by Howard Stephenson

True to form, the press continues to defend liberals and attack conservatives both here in Utah and nationally.

State Senator Chris Buttars last week filed legislation to require Utah judges standing for a ballot retention vote to first pass a senate confirmation process by which they were originally placed on the bench.  In covering the story, the media generally portrayed Buttars as an irresponsible power-hungry legislator.

I saw no media coverage of the specific types of judicial behavior which prompted Buttars’ proposal:  a written opinion by a new supreme court justice that a fetus is not a child, a Third District Court Judge Timothy Hansen’s order that a former lesbian partner be given visitation rights to a young child whose biological mother has repudiated the lesbian lifestyle and wants to rear her child normally, and a recent decision by Fourth District Judge who, facing strong opposition in his initial confirmation gave an inspiring speech denouncing judicial activism, now has enabled Mapleton City’s condemnation of private property for a trail despite the fact that the legislature has prohibited the use of eminent domain for trails.  The judge, using bold activism he had spoken against at his confirmation vote, supported the city’s claim that the 10 foot wide, ½ mile long trail was not a trail at all, but was a park, and therefore a legitimate purpose of forced sale.

On KSL Radio last week, talk show host Doug Wright almost daily criticized the Utah Taxpayers Association and myself for opposing tax subsidies for a soccer stadium in Sandy and for insisting on cost-benefit analyses for the four proposed light rail spurs expected to cost $1.2 billion.  With typical media bias, he referred to us as “citizens against almost everything,” dismissing legitimate questioning as footdragging on projects which he said would have “incalculable” positive effects on the Utah economy.  If someone in the media declares incalculable benefits, what gives taxpayers (those paying the bill) the right to ask for proof?

The Utah media were almost totally silent in covering an election scandal regarding state school board nomination law violations.  As consequences of the violations, a 12 member nominating and recruiting committee was not formed by last November 1 st (the deadline prescribed by law), three names were not submitted to the governor for each state school board position as required by law, and consequently, the governor was not allowed to chose two of the three names for the ballot.  When the nominating committee was finally convened last week, there were no representatives of the media present.

I could go on and on about the liberal press in Utah.  In fact I’ve been toying with the idea of promoting an daily Blog reporting each day’s media outrages.

National Examples

Thomas Sowell, with whom I am honored to share this weekly page has noted that media bias is no longer a question as polls repeatedly show that the vast majority of journalists vote for Democrats even though the nation is almost evenly divided between the two major parties.  He notes that the real problem with this is when media bias becomes media fraud, when  “facts” are intentionally misreported.

Sowell notes that even the most prestigious media outlets — The New York Times and “60 Minutes,” for example — have left crucial facts out of news stories when those facts would have undermined or destroyed a liberal argument. Conversely, he said, false claims have been widely reported as facts in the media when those claims supported the liberal vision of the world.

Sowell says William McGowan’s book Coloring the News offers some of the best explanations for journalistic malpractice.

“Democratic nations are especially vulnerable to misinformation,” Sowell said. “The media in a totalitarian country may tell as many lies as it wants to, but that does not affect the decisions made for the country by its dictator or its ruling party, which has access to the truth, even if the masses do not. But, in a country where the masses choose their leaders and influence policies, a fraudulent press can mislead the voters into national disaster.”

According to Fred Barnes of The Weekly Standard, it seemed twenty years ago that the press might be trending toward giving conservatives a fare shake, as evidenced by less negativity during the Reagan years.  However, he said in a speech at a Hillsdale College seminar, it’s obvious now that the mainstream media doesn’t want treat conservatives fairly.  “This impenetrability is why conservatives have had to erect the alternative media – talk radio, the blogs, conservative magazines and FOX news,” he said.  “Together these form a real infrastructure that’s an alternative to the mainstream media.  It’s not as influential and it’s largely reactive.  It’s not the equal of the mainstream media.”

Barnes noted that conservatives are often labeled in a way to suggest they are mean and hateful.  The media suggest that liberals criticize but conservatives hate.  While the press identified those who criticized President Clinton as Clinton haters, the media doesn’t call Bush’s critics Bush haters.  He also noted that the media portrays Bush as obsessive about religion in spite of the fact that Clinton quoted scripture and mentioned God and Jesus Christ more than President Bush has.

Barnes asked, “Why would Dan Rather insist on releasing fraudulent documents when even his own experts recommended against it?  Why would CBS and the New York Times come back with an explosive but unsubstantiated arms cache story only weeks later?  They did it for one reason:  They wanted to defeat President Bush for re-election.  There is no other motive that would explain disregarding all the precautions you’re taught you should have in journalism.”