Bias by Bernard Goldberg : Book Review

Bias by Bernard Goldberg
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Buy the book - Bias : A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News by Bernard Goldberg : Hardcover Nonfiction Books : Book Stores and Book Reviews

Think the media are biased?

Conservatives have been crying foul for years, but now a veteran CBS reporter has come forward to expose how liberal bias pervades the mainstream media. Even if you've suspected your nightly news is slanted to the left, it's far worse than you think.

Breaking ranks and naming names, Emmy Award-winning broadcast journalist Bernard Goldberg reveals a corporate news culture in which the close-mindedness is breathtaking, journalistic integrity has been pawned to liberal opinion, and "entertainment" trumps hard news every time.

In his three decades at CBS, Goldberg repeatedly voiced his concerns to network executives about the often one-sided nature of the news coverage. But no one listened to his complaints -- or if they did listen, they did nothing about the problem. Finally, Goldberg had no choice but to blow the whistle on his own industry, to break the code of silence that pervades the news business. Bias is the result.

As the author reveals, "liberal bias" doesn't mean simply being hard on Republicans and easy on Democrats. Real media bias is the result of how those in the media see the world -- and their bias directly affects how we all see the world.

In Bias you'll learn:

  • How on issues ranging from homelessness to AIDS, reporters have simply regurgitated the propaganda of pressure groups they favor, to the detriment of honest reporting
  • The Peter Jennings test for classifying politicians -- and how all the networks do it
  • The network color bar -- why so many "victims" on network news stories are blond-haired, blue-eyed, and middle class
  • How one high-level CBS News executive told Goldberg that of course the networks tilt left -- but in the next breath said he'd deny that statement if Goldberg ever went public
  • One of the biggest stories of our time -- and why you probably didn't hear about it on the evening news
  • How political correctness in network newsrooms puts "sensitivity" ahead of facts
  • The real Dan Rather -- a man who regards criticism of liberal bias as treason. If you ever suspected the network news was shortchanging the truth, Goldberg will not only prove you right, he'll give you a glimpse of just how it's done, and how fairness, balance, and integrity have disappeared from network television.

Table of Contents

Bias : A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News , by Bernard Goldberg

Introduction : "They Think You're a Traitor"1
1. The News Mafia 9
2. Mugged by "The Dan" 27
3. "The Emperor is Naked" 41
4. Identity Politics 49
5. How Bill Clinton Cured Homelessness 63
6. Epidemic of Fear 75
7. "I Thought Our Job Was to Tell the Truth" 97
8. How About a Media That Reflects America 109
9. Targeting Men 131
10. "Where Theves and Pimps Run Free" 145
11. The Most Important Story You Never Saw on TV 163
12. Liberal Hate-Speech 179
13. "The Ship Be Sinking" 187
14. Connecting the Dots ... To Terrorism 195
15. Newzak 207
Appendix A: The Editorials 215
Appendix B: The Response 225

In his nearly thirty years at CBS News, Emmy Award winner Bernard Goldberg earned a reputation as one of the preeminent reporters in the television news business. When he looked at his own industry, however, he saw that the media far too often ignored their primary mission: objective, disinterested reporting. Again and again he saw that they slanted the news to the left. For years Goldberg appealed to reporters, producers, and network executives for more balanced reporting, but no one listened. The liberal bias continued. Now, in Bias , he blows the whistle on the news business, showing exactly how the media slant their coverage while insisting that they're just reporting the facts.

About the Author

Bernard Goldberg is the winner of seven Emmy Awards, and was once rated by TV Guide as one of the ten most interesting people on television. Having served for nearly thirty years as a reporter and producer for CBS News, he now reports for the critically acclaimed HBO program Real Sports, hosted by Bryant Gumbel. He has written for the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Goldberg lives with his family in Miami.

Bias : A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News by Bernard Goldberg -- Please select an edition to check the price ...
232 Pages
Hardcover Large Print
350 pages
Audio Book on Cassette Tapes

Book Review

Bernard Goldberg's defiance of CBS

Hardcover - 232 pages
First Edition, December 2001
Regnery Publishing, Inc.
ISBN 0-7862-4168-3 / 0895261901

Bias , by Bernard Goldberg takes on "The News Mafia," as the author calls them (title of Chapter 1) for their law of silence. If you reveal to the public the media's secret about their "liberal bias", you will no longer have a future as a member of the family. Despite his beginning with a turgid analogy between the media and the Mafia, Goldberg goes on to clarify that he does not charge network management or reporters with conducting any sort of conspiracy. Instead, he argues, they use "leftist" phrases unconsciously, and they are lazily unaware that a culture of group-think has crystallized in the news bureaus.

