Newsbusters doesn't understand how journalism works

It really is one of the great ironies surrounding conservative media criticism over the years; most of the people doing it don't understand how journalism works, in part because they've never worked as journalists, and therefore they have no respect for the profession.

Right-wing critiques of the press are usually filed by ideologues who, rather than trying to improve journalism, are trying to eradicate it, which pretty much sums up the work being done at NewsBusters.

I was reminded of that while reading this utterly predictable complaint about how the liberal media is (surprise!) going to cost John McCain the campaign. Specifically, the NewsBusters item details how when polled informally, journalists as a group often vote Democratic. And, of course (goes the Newsbusters thinking), because they vote Democratic that means journalists report Democratic, whatever that means.

Let's review some of the problems with this evergreen argument. First, lots of the newsroom surveys over the years have asked, in general, how journalists of all stripes voted on Election Day. But in terms of building a grand conspiracy theory about liberal bias regarding political coverage, do we really care how sports editors, obit writers and Metro columnists vote? Or does their liberal bias seep through into the box scores, obituaries, and their dispatches from zoning commission meetings? Meaning, probably 70 percent of what's printed in newspapers each day has nothing to do with partisan politics, so who cares how the people who produce that 70 percent vote?

Second, the simplistic conclusion that because a journalist might vote for a Democrat means that that journalist automatically, and without exception, skews his or her work in order to benefit Democrats, completely ignores the basic premise of journalism, which is called professionalism.

And third, if newsrooms tilt so tragically to the left, why don't conservatives try to get jobs in newsrooms? Why don't they jump at the chance to become poorly paid reporters in a dying industry? The answer (they'd rather be partisan pundits) brings us right back to my first point. Conservative press critics don't understand how journalism works, or respect the craft, because most of them have never been journalists.