Review for What Liberal Media?: The Truth about Bias and the News

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While the idea that a liberal bias pervades the mainstream media has been around for years, it gained new currency with the 2001 publication of Bernard Goldberg's Bias and its 2002 successor, Ann Coulter's Slander. Alterman (Sound & Fury; Who Speaks for America?; etc.) now seeks to debunk the notion and goes so far as to argue that bastions of alleged liberalism like the Washington Post and ABC News "have grown increasingly cowed by false complaints of liberal bias and hence, progressively more sympathetic to the most outlandish conservative complaints." He largely succeeds: whatever your politics, Alterman delivers well-documented, well-argued research in compulsively readable form. His chapter on business journalism, for instance, is a thrill-ride through the excesses of late 1990s optimism and the subsequent crash in stock valuations and mood. But he also counters that while the economy was peaking, major media outlets virtually ignored traditional left-wing issues like labor rights, which had been neglected, and income inequality, which was growing. In contrast, he says, the media fawned over chief executives while almost totally failing to confront corporate fraudsters. Alterman also observes that the center of American politics has shifted to the right in the last several decades, which he attributes to efforts by conservative think tanks and their financial backers. Whether readers agree with Alterman or not, his writing on the business of opinion making is eye-opening. This book will be required reading for anyone in politics or journalism, or anyone curious about their complicated nexus. Agent, Tina Bennett. (Mar. 1) Forecast: While it may not have the built-in audience of Bias or Slander, which both had conservative talk radio as a marketing engine, this book will be aided by Alterman's own brand equity: he has media columns in the Nation and on MSNBC.com, contributes to numerous publications and has three other books to his credit, as well as a forthcoming fifth, When Presidents Lie, to be published by Viking later this year. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

2003-01-27, Publishers Weekly
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