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What Liberal Media?: The Truth about Bias and the News [Paperback]

Eric Alterman
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (242 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 3 2004
Widely acclaimed and hotly contested, veteran journalist Eric Alterman's ambitious investigation into the true nature of the U.S. news media touched a nerve and sparked debate across the country. As the question of whose interests the media protects-and how-continues to raise hackles, Alterman's sharp, utterly convincing assessment cuts through the cloud of inflammatory rhetoric, settling the question of liberal bias in the news once and for all. Eye-opening, witty, and thoroughly and solidly researched, What Liberal Media? is required reading for media watchers, and anyone concerned about the potentially dangerous consequences for the future of democracy in America.

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From Amazon

The incredulity begins with the title What Liberal Media?, journalist Eric Alterman's refutation of widely flung charges of left-wing bias, and never lets up. The book is unlikely to make many friends among conservative media talking heads. Alterman picks apart charges made by Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, George Will, Sean Hannity, and others (even the subtitle refers to a popular book by former CBS producer Bernard Goldberg that argues a lefty slant in news coverage). But the perspectives of less-incendiary figures, including David Broder and Howard Kurtz, are also dissected in Alterman's quest to prove that not only do the media lack a liberal slant but that quite the opposite is true. Much of Alterman's argument comes down to this: the conservatives in the newspapers, television, talk radio, and the Republican party are lying about liberal bias and repeating the same lies long enough that they've taken on a patina of truth. Further, the perception of such a bias has cowed many media outlets into presenting more conservative opinions to counterbalance a bias, which does not, in fact, exist, says Alterman. In methodically shooting down conservative charges, Alterman employs extensive endnotes, all of which are referenced with superscript numbers throughout the body of the book. Those little numbers seem to say, "Look, I've done my homework." What Liberal Media? is a book very much of 2003 and will likely lose some relevance as political powers and media arrangements evolve. But it's likely to be a tonic for anyone who has suspected that in a media environment overflowing with conservatives, the charges of bias are hard to swallow. For liberals hoping someone will take off the gloves and mix it up with the verbal brawlers of the right, Eric Alterman is a champion. --John Moe --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Media bias has been preventing the American public from getting the whole story, says journalist Alterman, and bestselling books like Ann Coulter's Slander and Bernard Goldberg's Bias aren't helping matters. Alterman, who writes the "Stop the Presses" media column for the Nation and an MSNBC Web log, "Altercation," passionately lays out his case in this succinct, abridged reading of his latest book. Along with Coulter and Goldberg, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and George Will come under the gun, too, as Alterman picks apart the problems with today's news media. While it's intriguing to hear him list what he sees as quite grievous offenses by conservative media outlets, Alterman's well-documented research is what makes the book so engaging. Alterman reads this audiobook like a fervent political science or journalism professor might, listing facts and citing reports, then adding his own inflections to emphasize points. A Queens, N.Y., native, Alterman speaks with a slight accent and an even slighter lisp, but this does not detract from his heated, heartfelt performance.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Destroys the myth of the liberal media June 16 2004
By Kevin
This is a very insightful, heavily footnoted, and meticulously researched piece of work. Eric Alterman completely shatters the myth of the "liberal media," which has become accepted as conventional wisdom pretty much accross the board, due to the tactics of conservative commentators and ideologues over the past three decades. Alterman effectively communicates that by constantly screaming that the media has a leftist agenda, conservatives in this country have been able to shift the public discourse to the far right. Afraid of giving validity to the right's accusations of a liberally slanted media, the mainstream media apply very different standards to liberal and conservative figures (hence their portrayal that Bush won the 2000 debates because he didn't drool on himself and didn't appear to be a complete and total idiot, while Gore "lost" because his mastery and grasp of the facts made him seem too condescending.) More recent examples include the media's assault on the liberal Howard Dean, effectively stomping his popular campaign into the gutter, and the total whitewash of Ronald Reagan's horrific and terrifying legacy. (A truly liberal media would have championed the Dean campaign as he was the most electable progressive candidate in the primaries, and and a truly liberal media also would have pointed out Reagan's policies of ignoring AIDS and of supporting deathsquad dictatorships, such as in Iraq, El Salvador and Guatemala). Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Okee-Dokee...I have now slogged through Mr. Goldberg's book on how the media is too liberal and Mr. Alterman's book on how it is actually too conservative. Having survived, I now come back up the mountain to give you all my opinion.
