Leaning Right

LEANING RIGHT….If you read liberal blogs, you’ve heard the common complaint that Sunday talk shows consistently showcase a greater number of conservative guests than liberal ones. But is it true? Media Matters took a detailed look at the question and the chart on the right shows the answer: conservatives outnumbered liberals during the Clinton years and they outnumber liberals even more heavily now. It’s not your imagination.

And it’s worse than that. As Paul Waldman’s article in the current issue of the Monthly explains, it goes beyond politicians to include the pundits and journalists who are invited on the shows:

This ideological imbalance isn’t only evident in the “official” sources that are interviewed: the elected officials, candidates, and administration officials who make up most of the shows’ guests. It is even clearer in the roundtable discussions with featured journalists, [where] it has been a frequent practice for a roundtable to consist of a right-wing columnist or two supposedly “balanced” by journalists from major newspapers.

….The consequence of all this is that in every year since 1997, conservative journalists have dramatically outnumbered liberal journalists, in some years by two-to-one or more. Why would the producers of the shows believe that a William Safire (56 appearances since 1997) or Bob Novak (37 appearances) is somehow “balanced” by a Gwen Ifill (27) or Dan Balz (22)? It suggests that some may have internalized the conservative critique of the media, which assumes that daily journalists are “liberal” almost by definition, and thus can provide a counterpoint to highly partisan conservative pundits.

The result is that genuinely liberal pundits get almost no exposure on these shows. You get conservative guests, super-conservative guests, moderate liberals, and journalists. And though it’s not part of this study, they’re almost all men. Only 10% of the guests on Sunday talk shows are women.

Some balance.

NOTE: The survey methodology used by Media Matters is described here.

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