NPJ Book Review: What Liberal Media? The Truth About Bias and the News by Eric Alterman


What Liberal Media? The Truth About Bias and the News by Eric Alterman (2003)  Much has happened since the publication of this book. Relevance is to be found in a few of its themes – the chapters on Social Bias and Economic Bias are still insightful a decade later. Alterman wrote, “The key question is to ask not whether examples of bias can be found but exactly where is bias pervasive and what is the effect on the news and American public life?”

Though the book is dated with the advancement of social media, technology and the politics of nationalism, the insights remain as to pervasive bias that can be found in television news and radio talk shows that upon examination lean towards a “follow the money” perspective…as the American educator Norman Woelfel wrote in 1941, “… the press which is free for those who own and control it…”

The challenge for any number of reporters of the news is ignorance about the issues and the context of the issues. And, there’s also an economic bias in that people tend to believe those people who have money rather than those who do not have the financial resources. Is the social media changing that perspective or reinforcing it?

The majority of talk radio and television programs being conservative with an orientation towards the wealthy, affects perspective. The liberal media is in effect a misrepresentation as to the reality. The “liberal media” is propaganda of the right/conservative. Liberal public intellectuals are interviewed on a less recurring basis on the national networks where as conservative intellectuals are in abundance.

None of this is surprising as the chief business of capitalism is money and those that possess the greatest wealth, with books and articles written about how to accumulate wealth, which most readers will never achieve as they don’t have the network. Money makes money and journalists are impressed with money – take a look at the salaries of “journalists” that work on network news. Capitalism is not primarily about democracy or helping the less fortunate or creating an equal playing field…it’s about making money and accumulating power. One is reminded of the words of the German poet and playwright, Bertolt Brecht, “Who built the Seven Gates of Thebes, the books are filled with the names of kings.