Reliable Sources Watch (cont.): Down-the-Middle Liberal/Conservative Media Criticism — Sometimes

–Richard E. Vatz

Teaching a course on Media Criticism for about 20 years, I make considerable use of CNN’s “Reliable Sources (RS),” a show moderated by the indefatigable Howard Kurtz and dedicated entirely to the subject matter of my course. It is really an exceptionally excellent show with an exception here and there — which often focuses on journalistic ideological bias and always – always – ensures that the conservative perspective is at least articulated.

That said, one of my persistent criticisms of the show is the consistent weighting of each segment’s 3-person panel by composing it with 2 liberals and one conservative.

For the first time in memory – and I never miss a show — yesterday, Sunday, February 26, RS had a segment that included two conservatives out of three panelists. Now a niggling observer would say that the liberal, Margaret Carlson, is so far left as to make it even, but the fact of the unique ratio of conservatives to liberals is striking.

The conservatives were David Brody and S.E. Cupp, respectively of CBN News (Christian Broadcasting Network) and The New York Daily News. The issue was analysis of journalistic treatment of Rick Santorum (not the writer’s favorite Republican aspirant). The question was addressed: do the media try to destroy conservatives?

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The conservatives, as is their stylistic wont, did not gang up on the single liberal, as sometimes happens when the right-left ratio is reversed on RS. It was a substantive analysis throughout.

Later in the show, along with a superb interview with journalists in Syria, the superlative CBS Syrian reporter Clarissa Ward and the excellent CNN reporter Arwa Damon, there was the always insightful David Zurawik discussing the fairness of HBO’s “Game Change,” the alleged bio-pic of Gov. Sarah Palin’s VP run. The only journalist on the left to give consistently disinterested distinguished critiques of ideological issues, Zurawik was his usual first-rate self on the show.

One of the last segments included some criticism of Bill Maher’s donation of $1 million to President Barack Obama’s super PAC, Priorities USA Action. I believe it was Kurtz who opined that if conservative comic Dennis Miller had made a similar donation to a Republican, liberals would have loudly yelled foul.

This conservative, influenced by the slogan “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king” (in regione caecorum rex est luscus), believes a television show on media criticism that is so superior to any of its competition deserves praise, even if it is not perfect. There is very little in the media that is really balanced in treatment of liberal and conservative journalistic issues.

“Reliable Sources” may not be perfect, but it is the closest media criticism comes to that measure on national television.

Prof. Vatz teaches Media Criticism at Towson University and is author of The Only Authentic Book of Persuasion (Kendall Hunt, 2012)

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