Goldberg's thesis is that, "as everyone who lives between Manhattan and Malibu knows, there is a leftward tilt on the big three evening newscasts." [Wall Street Journal 5/24/01, reprinted on page 220] The author uses such exaggerations frequently. "Everyone to the right of Lenin is a 'right-winger' -- as far as the media elites are concerned...." [page 13]

Although I disagree diametrically with Goldberg's viewpoint (I feel that broadcast media content, including the news, is often biased in favor of the political right), I feel vicarious satisfaction with the author's success in taking on the self-appointed news oligarchy.

Bernard Goldberg, now a sports reporter for HBO, worked at CBS News from 1972 to 2000. He got his start in journalism after graduating from Rutgers in 1967 and taking a job with the Associated Press. He proved himself to CBS after going to work in 1969 for network affiliate WTVJ in Miami. In 1972 CBS hired him to work at the network's Atlanta news bureau. But Goldberg became best known as a correspondent from 1981-1988 for the news anchored by Dan Rather. [51-52]

How did it recently come to pass that Bernard Goldberg has lost many of his old friendships, while quickly climbing the hardcover nonfiction bestsellers list ?

Goldberg assumed the role of a whistle-blower on February 13, 1996 when the Wall Street Journal published his Op. Ed. editorial [reprinted in Bias in Appendix A, pages 215-218] In that article he asserted that TV news has a liberal bias. Overnight and thereafter, according to Goldberg, Dan Rather regarded him as a "traitor" (the author's characterization), although Rather hadn't been singled out by name in the article.

After Goldberg left CBS, in a second WSJ Op. Ed. on May 24, 2001 [pages 220-223], he named Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw and Peter Jennings as culprits. His critique hit harder than before. He concluded, "So Dan and Tom and Peter: Stop telling us that we're the problem and start thinking about what liberal bias really means." [223]

Goldberg then wrote Bias to explain his thesis. By then, CBS, ABC, and NBC were treating him as an invisible man. As recently as February of 2002, by which time the newly-released book had already hit #2 on the New York Times bestsellers list for hardcover nonfiction (which would seem to indicate that his viewpoint strikes a resonant chord with the public), the staffs of the Big Three networks no longer permitted the mention his name, never mind inviting him in for an author interview.

Simple indicators for "left" and "right" ?

Goldberg defends his hypothesis adequately only for those readers who believe that the left to right span of the political spectrum is defined easily by pro or con positions on the customarily mentioned test issues: gun control, prayer in public school, legal abortions, the death penalty, affirmative action [126]. But this premise itself, that positioning from the left to the right refers to an identifiable index of the usual indicators, is taken as an axiom; the author doesn't feel a need to defend it. Should he encounter someone who doesn't fit neatly into the simplistic formula, for example, a school prayer advocate who supports affirmative action, Goldberg's method of classifying people along the political spectrum must collapse.

One-sided "debates"

Elsewhere, Goldberg makes points that I can't dispute. He cites an occasion in 1996 when CBS aired a panel discussion about a conservative proposal to replace progressive taxes with a flat tax. Three guests were invited, all three of them opposed to the proposal. [15-19] Since it is inconceivable that the network was unable to find one supporter of the proposal who would have been willing to participate, the bias in chairing the discussion is evident. Goldberg is right.

However, he fails to mention that the media frequently broadcast discussions in which the more conservative views are permitted to monopolize, e.g., discussions of military strategy to which no pacifist has been invited. The author, therefore, places himself in the position of battling news media injustices, while limit his focus only to battling those injustices imposed on "our side."

Is left vs. right a contest to see who can hurl the most insults?

Goldberg replies largely on anecdotal evidence for support of his proposition, a method which which every logician knows can only illustrate a point but can never prove it.

Excerpt from Bias : A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News , by Bernard Goldberg

"USA Today columnist Juliane Malveaux says of Clarence Thomas, 'I hope his wife feeds him a lot of eggs and butter and he dies early like many black men do of heart disease,' and she gets invited back on TV talk shows all the time.

"If Robert Novak, the conservative columnist and CNN commentator, had said, 'I hope Jesse Jackson's wife feeds him a lot of eggs and butter and he dies early like many black men do of heart disease,' he's rightly be seen as a nasty right-wing nut and compared to the Grand Wizard of the KKK.

