Does the media tilt in a liberal direction? That's the thesis of political science professor Tim Groseclose. Some of his admirers now believe he's proved it "scientifically." I watched a 5 part video interview with him that starts here and sent some commentary to Tim just to give the perspective of a leftist viewer. I reproduce that below. I don't think it was written great, but it contained some links that I want to save.
I watched the 5 segments you did at NRO and wanted to share some thoughts/ask some questions.
First question. Have you read Chomsky and Herman's media analysis? It's called "Manufacturing Consent". It's a pretty widely read, though not frequently discussed in the major media (if ever). Your views would conflict with theirs, so if you haven't read this and you're interested in a different point of view I would recommend this.
I'd like to offer a criticism for you to consider. Your definition of liberal appears to be related to the positions of the two major political parties. Here's a hypothetical question. What if the parties in fact did not represent the range of opinion held by the public, but instead reflected a narrower range that reflected certain business interests? There have been some studies on this. Particularly those of Thomas Ferguson. He offers what he calls "The Investment Theory of Politics." See this wiki link. There's also a series of YouTube videos starting here you could watch if you want an easy to listen to overview.
Based on the theory put forward by Chomsky, Ferguson, and Herman I would suggest that you are correct when you state that the media tilts leftward if by leftward you mean they tilt towards the Democratic Party, which in my view is one wing of the business party.
But what if liberal and conservative is defined differently? Let's define it based on public opinion. Take a particular issue and see what polls show the opinion of the public is. Here's a sampling of public opinion on various issues.
Should our government provide health insurance for all? 64 to 27 Americans say yes.
(From January 2003) Would you support the invasion of Iraq without UN authorization but with the support of one or two major allies? Oppose 52 to 39%
(From January 2011) Do you favor or oppose the US war in Iraq: Oppose 66 to 33%.
Do you think the US is doing the right thing by fighting the war in Afghanistan now, or should the US not be involved in Afghanistan now? Shouldn't be involved now 54 to 38%.
(From August 2010) Do you think the result of the war with Iraq was worth the loss of American lives and other costs of attacking Iraq, or not? Not worth it 72 to 20%.
(From November 1978) Would you agree with the following description of the Vietnam War: More than a mistake, fundamentally wrong and immoral. 72% agree.
Should US companies be allowed to trade with Cuba? Yes 62 to 26%.
Should the government negotiate prices with drug manufacturers? 85% of Americans say yes.
Would you favor or oppose taking away collective bargaining rights from public sector employees similar to what Governor Walker of Wisconsin is proposing: Oppose 61 to 33%
Do you support Obama's demand that Israel halt settlement construction? Support 52 to 31.
The majority position in each of these examples is what I would call the liberal position. But how often is this expressed in the media? Take for example media coverage in the run up to war. Here's an interesting graphic. Perhaps you are aware that the Donahue show on MSNBC was cancelled due to his opposition to the war, a position shared by the majority of Americans. This happened to be the top rated MSNBC show at the time.
Or take the Vietnam war, covered extensively by Herman and Chomsky. The overwhelming majority of Americans believe it was fundamentally wrong and immoral, not a mistake. But according to Chomsky in major media that view has never once been expressed. If you know of a single expression of that view please forward to him because he's interested. The expressed opinion ranges from the right side (it's a just war and we should use additional force) to what is called the "dovish" position (the war was done with benign intent, but it was a strategic blunder, too costly, and beyond our means). That's the kind of criticism you might hear from a Nazi general. Opening an eastern front was a strategic blunder. Not that aggression is wrong. It was just unwise in terms of furthering Nazi ambition. Incidentally this is Barack Obama's position regarding Iraq. We're told he is a principled opponent of the war. Based on what? He called the war a strategic blunder. Meanwhile the bulk of the population thinks it was immoral to invade a country that wasn't threatening us and had done nothing to us in a manner that lead to the death of hundreds of thousands of people. That view isn't really expressed by what you would regard as liberalism (mainstream Democrats, like Pelosi).
So yeah, I think if you define liberal as reflecting the Democratic party, then the media does look liberal. But both the Democratic party and Republican party are well to the right of the American people generally. If you define conservative and liberal by the views of Americans now the media is not liberal at all.
That's pretty unsurprising when you consider what the media is and who it's customers are. The media (that is the major, agenda setting media) are large mega corporations. Their customers are advertisers. Who are advertisers? The extremely wealthy ownership class. So what picture of the world should we expect to emerge from such an institution? Without even looking at the output we would expect an institution that reflects the needs and interests of the owners and advertisers. So then you go look at the media product and see if that holds. I'm convinced it does.
Here's another interesting corollary. Herman and Chomsky's Propaganda Model actually predicts that their model will not be part of mainstream discussion. The function of the media is to serve the interests of their owners and advertisers. Laying bare that fact is dysfunctional. The model predicts that dysfunctional elements are filtered out. So if the model is true we would expect it wouldn't be discussed. If it's false it wouldn't be discussed. So we won't expect it to be discussed. Depicting the media as "liberal" serves to sort of bound the debate. If the mainstream Democrats/the media reflect liberal positions (complete with Obama's spiking of the public option, all the Democratic support for various wars, Obama's war on whistle blowers, extension of the torture regime, extension of the Patriot Act, rendition, extension of the Bush tax cuts) then to go to the left of that is really outside of what is acceptable. So real liberal positions (opposition to war, support for tax hikes on the rich, support for strengthening union rights) are portrayed as extreme even though they are majority positions. Democrats are the ones that effectively spiked the public option according to Tom Daschle. If Obama Care (which is really Romney Care which traces to the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank) is liberal, then what of the 70% of the population that supports a public option and/or single payer? The majority is made to feel like they are extreme. But if extreme means minority then Republicans and Democrats are the extremists.
So anyway I just wanted to offer an alternative perspective. Your thoughts are welcome in reply. Hope that wasn't too long to read.