Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A Useful Reminder

Over at The Plank, Jonathan Chait bemoans the sale of the Wall Street Journal to Rupert Murdoch. I don't want to be too critical of Chait and The Plank since they're having one of their better days, but I thought I'd address this part of his lament:
If you want to learn about business lobbying or the details of a tax bill, there's no better source. The commitment of the Journal's newswriters to fair political reporting routinely infuriates the rabid partisans of the editorial page.
Here's a useful reminder, from a 2004 study by researchers at UCLA and University of Missouri (emphasis mine):
One surprise is the Wall Street Journal, which we find as the most liberal of all 20 news outlets. We should first remind readers that this estimate (as well as all other newspaper estimates) refers only to the news of the Wall Street Journal; we omitted all data that came from its editorial page. If we included data from the editorial page, surely it would appear more conservative.

Second, some anecdotal evidence agrees with our result. For instance, Reed Irvine and Cliff Kincaid (2001) note that “The Journal has had a long-standing separation between its conservative editorial pages and its liberal news pages.” Paul Sperry, in an article titled the “Myth of the Conservative Wall Street Journal,” notes that the news division of the Journal sometimes calls the editorial division “Nazis.” “Fact is,” Sperry writes, “the Journal’s news and editorial departments are as politically polarized as North and
South Korea.”

Third, a recent poll from the Pew Research Center indicates that a greater percentage of Democrats, 29%, say they trust the Journal than do Republicans, 23%. Importantly, the question did not say “the news division at the Wall Street Journal.” If it had, Democrats surely would have said they trusted the Journal even more, and Republicans even less.

Finally, and perhaps most important, a scholarly study—by Lott and Hasset (2004)—gives evidence that is consistent with our result. As far as we are aware this is the only other study that examines the political bias of the news pages of the Wall Street Journal. Of the ten major newspapers that it examines, the study estimates the Wall Street Journal as the second-most liberal. Only Newsday is more liberal, and the Journal is substantially more liberal than the New York Times, Washington Post, L.A. Times, and USA Today.
Just something to keep in mind. Despite Chait's best attempts to make it seem that way, the Journal's news staff is hardly the centrist, independent, non-ideological newsmen trying to keep the folks at the editorial page in line. No question the editorial page leans conservative, but let's get the rest of the story as well.


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