The excitement is almost more than a person can bear. From one corner of medialand to the other, progressives are on the march! From out of New York comes the report, sure to send a frisson through who knows how many strange people, that Keith Olbermann is joining Al Gore’s Current TV. As Olbermann’s PR firm put it: “He and his new partners will make an exciting announcement regarding the next chapter in his remarkable career.” Remarkable indeed, since if codswallop were diamonds, Olbermann would be the shiniest man on television.
Meanwhile, Arianna Huffington, than whom no one better amalgamates progressive politics and uber commercialism, just sold the Huffington Post to AOL for more than $300 million. And as for those cranks who have qualms about AOL acquiring a property with HuffPo’s pronounced political slant, not to worry, because Arianna says it isn’t “left” since only 15 percent of the site’s traffic goes to the politics section.
Indeed, Huffington’s denial of being a purveyor of liberalism is a familiar refrain these days. Over at the New York Daily News, Josh Greenman recently wrote that the success of Rush Limbaugh, the Drudge Report, and Fox News proves the nonexistence of the “dominant liberal media,” while John Harris, the editor of Politico, has opined on the subject in print and on the air.
Interviewed on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show last month because he wanted “to rebut” Hewitt’s earlier claim that Politico has veered left in the last two years, Harris mostly avoided answering Hewitt’s questions, and this week published an essay in Politico where he claimed that most reporters “might more accurately be accused of centrist bias.”
So what to make of all this? Why the rush to deny liberalism and lay journalistic claim on the center? Several theories present themselves. The first is opportunism and the second is obfuscation. Beyond these lurk other possibilities, such as: (1) that certain reporters see the political handwriting on the wall and want not to be seen as among the victims; or (2) that many political reporters just don’t get it; that when they say, as Harris says in his Politico piece, that they “believe broadly in government activism” they’ve just conceded conservatives’ principal complaint, and cannot then go on and blithely characterize that stance as “centrist.”
The ideological composition of the citizenry differs by country, but in the USA the math is clear: There are at least twice as many conservatives as liberals, and not to take anything away from Rush Limbaugh, Matt Drudge, or Roger Ailes, this is the primary reason for their success: They have delivered products that appeal to a large number of people whose views are, and have been, badly underrepresented by the vast majority of news organizations, political reporters especially.
The opinions expressed above are those of the writer and not of The Media Institute, its Board, contributors, or advisory councils.