If you spend any time at all consuming the media, then you’re probably familiar with the concept of “liberal bias.” Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump may have brought this notion to the forefront with his increasingly fascistic rhetoric toward journalists, but conservatives have criticized news outlets for purportedly impartial coverage since the 1960s, if not earlier.
Nowadays, most everyone has come under fire for allegedly erasing conservative viewpoints in their reporting. Although I disagree with the right on pretty much everything else, here they raise an excellent point, albeit not the one they think they do. Many media outlets do carry a decidedly liberal slant.
Let’s conduct our scrutiny of this phenomenon with The Washington Post, whose history of liberal bias is well-documented. We’ll kick things off with an article from earlier this year, which focused on charitable efforts to aid a Memphis youth. When singer-songwriter Matt White discovered the poverty that 16-year-old Chauncy Black and his grandmother lived in, he set up a GoFundMe page to help them get on their feet; thanks to White’s efforts, Black received more than $270,000.
This story, heartwarming as it may be for normal humans, nevertheless reinforces anti-conservative prejudice. A 2014 Pew Research Center poll found more than 80 percent of steadfast conservatives think the poor “have it easy,” and in another Pew poll from that year, 51 percent of Republicans blamed poverty on a “lack of effort.” The Post article portrays the Black family as human beings in need of help, instead of lazy moochers who deserve our scorn. By humanizing them in this manner, it shamefully snubs the right in favor of the left.
The Post’s reporting on gender issues suffers from the same prejudice, as illustrated in a June article about a study on ostensible sexism. The dubious Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which undertook the study, alleges that sexism harms women by preventing them from fully taking part in the workforce; in support of this, it relies on “statistical analysis” and “data.”
But where is the conservative perspective? According to Pew polling data from August, 75 percent of Republican men believe “obstacles that make it harder for women to get ahead are largely gone.” Without speaking with a GOP source — someone to tell these women that they simply need to work harder and smile more to get ahead — The Post paints an incomplete, partisan picture of the issue.
When covering Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, The Post doesn’t stray from this liberalism. Take its article from July on Trump’s outreach to black voters. The Post implies Trump holds racist views, just because he’s said “laziness is a trait in blacks” and argued that affirmative action gives black people an undeserved advantage over white people.
These concepts have gained a good deal of traction on the right: More than 40 percent of white Republicans believe black people are lazy, per journalist Sean McElwee, while a 2015 Gallup poll showed that just 38 percent of conservatives supported race-based affirmative action.
Now, we should give credit where it’s due: The Post didn’t directly call Trump a racist, instead saying he’s “been at the center of controversies regarding his racial views;” such anodyne phrasing helps make for a fair portrayal of the KKK-endorsed candidate. It can’t negate the article’s unfair overall slant, though — smearing Trump’s opinions as racist is tantamount to calling conservatism itself racist, a horrid leap that certainly no one would make.
And perhaps most glaringly, The Post’s favoritism toward the left taints its extensive coverage of climate change. This month alone, the paper has reported on the efforts of several nations to reduce the greenhouse gas hydrofluorocarbon, the increasing destructiveness of forest fires and the push in Montgomery County towards fossil fuel divestment.
Throughout these articles, The Post embraces the so-called “scientific consensus” that climate change is real, without giving space to the plentiful opponents of climate change. Forty-three percent of Republicans don’t believe in climate change, and of those who do buy into it, a mere 24 percent think human activity is the primary cause, as reported in a January Monmouth University poll. The Post has scorned the former group, making the unabashedly subjective choice to not teach the controversy.
What’s the solution to this pervasive partiality? Perhaps The Post should follow the route of the Associated Press. The 170-year-old wire service has become notorious for hewing obsessively to the “both sides” model of journalism, which entails lending equal credence to both viewpoints on anything controversial.
For a story about abortion rights, this means relying on an rabidly anti-abortion group with a history of violent extremism; for a story about a campaign to fight homophobia, this means quoting an openly anti-gay bigot; and for a story about the climate, this means referring to climate change deniers as “doubters.” Sure, this approach would sacrifice every shred of journalistic integrity The Post has — but isn’t fairness more important than that?
This is the tough choice that The Post and many other media outlets face. To show compassion for our fellow humans, to call out blatant sexism and racism as such and to seek out and report the truth — these are fundamentally liberal pursuits. If The Post does not abandon these principles, it will continue to endure accusations of liberal bias, which will only grow more unhinged with Trump’s ascension to power. Hopefully, for the sake of journalism, “Pravda on the Potomac” stays the course.
Ryan Romano is a sophomore journalism major. He can be reached at email@example.com.