"Newsweek's Evan Thomas cavalierly calls Paula Jones 'some sleazy woman with big hair coming out of the trailer parks,' and he is seen as a pundit instead of a liberal elitist snob.

"Can anyone in his right mind really imagine a conservative journalist of Evan Thomas's stature ridiculing a not-too-sophisticated, not-too-educated, young black or Hispanic woman, as someone 'with big hair coming out of the ghetto'?"

[From pages 184-185]

Consider the author's accounts of remarks in bad taste which have been made by some journalists and commentators, after which he invites the reader to imagine the outrage which would have followed, had the remark targeted a different population group. (See the adjacent excerpt.)

I'm looking in vain for the relevance of this topic to the promise in the book's subtitle that the author will illuminate "how the media distort the news," and more specifically, toward the liberal direction.

If I know what the words "conservative" and "liberal" mean, and my degrees are in electrical engineering, then an experienced journalist like Goldberg should know what the words mean. These terms are not best understood by the matter of at whom one chooses to sling ad hominem attacks.

In fact, these words have very little to do with one's positions on specific public issues, such as welfare or taxes or affirmative action.

The words "conservative" and "liberal" have to do with one's attitude about the acceptability of the process of reform itself. A conservative is one who believe that existing political and economic institutions, whatever they might be, should not be reformed too drastically, as they seem to function rather well already, and too many reforms might rock the boat. A liberal is one who asserts that our political and economic institutions will not function well enough unless they are reformed, and therefore we should get over our apprehensions about rocking the boat, and feel free to make plenty of reforms.

There may be conservative or liberal bias in news reporting by the mass media. If so, the primary way to identify such bias would be to recognize occasions in which reporters, by which events they select to report, or how they present them, inject their own opinions that our political and economic systems work too well to be tinkered with substantially (that would be conservative bias) or that our systems work so deficiently that reforms are essential (that would be liberal bias).

Were we to adopt Goldberg's method, we'd be off on the tangent of tallying up the number of times that editors permit various media personalities to get away with flinging personal insults at various demographic groups.

"Liberal Hate-Speech" is the title of Chapter 12 [179] (Some of the comments cited in the book were heard in private conversations.) In providing "some of the more noteworthy examples" [180] Goldberg includes a remark that Dan Rather made on KOA radio in 1995 -- "Now, respectfully, when you start talking about a liberal agenda and all the, quote 'liberal bias' in the media, I quite frankly, and I say this respectfully but candidly to you, I don't know what you're talking about." [183] Is this supposed to be an example of "liberal hate-speech"?!

Then there's the matter of jokes that are in bad taste. When Harry Smith of CBS interviewed actor Dennis Quaid about the latter's portrayal of a philandering husband in a movie, the news man made the observation that "most men are putzes." (The word means 'penises.') Goldberg reminds us that an analogous reference to a woman would not be tolerated. [132-133] And there was the time Katie Couric of NBC asked a bride who had been dumped at altar whether she had "considered castration as an option." [133] Had a male media personality made a joke about cutting off a woman's body part, the network, Goldberg observes, would be promptly "cutting off his contract." [134]

Here I'm still waiting to see some evidence of liberal bias in news reporting. Why are these anecdotes, which are neither about the news, nor about reporting, nor even remotely related to the political theory called liberalism, included in the book?

Deciding which news to report

Sufficiently buried in the book, we can find something relevant. Goldberg gets around to the matter of which events reporters choose to cover. Since events are infinite in number, and the time and space available to reporters and reports are necessarily limited, reporters and editors can't cover everything. Perhaps, in the choices of which events are judged to be newsworthy, we will find our evidence of bias in news reporting. It's certainly the best place to start looking.

The author notes that the news has been covering the issue of estranged fathers who refuse to pay child support, but these same media have decided to ignore news about men falsely accused of being deadbeat fathers. The law docked John Johnson's paycheck even after he proved that he was a different person who coincidently had the same name as the John Johnson whom they had sought. [138-140] A court ruled that Tony Jackson has to pay until the baby reaches the age of 18, even though DNA testing has proven that his former girlfriend's child is not his. [139-141] The news media wanted to ignore these cases.

