Slanted Press or Slanted Blogs?

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 10, 2006; 12:39 PM

I was going to lead with Alito, but three hours of senators bloviating and a 10-minute opening statement? Yawn . That's bottom-of-the-column material.

If there's one topic that seems to perpetually pulsate through the blogosphere, and my e-mail in-box, and talk radio and cable shout shows, it's whether the Mainstream Media are crippled by bias.

There are now countless Web folks dedicating to blowing the cyberwhistle on what they see as slanted journalism. Many are conservatives disgusted by what they view as the media's left-wing tilt; others are liberals convinced the press is in bed with the Bush administration.

All this fact-checking, bird-dogging, scrutinizing and scolding is, in my opinion, a healthy thing for a news business that has been too arrogant and too remote for too long. Some of it is clearly cooked up by people pushing ideological agendas in the guise of press criticism. The good news is you get to decide what's valid and what's not.

There's a great punch-and-counterpunch exchange in California that I'm going to quote at unusual length (hey, doesn't cost me any more) to give you the full flavor. It begins with a blogger named Patterico doing a year-in-review of the Los Angeles Times:

"Only clueless people think the L.A. Times is completely unbiased. (Indeed, some especially clueless people, including a Harvard professor, think it's conservative!) Then again, it may depend upon what the meaning of 'conservative' is. For example, the L.A. Times's Tim Rutten is so far to the left, he thinks it's a 'myth' that Hollywood is liberal. But it was revealed in an interview with Hugh Hewitt than Rutten considers himself to be 'pretty conservative guy' because he goes to church, has remained married to the same woman his whole life, and takes care of kids. His consistently leftist views on virtually every issue under the sun apparently don't figure into the equation . . .

"When the paper labeled pieces 'news analysis,' the writers evidently felt free to editorialize to their hearts' content, as in a piece which dismissively stated: 'Bush has marched through his presidency championing causes held dear by one Republican Party faction or another.'

"The paper falsely reported that, in a major presidential foreign policy speech, the only applause had 'apparently' been sparked by a White House aide. It turned out the applause had actually been sparked by members of the military -- but reporting this fact might have made Bush look good.

"The paper exulted in the indictment of Tom DeLay, and downplayed evidence of partisanship by his prosecutor, Ronnie Earle -- including Earle's criticism of DeLay (then a target of Earle's investigation) at a Democratic fundraiser.

"If the paper was critical of Republicans, it was at least equally charitable to Democrats. For example, Ron Brownstein uncritically accepted Hillary Clinton's spin that she has truly become a 'centrist' -- ignoring her leftist views on a number of core liberal issues. Brownstein had been far more suspicious of similar claims by Bush in 2000. Two weeks later, the paper printed another Hillary-as-centrist article . . .

"Even after Bill Clinton left the Oval Office, the L.A. Times continued to protect his reputation."

All this drew an impassioned response from LAT writer Michael Hiltzik at his Golden State blog:

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