Carolyn, a some-time Observer reader, called the paper the other day. And she was steamed.
She couldn’t remember what exactly had set her off, but she knew this: The Observer loves President Obama, wants him reelected and is so liberal we’d never say anything critical of him.
“The media are putting Obama back in office,” she said.
This got me thinking. Are the media putting Obama back in office? And whether they are or aren’t, will a significant chunk of America grab on to Carolyn’s theory should Obama win?
There’s a nugget of truth to Carolyn’s frustration. The majority of journalists in the United States, it is safe to say, personally subscribe to a left-of-center political philosophy. Newspapers have traditionally endorsed Democrats for president more often than they have Republicans. And examples pop up now and then of journalists revealing a political bias.
It’s quite a leap, though, from there to Carolyn’s conclusion. For one thing, Obama and Mitt Romney are going to spend about $1 billion each on this campaign, largely on TV ads, and outside groups will spend tens of millions more. That might influence a vote or two.
In any case, there is no longer a monolithic “media,” if there ever was. Thousands of competing media outlets of all sizes and viewpoints produce a deafening cacophony of news and opinion.
Then there’s this: Conservative voices in media have never been more prominent. The largest radio audience in America? Rush Limbaugh. The leading cable news network? Fox, with a bigger audience than CNN and MSNBC combined. The newspaper with the nation’s highest circulation? The Wall Street Journal, hardly a liberal rag. The second most popular political website? The conservative Drudge Report (behind the liberal Huffington Post).
Principles, not a party
It wasn’t clear whether Carolyn perceived bias on the Observer’s news pages. It’s an important distinction. Readers of the news pages should not even get a whiff of the reporter’s biases. We on the Opinion pages, though, deliver opinions. It’s our job.
The Observer editorial board isn’t pro-Obama or pro-Romney (we have huge reservations about both of them). We’re not pro-Democrat or pro-Republican. But we do operate from a foundation of certain philosophical principles that undergirds all we do. Some elements of that foundation: We believe discrimination is wrong. We believe everyone deserves an equal opportunity. We believe in conscientious stewardship of tax dollars, and that prevention costs less than a cure. We believe public officials should be bound to the highest standard of ethics. We despise hypocrisy. We abhor secrecy in government. We believe each generation has a responsibility to make things better for the next. We love Charlotte and North Carolina, and want them to thrive.
Being beholden to those ideals compels us to call out public officials of both parties. Carolyn said we never criticize Obama or Democrats. In just the past few months, she missed our editorials or columns criticizing Obama for: His mediocre convention speech; his debate performance; his failure to lead on reducing deficits; his immigration policy; his stance on the Keystone Pipeline; his tolerance of a horribly misleading ad; his use of drones; and others. She didn’t read our editorials criticizing Gov. Bev Perdue, Sen. Harry Reid, former Mecklenburg commissioners chairman Jennifer Roberts, N.C. Democratic Party chair David Parker, DNC officials and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Walter Dalton.
Whew. That makes us sound firmly Republican. We’re not. If you must label us, as a group we’re left of center on most issues, though not each board member would describe himself or herself that way (and we write often on issues that can’t be neatly broken down into left and right).
Most of all, we relish reasoned discussion and debate. We publish viewpoints from across the political spectrum. We listen to voices to the left and right of us and seek understanding. We celebrate those differences. And I trust that Carolyn enjoyed our conversation as much as I genuinely did.