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We Need a Sunshine Law for the MSM

John on April 7, 2010 at 12:26 pm

Rasmussen has a fresh poll out yesterday on the topic of media bias. This is a poll of the public, not reporters. The poll makes some interesting comparison between the perceived influence of big media and big money in politics. Surprisingly, a majority think media bias is the bigger problem:

Fifty-five percent (55%) of U.S. voters continue to think that media bias is a bigger problem in politics today than big campaign contributions, identical to the finding in August 2008. Thirty-two percent (32%) say big contributions are the bigger problem, but that’s down four points from the previous survey.

There is a clear partisan split in the poll numbers:

Sixty-eight percent (68%) of Republicans and 62% of unaffiliated voters say media bias is the bigger problem in politics, a view shared by just 37% of Democrats.

This makes perfect sense given how the public views reporters:

Fifty-one percent (51%) of voters say the average reporter is more liberal than they are. Eighteen percent (18%) say that reporter is more conservative…

Here’s the part I find really interesting:

Fifty-one percent (51%) said you can influence a governor or member of Congress for less than $50,000 in contributions. However, 68% believe that requiring the disclosure of all campaign contributions is more important that limiting those contributions.

So a super majority of Americans don’t want to limit contributions, they just want openness in the process. It’s the old idea that sunlight is the best disinfectant.

Rasmussen doesn’t seem to have asked but I wonder if most Americans don’t feel much the same way about media bias. I suspect they aren’t interested in stopping reporters from being liberals any more than they want to stop money flowing to politicians. What they do want is openness. What Americans really want, I suspect, is the equivalent of a sunshine law for the MSM.

How would this look practically? Well, it wouldn’t be a law obviously, just a way of operating. Most online journalists already have some form of “About” page which gives career highlights. How about asking reporters to grade themselves on a scale from conservative to liberal. Or better yet one scale for fiscal issues and one for social issues. How about asking them to explain which presidential candidate they would vote for every four years and why. Let them explain in their own words what matters to them. Then we, the news consumers, can factor that in when we read their work going forward.

Let’s face it, there’s no practical hurdle preventing this idea from becoming reality. If the NY Times embraced it, others would quickly follow. It could be accomplished in a matter of weeks. No, what makes this a non-starter is that the press by-and-large still believes they’re fooling us. That mask of “neutrality” gives them additional influence they don’t really deserve. At least they think it does.

But as this poll demonstrates, they’re not fooling very many of us. Not anymore.

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Category: MSM & Bias |

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