Home Journalism Pauline Kael Is What's Wrong With The American Media

Pauline Kael Is What’s Wrong With The American Media



Upon the election of Nixon Pauline Kael said “But I didn’t know anyone who voted for Nixon!”. This being used as the perfect exemplar of how out of touch – and liberal – the elite of American journalism are. The way Kael actually said it was as proof of her own walling off from what a significant majority of Americans actually thought. She was commenting upon her own walledoffness rather than how dare the proles defy liberal opinion.

At which point Kael is doing significantly that Dan Froomkin. A recent report that Americans think that bias in the press is getting worse, there is less objectivity around:

But a blog post from Knight interpreted that to mean “that Americans’ hope for an objective media is all but lost.” And Sam Gill, the senior vice president of the Knight Foundation, declared on NPR on Monday, “People really do not think media is doing its job as a democratic institution.”

If you look at the data just a bit more closely, though, you see that the bias concerns are primarily from Republicans, who after three years of Trump’s Twitter assaults overwhelmingly and increasingly distrust the mainstream media, with a not insignificant number — 12% — actually claiming to believe it is “trying to ruin the country.”

That’s not a failure of “objectivity” by the mainstream media; that’s a willful departure from reality by a large chunk of the population. If anything, it suggests to me that the mainstream media’s “objectivity” hangup has resulted in a failure to successfully champion the truth.

Just savour that. If Republicans complain it’s because they are deluded into thinking that the papers are not objective.

The survey finds that Democrats, by contrast, remain quite positive about the role the media plays. While 28% of them said they consider bias a “major problem,” it’s reasonable to assume that many had outlets like Fox News in mind when they said that.

That’s not a failure of objectivity by the mainstream media, either. That’s a reasonable expression of concern — arguably one that the reality-based media is not adequately confronting.

Whereas Democrats complaining, they’re right. Which is, really, all you need to know about the lack of objectivity of the American press, isn’t it?

Dan Froomkin is Editor of Press Watch. He wrote the daily White House Watch column for the Washington Post during the George W. Bush administration, then served as Washington bureau chief and senior writer at Huffington Post, covering Barack Obama’s presidency, before working as Washington editor at The Intercept.

As someone who has actually worked in the American media – been fired from several parts of it too – this is generally how it works. There’s a softish left liberal worldview that permeates each and every institution. Certain subjects and points just aren’t up for discussion. That’s what a worldview means. That worldview is also considerably to the left of the American average. and it’s that left of centre view which is that objectivity – that statement of the truth as Froomkin puts it – which is the very bias being denied. That is, Froomkin’s just proved the point he’s arguing against.



  1. There are people, like myself, who thoroughly dislike and totally distrust Donald Trump who are, at the same time, completely convinced that most of the American media are not only biased but even, somehow, manage to be unfair to Trump. That (being unfair to Trump) is no mean achievement IMHO.
    Not only the American media: the Financial Times whose standards of, and reputation for, objectivity and factual reporting have declined since Pearson sld it to the Japanese


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