Here is Tim Rutten’s column about talk radio, including his interview with Hugh Hewitt. Hewitt says he was quoted accurately — but when we hear the interview itself on Monday, we’ll be surprised at what Rutten left out. Looking forward to it.
UPDATE: I have now read Rutten’s column and have time to comment on it. Rutten is apparently incapable of taking on conservatives’ complaints about bias in news media, so he constructs a blatant strawman instead:
You know this particular argument like a mantra: All humans have personal beliefs, including political ones, which inevitably bias anything they write or broadcast. Therefore, everyone who reports or analyzes the news must publicly declare everything they believe and all their personal associations so that their readers or audience can — to borrow Hewitt’s phrase — “correct” for the journalist’s bias. The notion that the former — all people have biases — might be true, but not the latter — they always determine absolutely everything you say or do — never is considered. Nor is the possibility that personal discipline and the conventions of the craft already accomplish that “correction” among journalists who observe them. It’s simply not an admissible idea here. (Let’s not even touch the common-sense proposition that it’s the normality of the mainstream media’s workaday, unbiased journalism that makes the biased stuff stand out so clearly — and offensively — when it occurs.)
Few people are harsher critics of the Los Angeles Times than I am — so if Rutten is right, his cartoonish description of the conservative case against Big Media ought to fit my views to a T. But it doesn’t.
I do not argue that journalists’ biases “always determine absolutely everything” journalists say or do. Much of the mainstream media’s workaday journalism escapes the influence of their bias. It’s only when the subject matter touches on a pet issue of the liberal elite that the biases come into sharp relief.
The mainstream media reveals its bias most clearly in its coverage of issues like taxes, social welfare benefits, environmental regulation, racial preferences, universal healthcare, criminal justice, immigration, war, Israel, gun control, abortion rights, sexual conduct, assisted suicide, religion, and campaign finance reform. Stories that don’t relate to these or related pet issues are often covered, if not entirely competently, at least without screaming bias.
Also, the idea that “personal discipline and the conventions of the craft” already filter out most of the bias is certainly an “admissible idea” — just one we reject. Do we have any evidence to back up that viewpoint? I’ll let readers of this blog be the judge. Have you ever read this blog, Mr. Rutten?
Rutten’s column concludes, hilariously, with his assertion that talk radio’s audience is shrinking because its practitioners are narcissistic blowhards:
Political talk-show hosts see everything through the prism of their partisan politics and insist, as an article of faith, that everyone else is always doing the same. In this sense, their approach to current affairs is less a conservative one and more a creature of that most powerful of American vices: narcissism.
The controlling assumption is: I look at the world in this fashion and, therefore, everyone else does too.
Anyone who’s ever been trapped sitting next to that greatest of dinner party bores, an unrestrained narcissist in full cry, knows that the only coherent thing that comes to mind is escape.
Maybe that’s what’s happening to political talk radio’s audience. As the physicists say, the simplest explanation is always the most elegant.
Yet not once in the column does Rutten mention the lemming-like escape that subscribers have accomplished from the Los Angeles Times itself. Might the financial woes of The Times have anything to do with the liberal bias of its writers, as evidenced by the unserious arguments Rutten advances in this piece?
Mr. Rutten? What would the physicists say about that?