Journalists Speak On Bias in Media

A panel of journalists last night discussed the extent of bias in the mass media before a capacity crowd at the Kennedy School's ARCO Forum.

Jack Anderson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist, said the media is not capable of objectivity.

"To pretend that we are objective is an attempt to deceive," Anderson said. "We are unable to be objective. I have known every president since Franklin D. Roosevelt and every president has felt abused by the press."

Frank Luntz, an Institute of Politics (IOP) Fellow and former pollster for the Buchanan and Perot campaigns, moderated the discussion, which focused heavily on the print media.

Don Baer, editor of U.S. News and World Report, explained a recent trend in print journalism, saying newspaper and magazine articles now involve more commentary.


"There is a two-tier system," Baer said. "There is the traditional news reporting. But now there is a sassy kind of reporting, bordering on commentary."

Many panelists said that in the 1992 presidential campaign, media bias influenced public perceptions of the candidates.

Fred Barnes, White House correspondent for The New Republic, said unfairly negative coverage of the economy during the campaign hurt former President Bush.

"Most who covered Bush did not like him--reporters tend to be liberal," Barnes said.

"One issue that was the most poorly covered was the economy. On March 1991 the recession ended [but] all the network news saw the economy as negative," he added.

While the economy picked up during Bush's last days as president, Barnes said news coverage took a positive turn only after Clinton was elected.

And Lee Daniels, and reporter for The New York Times, said the media is hurt by it tendency toward conformity.

"There is an element of vicious ness, a pack mentality, said Daniels.

But Chris Black, a reporter with The Boston Globe, said biased media coverage did not cause Bush's defeat.

Bush ran a bad campaign Black said "improvement was not felt by people Real people were distressed."

Still, the collection of print journalist saved their harshest words for television and radio.

"What you get from radio and television is equal to what you get driving past a well lit newsstand" Anderson said