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Monday, May 23, 2005

USN&WR's John Leo Explains Link Between MSM Bias, Most Common Reporting Errors

As always, U.S. News & World Report columnist John Leo's column this week has something worth reading and thinking about at length. Leo describes the link between the typical MSMer's ideological biases and the kinds of reporting mistakes that follow. (H/T to Hugh Hewitt for pointing this column out).

Leo thinks Newsweek made a mistake in it's Flushgate reporting and admitted it quickly. But the Washington Post-owned news magazine's error isn't the most interesting question raised by the incident, according to Leo.

He notes that "the focus ought to be on whether the news media are predisposed to make certain kinds of mistakes and, if so, what to do about it. The disdain that so many reporters have for the military (or for police, the FBI, conservative Christians, or right-to-lifers) frames the way that errors and bogus stories tend to occur."

For example, Leo notes the prevalence of stories about allegations of abuse or atrocities by the U.S. military: "The antimilitary mentality makes atrocity stories easier to publish, even when they are untrue. The classic example is CNN's false 1998 story that the U.S. military knowingly dropped nerve gas on Americans during the Vietnam War."

Similarly, in an illustration of the 'No enemies on the Left' phenomenon James Burnham described in his classic book Suicide of the West, liberal MSMers rarely take note of civil liberties abuses by the many tyrants on the Left: "On the other hand, brutal treatment of dissenters by Fidel Castro tends to be softened or omitted in the American press because so many journalists still see him as the romanticized figure from their youth in the 1960s."

Ditto for the mass liberal indoctrination camps we call "universities" in our country these days: "Another example: It's possible to read newspapers and newsmagazines carefully and never see anything about the liberal indoctrination now taking place at major universities. This has something to do with the fact that the universities are mostly institutions of the left and that newsrooms tend to hire from the left and from the universities in question."

If you read nothing else today, be sure and read all of Leo's column.

By the way, I am confident Leo would agree that a similar assessment could be made of the ideologically linked reporting errors most typically made by reporters at The Washington Times, NewsMax.com and other conservative media outlets.