Liberal media seems to be more an expression of geography than of bias.
… [T]he political news industry has become increasingly consolidated in Washington and New York as local newspapers have suffered from a decade-long contraction. That doesn’t necessarily mean local reporters in Wisconsin or Michigan or Ohio should have picked up Trumpian vibrations on the ground in contradiction to the polls. But as we’ve argued, national reporters often flew into these states with pre-baked narratives — for instance, that they were “decreasingly representative of contemporary America” — and fit the facts to suit them, neglecting their importance to the Electoral College.
I believe the real problem with political bias in news reporting comes from the fact that national news reporting (which sells pre-packaged news reports that are then carried by local affiliates to supplement their local reporting) are almost exclusively representative of the centers where those news organizations are based: Los Angeles, New York, Chicago. It’s also one reason why so many television shows represent similar points of view: writers write what they are familiar with. And if what you’re familiar with is tight apartments stacked dozens of stories high, in places where moving to the suburbs is a right of passage increasingly out of reach, then you write sitcoms and action television shows which represent your reality.
This reality had not become as apparent to me as when I moved to Raleigh. During the Trump campaign, locally sourced news reports sat in jarring contrast to nationally sourced news stories, and local news reporters off-hand opinions and comments sat in jarring contrast to national opinion pieces. It was pretty clear national reporters also didn’t seem to care that out-of-the-way places like Wake County seem to have a lot more political support for President-Elect Trump (as indicated by the volume of Trump For President signs).
Your point of view affects how you see the world. And while we’d like to believe journalists are impartial, the cultural and social platform on which they stand (that is, where they live and what they hear in their day-to-day life) will influence what they believe is “normal.”
If you subscribe–as I do–that we do not live in a single country but live in a country of 11 nations, then one way we can describe the idea of the “liberal mainstream media” (as it is called by conservatives) is reporters who are centered in cultures most aligned to Yankeedom and The Left Coast reporting on issues in nations they simply do not understand. (And this is not just my observation: New York Times executive editor: ‘We don’t get religion’, I called this place ‘America’s worst place to live.’ Then I went there. News Outlets Wonder Where the Predictions Went Wrong: “If I have a mea culpa for journalists and journalism, it’s that we’ve got to do a much better job of being on the road, out in the country, talking to different kinds of people than the people we talk to — especially if you happen to be a New York-based news organization — and remind ourselves that New York is not the real world.”
The real problem should be pretty clear: most of the 11 nations seem to be treated by reporters based out of New York, Los Angeles and Chicago as if they were the Central African Republic or the the Democratic Republic of The Congo. I would speculate that many national news organizations have more reporters based in Europe and the Middle East than they do in Flyover Country. And so long as they treat the vast majority of the United States in the same way an anthropologist treats the tribes in the jungles around the Amazon, they will increasingly seem out of touch and fail to understand the story.
Worse, so long as they fail to understand, we will continue to see liberal centers along the coast of the United States treat the folks who live in flyover country as if their real concerns and real issues were the punchline of a distant joke. Especially as they try to understand why people in flyover country are pushing back in the political arena.
That leaves independence. In some ways the best hope for a short-term fix might come from an attitudinal adjustment: Journalists should recalibrate themselves to be more skeptical of the consensus of their peers. That’s because a position that seems to have deep backing from the evidence may really just be a reflection from the echo chamber.
I’m not optimistic here, simply because the problem is not sufficient skepticism, but a lack of understanding: a believe that the people who live elsewhere are just like the people who live around you–and any differences comes from stupidity or brainwashing rather than real cultural differences.
So I suspect–as economic forces continue the contraction of the major media, and as the major media increasingly uses cheaper data-driven reporting sources and reporters increasingly centralized in a handful of buildings between 42nd street and 66th street in New York–things will only get worse as proximity, rather than political ideology, cause the pool of reporters to report increasingly from a single political, cultural, and notional point of view.