On the cable news networks and Sunday shout fests where conservatives love to pull the “liberal bias” charge out of their bags when confronted with facts they don’t like, you would be hard pressed to find much liberal representation. It’s odd that of most prominent liberals writing in the nation’s newspapers and opinion magazines ? E.J. Dionne, Robert Kuttner, Paul Krugman, Hendrik Hertzberg, Molly Ivins ? not one has ever been given a regular slot on television, like say, Bob Novak, Fred Barnes, Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Tony Blankley, Pat Buchanan, Bill O’Reilly or Brit Hume.
Eric’s point is that conservatives should quit whining about liberal bias when they’re the ones who own the political airwaves. That’s true, but at the same time he brings up a good question: why are there more conservatives than liberals on TV slugfests?
This has always been a mystery to me, ever since the famous “Point-Counterpoint” debates on 60 Minutes between Shana Alexander and James J. Kilpatrick. I remember at the time being annoyed at the fact that I thought Kilpatrick was wrong, but also that he was much the better debater. What’s more, an additional 30 years of watching liberals and conservatives on TV hasn’t changed my mind: conservatives usually do better.
Why? It’s not that liberals don’t get a chance (as on talk radio, which was taken over by conservatives very early) and it’s not that network news honchos are unsympathetic to liberals. I don’t think it has anything to do with the quality of the people or the quality of the thoughts. Liberals do fine on op-ed pages. Nor am I under the misimpression that liberals are unable to be nasty enough. And yet, in show after show, they’re typically overmatched.
This is genuinely perplexing, and I think it’s a big part of the reason that political talk shows have such heavy conservative representation: they’re just livelier and more interesting on TV than liberals are. I don’t have a clue why this is so, but since it goes directly to the core of recent liberal weakness at shaping public debate, it might be worth someone’s time to give this some dispassionate study. How about it, Media Matters?