Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Diversity works for race, gender, etc., why not political ideology?

I've been making the case for years to friends at the Poynter Institute in St. Pete (at which I was fortunate enough to be invited to be an journalism Ethics Fellow in 2001) that newsrooms needed to get more ideologically diverse or face extinction.

Studies have shown that journalists are overwhelmingly liberal (although many of them call themselves moderate, the percentage of journalists who voted for Bill Clinton over Dole was more than 80 percent, according to one survey).

Anyway, columnist John Leo has written a column right on point.

Question: What logic applies to say, racial diversity in newsrooms that does not apply to ideological diversity?


NYC pal said...

Race and gender don't belong in the argument. While there are rare exceptions, in the overwhlemingly vast majority of cases, race and gender can be determined by merely a glance. They cannot be easily hidden. They also cannot change. A person doesn't get to chose what race or gender they want to be. It is patently unfair to treat people differently based on factors they cannot control.

When you talk about religion of political ideology (which too often hold too many parrells), these are facits of a person's personality over which they have control. Someone has to chose to be Christian, or Muslim, or Jewish. They have to chose to be Democrat or Republican.

As such, private businesses should not be forced to apply the same standards of equality. If I want to start a Jewish newspaper, then I want a staff of Jews. Forbidding such a practice would hamper my ability to produce quality print for Jewish readers.

Perhaps the particular paper wants a specific editorial stance. If they want liberal commentary, chances are they are going to hire liberal columnists.

For publications that wish to present an honest view of both sides, then I think ideological diversirty is a necessity. But it shouldn't be required. readers can pick up on it otherwise, and chose to buy a different that better represents their views.

I also think the "liberal bias" rap the media gets is overblown. From my perspective, it seems the bias goes both ways. What we don't have are papers that take neither a conservative nor liberal approach.

The media has become much like the politicans they cover. Each different media outlet is on one side or the other. And, as most often is the case, neither side is right. The truth always lies somewhere in the middle. But politicans never talk about the middle, and neither do the media.

Best quote ever concerning politics, from comedian Lewis Blake: Democrats are the party with no ideas. Republicans are the party with bad ideas. And the only thing worse that either one of these idiots is when the two get togehter.

Skip Foster said...

Well, NYCpal, you are arguing discrimination. Of course, there should be none.

But proponents of diversity in newsrooms are mainly saying: "To cover minority communities well, you need to have minority journalists in your newsrooms." In other words, if you've got a bunch a white people in your newsroom, how can you cover the black or Hispanic communitie well. I agree with that logic.

But, what I'm asking is: If you substitute "ideological conservatives" for "minorites" why is the statement suddenly not true. Since it is simply a fact that more journalists are liberal than conservative, how can newsrooms expect to properly cover the conservative community?

Alan J. said...

I'm willing to agree that journalists are more likely to be liberal. Newsrooms should be as diverse as possible, and that should include a proper mix of conservatives, liberals and alternate viewpoints.

However, I don't believe those viewpoints are the ones that dominate how a newsroom covers news. Personally, I believe it depends more on what will sell papers or draw ratings.

People were more willing to read about Clinton because he was more interesting than Dole. It was easier and more likely to draw readers to bash Bush in 2004. Lord knows he offered enough opportunities. But for every time I heard something about Bush's National Guard service, I also heard negative remarks about Kerry's use of his Vietnam service for political gain.

Why? Because both got people's attention.

Journalists are more likely to push stories because they sell. Do they underestimate their audience? Unfortunately, no. The public rushes forward to buy the screaming headlines, to watch the shows that promise unveiled conspiracies.

If the media in general spent more time focusing on educating the public than simply getting their attention long enough to watch a commercial or buy a paper, maybe there would be more quality. There would also be less media, because many people would stop consuming news.

The real problem isn't political bias. It's sales and an ever-shrinking attention span.

NYC pal said...


I'm not arguing for discrimination. I just arguing for some freedom of choice. Hiring should be done on who can do the job best, not to meet some government-invented quota. If a a Jewish newspaper finds Jewish writers better meet their needs, they should be free to hire with such qualifications in mind.

Like I said, religion and political ideology is a chosen position, therefore should not be treated the same as gender and race.

I would agree making hiring decisions based on gender and race is patently discriminatory and should not be allowed.

Another wrinkle: There is a big difference in private business and public entity. A government body should not be allowed to discriminate based on race, gender, creed, color, sexual preference or otherwise. Likewise, a business that receives tax dollars or tax breaks (or in any way is a burden on the tax-paying public) should be held to the same standards.

But to say weeding out job candidates (whatever the business) based on political views is the same as discriminating by gender or race is way off base. The two are only remotely related.

NYC pal said...
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