A ruse by any other name

Old media and new or alternative media are one pair of names by which we feel our way toward a workable description of America's info-saturation on politics and public affairs in the 21st century. The two groupings supposedly compete not only for market share, but also for the upper hand in how people interpret the news. Websites, blogs, and talk radio are usually put in the "new" category. But where then do PoliticsWest.com and its Gang of Four blog, where I'm a contributor, fit in? Being creatures of the Denver Post, an "old" conventional newspaper company, they are thus hardly adversarial to it. Maybe a more useful map emerges if we group the voices by viewpoint, rather than by their technology of delivery or sociology of organization.

This occurred to me when Mike Rosen of KOA and the Rocky Mountain News, lecturing in Colorado Springs last week for the El Pomar Foundation, gave a perceptive and fair-minded hour's discussion on bias in the media. (Don't take my word for its fairness; Prof. Tom Cronin of Colorado College, an eminent political scientist and proud Democrat, said he agreed with 80% of Mike's observations.)

On the matter of terminology, Rosen said he never uses the "mainstream media" designation that has become commonplace among many conservatives, me included, because it implies that the viewpoint of the New York Times, CBS, AP, Newsweek, NPR, and their ilk is in accord with America's mainstream or centrist attitudes -- whereas he believes those old-media organs are well to the left. I of course agree, and will try to switch from referring to the MSM and instead start using Mike's preferred term, "dominant liberal mass media."

The NYT's liberal slant has seldom been more obvious than in its current embarrassment over the apparent $100,000-plus discount from standard ad rates that was given MoveOn.org for the Sept. 10 full-page blast against General Petraeus. This glaring departure from profit-maximizing business practice disproves the left's pet notion that the Times is equally as committed as Fox News to some conservative status quo because both are "corporate media." Such was the argument at Rosen's speech from one "Steve the Socialist," a favorite on-air foil of his who lives in the Springs and showed up for the event.

Mike exposed its lameness by pointing out that the only alternative to a corporate business organization and ownership model for the news media would be a government ownership -- and how would Steve like that? Point made, game over. Their exchange recalled a classic Daniel P. Moynihan sally that Mike had quoted earlier, to the effect that in countries where the press is full of good news, the jails are often full of good people.

The MoveOn subsidy scandal is one more reminder that whatever name you give "them," old media or mainstream media or dominant liberal mass media, they have an unadmitted bias problem. Their professed objectivity is but a pretense -- a ruse which, by any other name, still smells.

[Cross posted on PoliticsWest.com]