U.S. News & World Report
Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the Newsby Bernard Goldberg
IN HIS NEARLY thirty years at CBS News, Emmy Award- winner Bernard Goldberg earned a reputation as one of the preeminent reporters in the television news business. When he looked at his own industry, however, he saw that the media far too often ignored their primary mission: objective, disinterested reporting. Again and again he saw that they slanted the news to the… See more details below
IN HIS NEARLY thirty years at CBS News, Emmy Award- winner Bernard Goldberg earned a reputation as one of the preeminent reporters in the television news business. When he looked at his own industry, however, he saw that the media far too often ignored their primary mission: objective, disinterested reporting. Again and again he saw that they slanted the news to the left. For years Goldberg appealed to reporters, producers, and network executives for more balanced reporting, but no one listened. The liberal bias continued. Now, in Bias, he blows the whistle on the news business, showing exactly how the media slant their coverage while insisting that they're just reporting the facts.
U.S. News & World Report
author of How I Accidentally Joined the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy (and Found Inner Peace)
bestselling author of The Death of Outrage
"This insider’s account of Mr. Goldberg’s career at CBS is filled with so many stories of repulsive elitism and prejudice on the part of his peers that it elevates Bias to must-read status. . . . His case is airtight."
The Wall Street Journal
"The allegation of liberal bias in the media is not a new one. However, in this book the allegation is made not by a conservative but by a reporter for CBS Newsan oldfashioned liberal who has seen the bias firsthand. Bernard Goldberg has written a courageous book and told a story that needed to be told."
William J. Bennett
- Recorded Books, LLC
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Read an Excerpt
"They Think You're a Traitor"
I have it on good authority that my liberal friends in the news media, who account for about 98 percent of all my friends in the news media, are planning a big party to congratulate me for writing this book. As I understand it, media stars like Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw and Peter Jennings will make speeches thanking me for actually saying what they either can't or won't. They'll thank me for saying that they really do slant the news in a leftward direction. They'll thank me for pointing out that, when criticized, they reflexively deny their bias while at the same time saying their critics are the ones who are really biased. They'll thank me for observing that in their opinion liberalism on a whole range of issues from abortion and affirmative action to the death penalty and gay rights is not really liberal at all, but merely reasonable and civilized. Finally, they'll thank me for agreeing with Roger Ailes of Fox News that the media divide Americans into two groups-moderates and right-wing nuts.
My sources also tell me that Rather, Brokaw, or Jennings-no one is sure which one yet-will publicly applaud me for alerting the networks that one reason they're all losing viewers by the truckload is that fewer and fewer Americans trust them anymore. He'll applaud, too, when I say that the media need to be more introspective, keep an open mind when critics point to specific examples of liberal bias, and systematically work to end slanted reporting. According to the information I've been able to gather, this wonderful event will take place at a fancy New York City hotel, at eight o'clock in the evening, on a Thursday, exactly three days after Hell freezes over.
Okay, maybe that's too harsh. Maybe, in a cheap attempt to be funny, I'm maligning and stereotyping the media elites as a bunch of powerful, arrogant, thin-skinned celebrity journalists who can dish it out, which they routinely do on their newscasts, but can't take it. Except I don't think so, for reasons I will come to shortly.
First let me say that this was a very difficult book to write. Not because I had trouble uncovering the evidence that there is in fact a tendency to slant the news in a liberal way. That part was easy. Just turn on your TV set and it's there. Not every night and not in every story, but it's there too often in too many stories, mostly about the big social and cultural issues of our time.
What made doing this book so hard was that I was writing about people I have known for many years, people who are, or once were, my friends. It's not easy telling you that Dan Rather, whom I have worked with and genuinely liked for most of my adult life, really is two very different people; and while one Dan is funny and generous, the other is ruthless and unforgiving. I would have preferred to write about strangers. It would have been a lot easier.
Nor is it easy to write about other friends at CBS News, including an important executive who told me that of course the networks tilt left-but also warned that if I ever shared that view with the outside world he would deny the conversation ever took place.
I think this is what they call a delicious irony. A news executive who can tell the truth about liberal bias in network news-but only if he thinks he can deny ever saying it! And these are the people who keep insisting that all they want to do is share the truth with the American people! It wasn't easy naming names, but I have. I kept thinking of how my colleagues treat cigarette, tire, oil, and other company executives in the media glare. The news business deserves the same hard look because it is even more important.
Fortunately, I was on the inside as a news correspondent for twenty-eight years, from 1972, when I joined CBS News as a twenty-six-year-old, until I left in the summer of 2000. So I know the business, and I know what they don't want the public to see.
Many of the people I spoke to, as sources, would not let me use their names, which is understandable. They simply have too much to lose. You can talk freely about many things when you work for the big network news operations, but liberal bias is not one of them. Take it from me, the liberals in the newsroom tend to frown on such things.
And there are a few things that are not in this book-information I picked up and confirmed but left out because writing about it would cause too much damage to people, some powerful, some not, even if I didn't use any names.
But much of what I heard didn't come from Deep Throat sources in parking garages at three o'clock in the morning, but from what the big network stars said on their own newscasts and in other big public arenas, for the world to hear.
