Franken misrepresents Goldberg’s figures

Franken mentions that there are some figures presented in Bias that attempt to illustrate the liberal views of reporters. Then he quotes a few of the more harmless examples, from a 1985 study. Which is interesting, because the more damaging numbers cited by Goldberg are from a 1996 study.

Here are some of the statistics cited in Bias (between pages 123-126) but ignored by Franken:

89 percent of journalists said they voted for Bill Clinton in 1992

7 percent of journalists voted for George Bush that same year

When asked whether the 1994 Contract with America was an ‘election-year campaign ploy’ or a ‘serious reform proposal,’ 59 percent of journalists said ‘ploy’ and only 3 percent said ‘serious.’

Many of the journalists considered themselves Independant, but while only 4 percent said they were Republicans, 50 percent said they were Democrats.

Franken doesn’t clue his readers in. Instead, he quotes the harmless old numbers, while repeatedly referencing how old they are. Count how many times he stresses how old they are:

I think Goldberg’s most valid point is that reporters tend to have more liberal views than the public on social issues. In one case, Goldberg cites an eighteen-year-old Los Angeles Times survey of three thousand journalists nationwide showing that they have more liberal views than the general public on things like gun control (78 percent of journalists favored tougher controls eighteen years ago, while only half the public did), prayer in public schools (74 percent of the public said yes eighteen years ago; 75 percent of journalists said no), and the death penalty (eighteen years ago, 75 percent of the public supported it, versus only 47 percent of journalists).

Why would Franken mention that Goldberg has a good point? Because he needed a context for his own counter-point. Also, Franken distorted Goldberg’s point so badly that it no longer looked like a good point. The reader is then led to believe that the flimsly point as cited by Franken is the best Goldberg has to offer. By citing specifics, Franken gives the false impression of treating Goldberg fairly.

On the same page (36) Franken provides his counter-point:

He fails, however, to explain that editors and publishers–who have the final say over what goes out–tend to be conservative.

Franken’s source is a survey published in the November 2, 2000 issue of the magazine Editor and Publisher. What Franken hides is that most conservative newspapers are very small. They cover local news on a city or county basis but do not have the newsgathering resources for national issues. This forces them to rely on whatever comes from the major newsgathering sources. It does not matter how conservative a small-town editor is if his news stories are all written by liberals.