Via Politico, a nice illustration of how members of the guild have grown more willing over the years to cop to institutional biases. You could replace Tapper, Kelly O’Donnell, Mark Leibovich, and Peter Baker here with virtually any four reporters in New York or D.C. and get similar answers, I think. Only the most strident Krugman-esque lefty hacks would differ. The corollary, though, as I’ve said before, is that copping to institutional bias is now used as a sort of plea bargain to the charge of unfairness, to avoid the harsher penalty of having to correct that bias. Over the past 10-15 years, as conservative media watchdogs have flourished, the demand presented to “impartial” outlets was to be more neutral in their coverage or, failing that, admit that their ideological orientation is fundamentally liberal. The goal was to get them to change, not to come clean. Instead, increasingly, they’re apt to admit that they do lean left as a group. You win, conservatives; we’re liberals. And then the coverage proceeds more or less as normal, with major shifts produced only when an inconvenient fact becomes impossible to ignore or when conservatives wage an intense online campaign to browbeat them into covering a particular issue more fairly. E.g., it took big media four years to recognize that “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan” was an egregious lie, even though conservative media — like this site — was warning them about it ages ago. It took a relentless shaming campaign on Twitter to get them to cover Kermit Gosnell, even though the volume of murders he was accused of and the gruesome details about his clinic would have made for sensationalist media catnip in any non-abortion context. Those are two obvious examples; you can add your own. And if you challenge a reporter on them, he/she will almost certainly say, “You’re right, we as a collective do lean liberal.” What then, wingnut?
But maybe they can’t change. Watch Tapper and Leibovich argue, not unreasonably, that reporters are products of their environment like anyone else. If you went to an Ivy League school, live in a city, and work in a newsroom that’s leaned left for decades, odds are your friends, neighbors, and colleagues share certain cultural assumptions that are bound to influence you, subtly or not. An editorial board may grant occasionally that the GOP has a point about the need for entitlement reform, but on core cultural disputes like gun rights and abortion, rarely will they depart from liberal orthodoxy. It’s interesting watching Tapper, a fair reporter by anyone’s standard, make that argument, though. Is there something in his own background that makes it easier for him to resist those cultural assumptions than it is for other journalists, or is he just unusually mindful of those assumptions and works to resist them? And if it’s the latter, how to explain why others aren’t as mindful?