Journalists trend ideologically left. That’s just a fact.
In findings likely to fuel the raging debate over the issue of media bias, a new book concludes that the nation’s journalists have moved a bit to the right since the 1990s, but are still considerably more liberal than the general public.
This political snapshot of the media comes from the new edition of “The American Journalist in the 21st Century: US News People at the Dawn of a New Millenium,” the major academic study of the characteristics of American newsrooms. Published every 10 years since the 1970s, it is based on four decades of survey data, the latest a national telephone survey of 1,149 mainstream journalists conducted in 2002.
Why then do we tolerate the pretense that the news media play things straight down the middle? Who believes it?
Zebra Fact Check grows out of two basic observations about contemporary journalism.
First, American mainstream journalism has largely lost any ability it ever had to adopt a neutral perspective on the news. Trust in the news media is near its lowest ebb, yet media companies continue to discourage employees from revealing their political leanings as though that’s some sort of key to public trust.
Secrecy. That’s how to build trust? No. Tell the truth. Do a fair job of it and surveys should reflect a growing trend of trust. If surveys show declining trust then the problem is probably on the media side.
Second: Fact checking needs an upgrade. The best mainstream fact checker, Annenberg Fact Check, occasionally suffers from a liberal bias in its assessments. Its weaker popular cousin, PolitiFact, is on course to make itself a running punchline.
In short, the fact check industry could use some competition.
Zebra Fact Check will improve on the current state of the industry by getting the facts right, gearing story construction toward the skeptic and setting a new standard for transparency.