comes to money, journalists are easily impressed, and here it is conser- vatives who benefit by the fact that virtually no one questions their assumptions. "The chief business of the American people is business,'" President Calvin Coolidge famously observed, and so is the business of business journalism. What economists call "externalities"-the condition of workers' lives, the treatment of shareholders, sweetheart deals for favored investors, exorbitant executive compensation, special- interest lobbying in the federal agencies or on Capitol Hill-were, until recently, no more welcome on the business pages or cable chat shows than they had been in most corporations' reports to their stockholders. In fact, in most ofthe above cases, the top- ics begin to intrude on the media's storyline only when one of them reaches such mammoth proportions-say, an Enron accounting scandal or an Exxon oil spill- that it actually becomes the story. In addition to the social issues discussed in chapter 7, a former top Clinton aide, Michael Waldman, identified "free trade" as perhaps the single issue where adminis- tration members could be most assured of friendly coverage. As the staffer charged with leading the adminisuation's communications operation to win the fight over the NAFTA treaty in 1993, he recalled: I got a lot ofkudos inside the White House for stories on NAFTA that I didn't even have any idea would be appearing. Without even much prompting, the press drummed away at the benefits of the agreement, and criticized the opponents. I always thought this was a combination of reporters and editors believing that the economic arguments were strong, which dovetailed with the overall posture of the owners of the news outlets. In any case, the coverage was pretty lopsided.' Waldman gets no argument from the Clinton administration's arch-opponent, Grover Norquist. Free trade is, he explained, "the one issue that the establishment gets." Norquist finds this odd, because "They don't understand the minimum wage, What Economic Bias? . 119 which is simple, but they do get free trade, which is more complicated."} is often the case, this lefr-right unholy alliance is on to something. No longer the working- class heroes of the Front Page/His Gal Friday lore, elite journalists in Washington and New York are rock-solid members of the political and financial Establishment about whom they write. They dine at the same restaurants and take their vacations on the same Caribbean islands. Even if one does not object to a journalist lobbying President Clinton to send Chelsea to the elite private school to which the journalist's daughter goes while trading pleasantries at a Renaissance Weekend, the very fact that such a thing takes place is at least indicative of a social order that would have been all but unimaginable a few decades earlier.
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Alterman_what_liberal_media_ch08_economic_bias - W hat E...

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