The problem with both of these books is best expressed by comparing them to the main weakness of your typical domestic order of Fish & Chips. Here in America one has no problem finding good chips (take a good look at our collective waistelines) but the Fish is rarely, if ever, fried to perfection. Both authors fail to even fry the right fish here.
Both Alterman (who by the way is probably the most engaging guest ever to appear on C-Span's Washington Journal) and Goldberg (whose recent work on HBO's Real Sports proves him to be a journalist of first rate talent) dance nicely through their themes and critiques. I'll even be super-generous and say that they are both mostly right in what they say.
The problem is this--for all their beautiful dancing, their failure to percieve what should be their true quarry is fatal. Both books become mere partisan babble. Each author, spouting partial arguments that ultimately turn inward, is left, much like the featured ballerina in Stravinsky's Le Sacre du printemps, dancing to their own death.
Yes the media is too liberal.
Yes the media is too conservative.
Both Goldbeg and Alterman argue this well. They then declare the case closed. If only it were.
The gutwrenching truth of it all is that the media is only as liberal and as conservative as its owners need it to be to serve certain interests. We live in the age of megolithic media control. There is no real diversity in major media. The minute there is, it is either co-opted or bought out.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Mind you, I'm sure a thoughtful conservative review does lurk here somewhere, hidden among the tens of ill-written rants and out-of-hand dismissals that are already posted. But alas, this is going to be another liberal-minded review.
I just finished the book--accelerating through it after some early worries about Alterman's writing style (relentlessly complex sentences that require careful parsing).
I was skeptical at the outset, nodding along with Alterman's admission that to argue for a conservative media bias seems "beyond the pale" at this moment in time. However, it's difficult to counter his argument. Certainly, none of the first 50 or so opposition reviews on this site do anything like counter it.
The ironic and sad thing is that the most confident conservative dismissals of Alterman's case here seem to miss his thesis entirely. Just because the majority of television and newspaper reporters (or bureau chiefs) are liberal-minded does not mean that they currently produce a liberally-biased product. This idea seems to dumbfound the conservative audience, who cannot imagine a mindset where dedication to one's journalistic profession might possibly trump dedication to one's personal ideology.
Mind you, I am not saying that a liberal press could not produce a liberally-biased product. Just because a scoffing Sean Hannity says it's so, however, does not make it so.
Alterman uses the only defensible approach--one based on statistics as well as numerous specific, well-documented examples--to convincingly show that the current conventional wisdom about liberal press bias is wrong.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Media is run by big people who hate small people
Real Americans don't stand a chance of understanding their country until they stop thinking in terms of "liberal" verses "conservative. Read more
Published on July 19 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars more people should read this
What Liberal Media is a little dry at times but you can learn a lot from it. One of the best chapters was the chapter on the 2000 election. Read more
Published on April 30 2004
2.0 out of 5 stars huh?
I will try to be kind here. The basic argument I got from reading this was that because conservatives own the companies that produce the news, that automatically means that you're... Read more
Published on April 29 2004
1.0 out of 5 stars "What socialist media?" by RexCurry.net
This book needs more info on why the lamestream media will never mention that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics killed 62 million people; The Peoples' Republic of China... Read more
Published on April 13 2004 by Rex Curry
4.0 out of 5 stars Strong argument for the impossible
We know that the media is left-wing ; everybody knows that, right? Not Eric Alterman and he'll tell you why the media is far more conservative than you think. Read more
Published on April 6 2004 by J. Davis
1.0 out of 5 stars Foolish
This book is nothing more than lies. Any reasonable person would not beleive this nonsense. All of the big names in the media are extremely liberal and very influential. Read more
Published on March 27 2004 by Andy Richardson
5.0 out of 5 stars Right wing media
Turn on the radio and listen to the drug-addled Rush Limbaugh or his neo-idiot companion Sean "Hamfist" Hannity. Read more
Published on March 27 2004
1.0 out of 5 stars delusional
Sorry, Alterman, but I just don't buy it...
Alterman is very good at making his point in this polically charged answer to Bernard Goldberg's book "Bias. Read more
Published on Feb. 27 2004 by zionred
1.0 out of 5 stars A Scientific Approach.
Mr. Alterman received kudos from the 4 & 5 star reviewers over his literary style and extensive research, whose minds were obviously already made up as to the thesis. Read more
Published on Feb. 27 2004 by Will Foxx
3.0 out of 5 stars Wrong, but Right?
I've tried to make sense of the claims of the nattering nabobs of negativity here but what else makes sense other than that this is probably the only book about media bias most of... Read more
Published on Feb. 19 2004 by Adam A. Odorizzi
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