The ever-intriguing Stanley Kurtz has a piece out there today about the increased polarization of the media; he suggests, in part, that the collapse of so-called independent reporting is a mixture of bad and good. Bad, for example, because now liberals and conservatives have to work harder to find opposing views.
Dunno about that. The Czar has long taken the position that balanced presentations are not only impossible due to editorial lensing (even editors are subject to confirmation bias), but also serve little purpose. Two reasons underscore that last point.
First, very few liberals give a hoot what conservatives think. In recent studies, the numbers overwhelmingly reveal that conservatives understand liberal talking points very well while most liberals do not seem to be able to articulate actual conservative viewpoints. As a result, liberals are evidently tuning out conservative promulgation. Why should the press then cater? It’s a waste of time, since the liberals will apparently skip it and conservatives will already have heard it.
Secondly, both liberals and conservatives prefer reaffirmation of their own ideas. This is simple human nature. If you present a choice between a liberal-framed story and a conservative-framed story, the reader is going to click on the one that confirms his respective bias. He may elect to do research or quote-mining, but then he will probably use Google for that and get a richer pool of responses.
Again, a lot of damage has been done in the unattainable ideal of unbiased reporting. Let us simply drop it: the conservatives will hang onto their favorite sources, and the liberals will indulge their favorites. We are all going to do so anyway.
But what about the so-called independents? Part of the reason they are independent is that they cannot make up their minds; when you have unbiased reporting—truly unbiased, that is—the independent will never reach a conclusion. By letting news become openly partisan, instead of pretending it is balanced, the independent will have to draw on a specific conclusion. As Jonah Goldberg writes in The Tyranny of Clichés, independent thinking is usually intellectually lazy—the question is whether a bridge should be build or not, never whether a bridge can be built halfway. Unbiased news stories are attempts to build bridges halfway—they serve no useful purpose but waste a lot of time.
And so the news. Drop the charade, already! Be honest about your politics; at least both sides know what they will get up front.