By Theda Skocpol and Vanessa Williamson
The views expressed are their own.
Many observers of the role of U.S. media in politics as of the early twenty-first century are alarmed that partisanship has crept in. This rarely bothers very conservative pundits, of course, because (even if they constantly complain about “liberal media bias”) they know that the elephants in the room are on their side. Liberals and self-styled nonpartisan critics engage in constant tut-tutting about the horrors of partisan media. They forget that American democracy was born and flourished through the nineteenth century in an environment where major newspapers, the mass media of the day, were all closely aligned with political parties. “Objective news” was not to be found; nineteenth-century editors and reporters alike presented highly selective versions of the facts, often in luridly emotional ways.