Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple conceded that mainstream media newsrooms fit their critics’ characterizations as “left-leaning hives” in a column Friday following the media’s tumultuous first full week of covering President Trump’s new administration.
Throughout his campaign, Trump’s relationship with the mainstream media was strained, if not hostile. Since he took office on Jan. 20, the president, his administration and the media have engaged in tense debates over fake news and liberal bias, beginning with the media’s negative coverage of his “dark” inaugural address and comparisons to the larger crowd that gathered at former President Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer gave the media a particularly harsh thrashing during his first briefing Jan. 20.
“The characterization of mainstream media newsrooms as left-leaning hives indeed has documentary backing.”
Wemple called out his colleagues in the media for their unprecedented bias in a Friday column entitled, “Dear Mainstream Media: Why so liberal?”
“The characterization of mainstream media newsrooms as left-leaning hives indeed has documentary backing,” Wemple wrote.
Pointing to a Pew Research Center study conducted in 2004 that surveyed 547 local and national media members, Wemple noted that 34 percent identified as liberal, while only seven percent claimed to be conservative. The rest chose to identify themselves as moderates. In addition, the number of national media members who identify as liberals increased 22 percent since 1995.
Wemple also highlighted a 2006 study from The American Journalist showing that newsrooms had become increasingly more liberal in numbers that do not reflect the percentages from the U.S. population at large. In a 2014 American Journalist survey, 28 percent of journalists registered as Democrats, while seven percent registered as Republicans. The remaining percentage identified as independents.
Although mainstream media outlets often claim they champion diversity and inclusion, political and ideological diversity usually isn’t at the top of their list of hiring priorities.
According to a recent New York Times planning document, the outlet wishes to offer greater diversity in its newsroom.
“As The New York Times becomes an ever more global operation, diversity in our ranks is paramount. Diversity — of gender, race, nationality, sexual orientation, socioeconomic backgrounds and outlook — is a moral imperative as well as a necessity for improving our coverage, which, in turn, will expand our audience,” the document read.
But does that mention of “outlook” in The Times’ call for diversity include embracing opposite ends of the political spectrum? Joe Kahn, The Times’ managing editor, indicated in an interview with Wemple back in September that this would not be the case.
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“I think we absolutely do not look for a political litmus test for people in either direction,” Kahn told Wemple. “The diversity challenge for us is to find a range of skills and including people who can understand and write persuasively about all aspects of American politics and society.”
The hostility between the administration and the press shows no sign of ebbing after the first full week. Trump unleashed a fresh broadside on the media in a series of tweets Saturday morning.
“The failing @nytimes has been wrong about me from the very beginning. Said I would lose the primaries, then the general election. FAKE NEWS!” Trump began. “The coverage about me in the @nytimes and the @washingtonpost gas [sic] been so false and angry that the times actually apologized to its … dwindling subscribers and readers. They got me wrong right from the beginning and still have not changed course, and never will. DISHONEST.”
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The tweets were fired off after both news outlets reported negatively on the president’s executive order signed Friday that temporarily suspended refugee entry and banned immigration from seven terrorism-compromised countries.
If the mainstream media isn’t willing to give the new president a fair chance or show a willingness to analyze hot-button topics from diverse political angles, the Trump-media feud most likely will continue for years to come.