By Jack Shafer
The views expressed are his own.
If not for media bias, I’m certain that my news diet would taste so strongly of sawdust and talc that I would abandon news consumption completely. As long as I’m eating news, give me the saffron smoothness of New York Times liberalism and the hallelujah hot sauce excitement of Fox News Channel conservatism. Anything but a menu of balance, moderation, and fairness!
Not that I don’t value balance, moderation, and fairness—a good Associated Press story can nourish the soul as well as a six-pack of Bud on a hot summer day. But as a rule, I like my news chefs to make spicy meals or no meals at all.
My devotion to biased media puts me on the outs with the conservative gang at the Media Research Center, who patrol the nation’s airwaves and news pages for liberal transgressions against the truth, and the liberals at Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting and Media Matters for America, who stalk conservative deviations. Good luck to you all, I say, but leave me off your e-mail lists.
Yet the search for media bias goes on, the latest contribution to the genre being a new book by Tim Groseclose, Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind. Professor Groseclose, who holds positions in both the political science and economics departments at UCLA, has with his colleague Jeff Milyo, devised a new way to measure bias. First, he calculated the “PQs,” or political quotients, of members of Congress “based upon issues chosen by the Americans for Democratic Action.” The closer the member follows the ADA’s liberal line, the higher his score; the less often, the lower. The PQ machine awards Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., a perfect PQ of 100 and Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., a PQ of 4.8. Former U.S. senator Arlen Specter scored about 50, making him the archetypal middle-of-the-roader. (I took Groseclose’s 10-item questionnaire and recorded a PQ of 30, but don’t put too much stock in that score. I’m a libertarian, a political persuasion that confounds questionnaires designed to smoke out righties from lefties.)