Goldberg is right if he's criticizing the media either for being inept or for using bad judgment. He's wrong in calling it "liberal bias." Remember, liberalism is the political theory that the degree of imperfection of our institutions makes it become necessary promptly to reform them. How is it to be termed the "liberal" viewpoint to be tolerant of cases in which the government tramples on the civil liberties of two of its male citizens? On the contrary, it is liberal of Goldberg to take up these two men's cases.

Goldberg attends the right ballpark but drops the ball. To prove his hypothesis, he rightly studies the issue of which event reporters cover and which they neglect. However, he cites these journalistic omissions, adds the fact that it has become popular lately to use the word "liberal" as a general-purpose dirty word for anything that one considers unjust, and his syllogism is complete -- the news media are "liberal."

All evidence of conservative bias in the news has been omitted

Bernard Goldberg ignores the obvious conservative tendencies in news reporting. For example, TV journalists call foreign militants "freedom fighters" if the U.S. government gives them aid, but calls them guerrillas and war-lords if the US government doesn't give them aid. The reporters told us that the people of Kuwait were "now free" and "liberated" when that nation's monarch was returned to his throne, along with his regime that outlaws all opposition parties and labor unions. The reporters on the TV news use the phrase "those who support the troops" to refer to those who agree with the government's decision to deploy troops, as though the opinion that such deployment is unwise were the same as not having fond feelings for American soldiers.

Media coverage of nonsense is also a conservative tactic, as it distracts public attention from proposals to make social changes. The media lull the populace with the ancient Roman formula of bread and circuses. The daily report about "the upturn in the strength of the economy" are the official promises of bread. Coverage of politicians' sex scandals, and every meaningless move made by Hollywood celebrities, is the circus. The nonsensical preempts coverage of social problems that go unsolved, many of these problems, at best, being cyclical in their limited range from the very bad to the extremely bad.

No doubt, if we delete from the record all examples of conservative bias in the news, what will remain can only be either objectivity or liberal bias. One can "prove" anything by truncating the data. I could prove to you that all warm-blooded animals have feathers, if I may first delete all mention of mammals, so that we will consider only the birds. Goldberg draws his conclusions from truncated data.

What do the statistics mean?

Elsewhere, Goldberg is quick to assume that statistics speak for themselves, when in fact the conclusions are not so easily made. Citing a 1985 nationwide survey by Los Angeles Times, he points out that "23 percent of the public said they were liberal; 55 percent of the journalists described themselves as liberal." [126] Similarly, quoting the research reported in the March 2000 issue of Brill's Content magazine, "Seventy four percent of Republicans believe that most journalists are more liberal than they are.... Perhaps more surprisingly, Democrats also perceive the liberal media tilt: 47 percent believe that most journalists are more liberal than they are...." [189]

Some people who scan these statistics will, like Goldberg, conclude readily that journalists both possess and display a liberal bias. Others will draw a different conclusion. They may feel that the the numbers constitute a defense not only of the liberal journalists but of liberalism itself; that is, one's having chosen a career as a journalist is correlated with one being a college-educated person who makes a lifetime study of current events and their historical background, thus vindicating both the liberal journalists and their views. Clearly, the raw data do not speak for themselves; they are subject to interpretation. After putting up the numbers, Goldberg is too hasty to rest his case.

I'm hard pressed to draw any conclusions at all from some of the data presented. For example, Nielsen Media Research has found that TV program ratings would differ if we were to rank them separately for black and white viewers, instead of using a single average. For the second quarter of 1999, the program that came in first place for black viewers, The Steve Harvey Show, ranked at 150 for whites, and the show in first place for white viewers, Frasier, ranked at 105 for blacks. [148-149] Psychologists and sociologists may find something interesting to do with these figures, but as for how they might lend any support to the author's thesis that network news reporting has a liberal bias, I don't have a clue. Around this data was wrapped the anecdote of some NAACP activists who accused the networks of not hiring enough minority actors; knowing this, I still don't find the connection. An author who presents a thesis bears a burden of proof. The lawyer is waving his hands mysteriously in front of the jury.


Goldberg has well composed his documentation that media magnates and their appointees are sometimes unfair and sometimes incompetent in their presentation of the news. He has failed to present any evidence that the character of this trend is best described as bias toward "left" or "liberal" points of view. His agenda of getting off his chest about how angry he is at Dan Rather might have remained in his personal wordprocessor instead of being inserted into the manuscript.

Opinion by Mike Lepore, editor for

Bias : A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News by Bernard Goldberg -- Please select an edition to check the price ...
232 Pages
Hardcover Large Print
350 pages
Audio Book on Cassette Tapes

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