To those of us conservatives who are not hopelessly cynical regarding the attenuation of the politicization of daily newspapers, the Baltimore Sun’s printing of Cal Thomas’s piece, “Media can be saved with more conservative voices” (April 3, 2020) was a not-so-small shot in the arm.
Mr. Thomas wants newspapers to employ more conservatives and “serious religious people” on their staffs. To insert lessons from my book, The Only Authentic Book of Persuasion: the Agenda-Spin Model,” reporters should be schooled in repertorial disinterest on their news pages regarding what they choose to write about and what they choose to ignore, as well as avoiding the spin which turns their news articles into editorials.
In addition, if such “schooling” does not work, newspapers and journals need to hire people who will produce such reporting. Newspapers’ columnists have to have more than just one ideological point of view. There is rarely a problem with the intelligence or industriousness of writers; each one with whom I have interacted seems to be smarter and harder working than the last.
It is heartening if the Sun realizes the irony in its printing of Mr. Thomas’ article.
The piece’s most significant point is the observation that: “The real problem for the major media is the perception that their reporters are biased. It doesn’t matter how many times they deny their biases or the frequency with which it’s pointed out to them, especially by conservative organizations.“
On April 6 came a response of “revulsion and anger” (the author’s words) to Mr. Thomas’s criticism from Larry Carson, “Cal Thomas isn’t looking for truth.”
Mr. Carson wrote for The Sun from 1966 to 2011, years inclusive of some of its worst journalism, including, but by no means limited to, the shameful coverage of the 2006 gubernatorial campaign, filled with encomiums to candidate Martin O’Malley in articles and columns and nary a single op-ed in favor of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich. Its news pieces were equally politicized.
Mr. Carson writes, “Nearly every reporter and editor I worked with did their best to present the facts as objectively as possible and represent every major point of view.”
I believe that Mr. Carson and virtually all the other writers believe that manifestly false narrative. What can be done to make The Sun a better newspaper? There are editors who realize how politicized their newspapers are. Former Sun editor Andy Green, who spoke to my Towson University Persuasion class twice a year, was at least open to such conversations, and maybe there are those at The Sun who, while realizing that their base is liberal, want to make their paper a better product.
The Sun comprises not a single reporter or media or political writer on its staff whose likely political slant is to the right of progressive, which is left of liberal.
Let’s look at a few pieces of evidence. Over a year ago, one of the brightest and most celebrated Sun reporters told me he intended to write a story about the statistical and evidentiary relationship between fatherlessness and crime, social pathologies and poverty. He never even broached the subject. The subject is verboten in the Sun papers.
Several times I have asked Sun education writers to write about the “crushing of conservatism” in higher education, a topic on which I have written and spoken in many newspapers and journals and university and business venues. Response: crickets. Oh, one Sun writer thanked me in two words.
When I talk to defenders of The Sun and other progressive media, they always point out how smart, industrious and literate their reporters are.
Granted: They are brilliance personified but politically biased in their reporting through and through.
It takes effort from editors and owners to improve the fairness of the product of journalism.
Without the will there is no way.
Richard E. Vatz is a professor at Towson University and author of The Only Authentic Book of Persuasion: the Agenda-Spin Model (LAD Custom Publishing, 2019) and the co-editor of Thomas S. Szasz: the Man and His Ideas (Transaction Publishers, 2017).