Newsweek's Meacham: Media Bias Is Toward Conflict, Not Ideology

January 22nd, 2008 4:02 PM

Although a recent Sacred Heart University poll indicated 45.4 percent of respondents thought journalists and broadcasters are mostly or somewhat liberal - the bias isn't ideologically driven according to Newsweek editor Jon Meacham.

Meacham appeared on Comedy Central's January 21 "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" and told viewers the media gear reporting toward conflict.

"I absolutely believe that the media is not ideologically driven, but conflict driven," Meacham said. "If we have a bias it's not that people are socially liberal, fiscally conservative or vice versa. It is that we are engaged in the storytelling business. And if you tell the same story again and again and again - it's kind of boring."

Meacham's take is curious because his magazine hasn't gotten bored with the repetitive nature of global warming coverage, downbeat economic reporting or stories that bash the current president, George W. Bush.

Meacham's take on what drives the press is also interesting because he's not just a local reporter covering a police beat, but he is the editor of the second-most circulated news magazine in the United States.

Meacham pointed out there is enough tangible evidence to support his claim.

"But there's not a reporter in America - I suspect there's not a reporter in America who has not pitched a story to an editor and had not had the editor say, ‘Where's the tension? Where's the conflict?'" Meacham said. "If you look at the covers of Newsweek and Time and you look at the newspapers, check out how many martial imagery, martial images are there - ‘the war over this,' ‘the battle for that,' ‘the fight to the ...,' ‘x versus y' - because conflict is inherently interesting."

Meacham's take on print media's desire for conflict comes at a time when newspaper circulations are in decline. In November, Editor & Publisher reported daily circulation at The Washington Post was down 3.2 percent to 635,087 and Sunday was down 3.9 percent to 894,428 for the six-month period ending September 2007.

Former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw told a Washington audience in November the print edition of The Washington Post would "probably" be dead in 10 years.