Defining journalists as liberal, moderate or conservative
A recent letter cited a report on two studies completed in May 2004 and conducted by the Pew Center for the People and the Press. The letter presented information from the report comparing journalists to the general public.
In each of the studies, the respondents were asked to categorize themselves as liberal, moderate or conservative. According to the report, about a third (34 percent) of journalists from the national media considered themselves liberal, over half (54 percent) labeled themselves moderate and 7 percent called themselves conservative.
Twenty-three percent of journalists from local media labeled themselves liberal, and a clear majority (61 percent) called themselves moderate. Twelve percent considered themselves conservative.
While 20 percent of the general public called themselves liberal, a plurality (41 percent) considered themselves moderate, and 33 percent labeled themselves conservative.
The difference in the likelihood of local journalists and members of the general public calling themselves liberal falls within the margin of error of the journalist study. Therefore, that difference may or may not exist.
In other words, the Pew report indicates that a significant minority of journalists from the national media consider themselves liberal while an equally significant minority of the general public consider themselves conservative.
However, the largest proportions of each group ” and of journalists from local media as well ” consider themselves moderate.
Incidentally, the report discusses many concerns of journalists. For example, a majority believe that emphasis on making a profit is harming the quality of news coverage and that the media avoid complex issues.
More than half of the national media respondents and more than a third of local media respondents believe that the news media are not critical enough of the Bush administration. Significant numbers are concerned that “reporting is increasingly sloppy and error prone.” There is much more.
Finally, the sponsors of the report acknowledge that they have not learned yet how the studies’ participants would define the terms liberal, moderate and conservative.
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