My comments (here) on a recent story in the New York Times led someone with a job in the media to protest against right-wing conspiracy theories about his profession. My (somewhat edited) response:
I have no doubt that from inside the media the notion of a “liberal media conspiracy” seems rather silly. What one sees from inside is a group of professionals, each no doubt with a particular background and set of concerns and biases, but motivated collectively mainly by the wholly nonpolitical desire to get at what’s happening and then put out the best story possible.
You note that the system has its flaws, that one consequence of the desire to put out a good story is a collective tendency to turn things into simplified dramas—to emphasize conflict, choose heros and villains, build up and then tear down, etc.
I’m sure you’re right about that. But why shouldn’t another consequence be a reasonably coherent common understanding of what’s sensible and serious and what isn’t, what’s good, bad, reasonable, unreasonable and so on? After all, a journalist by the nature of his job has to be able very quickly to give an account of any situation whatever. The account he gives must seem reasonable and plausible to other journalists, and must seem to pick out the important points and indicate their bearing on matters of general public concern.
It would be impossible for journalists to do that unless there was a reasonably coherent and comprehensive understanding of the world that they pretty much all shared. People find it possible to talk about “the Southern view of race,” “the Arab view of women” and so on, even though Southerners and Arabs would no doubt say that nothing’s monolithic and it’s accepted that people can have varying views based on personal background and inclination (within the limits of ordinary common sense of course). Why shouldn’t what’s true of Southerners and Arabs also be true of a professional occupational group like journalists that has to work together, often under a great deal of time pressure, to put out a continuing picture of the whole world that everyone can recognize and understand almost immediately?