When Peter Jennings, for example, was asked about liberal bias, on Larry King Live on May 15, 2001, he said, "I think bias is very largely in the eye of the beholder." This might offend the two or three conservative friends I have, but I think Peter is right, except that instead of saying "very largely" he should have left it as "sometimes in the eye of the beholder." Because it's true that some people who complain about liberal bias think Al Roker the weatherman is out to get conservatives just because he forecast rain on the Fourth of July. And some people who say they want the news without bias really mean they want it without liberal bias. Conservative bias would be just fine.
Some of Dan, Tom, and Peter's critics would think it fine if a story about affirmative action began, "Affirmative action, the program that no right-thinking American could possibly support, was taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court today." But I wouldn't. Bias is bias.
It's important to know, too, that there isn't a well-orchestrated, vast left-wing conspiracy in America's newsrooms. The bitter truth, as we'll see, is arguably worse.
Even though I attack liberal bias, not liberal values, I will be portrayed by some of my old friends as a right-wing ideologue. Indeed, I've already faced this accusation. When I wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal in 1996 about liberal bias among the media elites, my professional life turned upside down. I became radioactive. People I had known and worked with for years stopped talking to me. When a New York Post reporter asked Rather about my op-ed, Rather replied that he would not be pressured by "political activists" with a "political agenda" "inside or outside" of CBS News. The "inside" part, I think, would be me.
Sadly, Dan doesn't think that any critic who utters the words "liberal bias" can be legitimate, even if that critic worked with Dan himself for two decades. Such a critic cannot possibly be well-meaning. To Dan, such a critic is Spiro Agnew reincarnated, spouting off about those nattering nabobs of negativism. Too bad. A little introspection could go a long way.
I know that no matter how many examples I give of liberal bias, no matter how carefully I try to explain how it happens, some will dismiss my book as the product of bad blood, of a "feud" between Dan Rather and me. How do I know this? Because that is exactly how Tom Brokaw characterized it when I wrote a second Wall Street Journal piece about liberal bias in May 2001.
In it I said that as hard as it may be to believe, I'm convinced that Dan and Tom and Peter "don't even know what liberal bias is." "The problem," I wrote, "is that Mr. Rather and the other evening stars think that liberal bias means just one thing: going hard on Republicans and easy on Democrats. But real media bias comes not so much from what party they attack. Liberal bias is the result of how they see the world."
The very same morning the op-ed came out, Tom Brokaw was on C-SPAN promoting his new book, when Brian Lamb, the host, asked about my op-ed. Tom smiled and said he was "bemused" by the column, adding, "I know that he's [Goldberg's] had an ongoing feud with Dan; I wish he would confine it to that, frankly."
Here's a bulletin: in my entire life I have mentioned Dan Rather's name only once in a column, be it about liberal media bias or anything else. Five years earlier, when I wrote my first and only other piece about liberal bias, I did in fact talk about the "media elites," of which Dan surely is one. So counting that (and before this book), I have written exactly two times about Dan Rather and liberal bias-or, for that matter, about Dan Rather and any subject, period!
Two times! And that, to Tom Brokaw, constitutes a "feud," which strikes me as a convenient way to avoid an inconvenient subject that Tom and many of the other media stars don't especially like to talk about or, for that matter, think too deeply about.
I also suspect that, thanks to this book, I will hear my named linked to the words "disgruntled former employee" and "vindictive." While it's true I did leave CBS News when it became clear that Dan would "never" (his word) forgive me for writing about liberal bias in the news, let me state the following without any fear whatsoever that I might be wrong: Anyone who writes a book to be vindictive is almost certainly insane and at any moment could find himself standing before a judge who, acting well within the law, might sign official papers that could result in that "vindictive" person being committed to a secure facility for people with mental defects.
I don't know this from firsthand experience, but my guess is it would be easier to give birth to triplets than write a book, especially if you've never written one before. Staring at a blank page on a computer screen for hours and hours and hours is not the most efficient way to be vindictive. It seems to me that staring at the TV set for a couple of seconds and blowing a raspberry at the anchorman would take care of any vindictive feelings one might have.
So, does all of this lead to the inevitable conclusion that all the big-time media stars bat from the left side of the plate? Does it mean that there are no places in the media where the bent is undeniably conservative? Of course not! Talk radio in America is overwhelmingly right of center. And there are plenty of conservative syndicated newspaper columnists. There are "magazines of opinion" like the Weekly Standard and National Review. There's Fox News on cable TV, which isn't afraid to air intelligent conservative voices. And there's even John Stossel at ABC News, who routinely challenges the conventional liberal wisdom on all sorts of big issues. But, the best I can figure, John's just about the only one, which says a lot about the lack of diversity inside the network newsrooms. On February 15, 1996, two days after my op-ed on liberal bias came out in the Wall Street Journal, Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post wrote about the firestorm it was creating. "The author was not some conservative media critic, but Bernard Goldberg, the veteran CBS News correspondent. His poison-pen missive has angered longtime colleagues, from news division president Andrew Heyward and anchor Dan Rather on down." Kurtz quoted several dumbfounded CBS News people, one of whom suggested I resign, and ended his story with something I told him, more out of sadness than anything else. Journalists, I said, "admire people on the outside who come forward with unpopular views, who want to make something better. But if you're on the inside and you raise a serious question about the news, they don't embrace you. They don't admire you. They think you're a traitor." I am not a traitor, nor am I the enemy. And neither are the millions of Americans who agree with me. The enemy is arrogance. And I'm afraid it's on the other side of the camera.
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