If you're given to yelling at talking heads on nightly cable broadcasts, then Washington Post political columnist E.J. Dionne's new book might not be for you. Then again, if your political persuasion is anywhere to the left of Arlen Specter, it may be exactly the sort of thing you're in the mood for. Once Dionne stops bloviating and gets down to it in chapter five, "We're All in This Together: How the Right Won the Media, the Think Tanks, and the Loudmouths," he has some interesting things to say about media bias and its critics.

According to Dionne, the problem with the press is that it's entirely too conservative. Not in the sense that it's packed with conservatives; surveys of reporters and editors consistently put the lie to that daffy notion. Rather, the press, overwhelmingly composed of liberals and Democrats, is operationally conservative.

Two reasons are given for this. The first, and least convincing, is that most reporters and editors are drawn from a certain class of people: urban, affluent blue state types. This, Dionne grants, has meant that "on social and cultural issues—-abortion and religion come to mind—-journalism was not particularly hospitable to conservative voices." But on economic issues, "especially free trade and balanced budgets," the rootless, upper-income journalists could be found blowing kisses in the direction of Adam Smith and Newt Gingrich. Which would explain why Steve Forbes is now president.

The second reason for the media's supposed rightward tilt is more complicated and more interesting. Drawing on the work of Slate media critic Jack Shafer (whose last name he misspells—-twice), Dionne admits that there was a time when reporters tilted toward the Dems. Specifically, Barry Goldwater in 1964 ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.