What do journalists believe?

One to keep for reference: a survey of political attitudes among journalists. Some evident points:

  • Journalism as a profession is radically inhospitable to conservative views. Not many journalists are willing to call themselves conservative, and those who do are generally to the left of the American people as a whole.
  • Local journalism is less uniformly liberal than national journalism, but it’s still quite liberal. Internet journalists are about as conservative as local journalists. The most conservative are local TV and radio people, but even among them more describe themselves as liberal than conservative.
  • The liberalism of journalism generally, and of liberal journalists in particular, comes out most vividly in connection with social issues like sex and religion. The liberal views pressed by the media on those issues have slowly but steadily been gaining acceptance among the public at large.

So what to make of this? I’ve commented before on one feature of the situation, that journalists are philosophical moderns who view the world as a sort of industrial process. It consists of one observable event after another, and the point of investigating it is to figure out how the chain of events works so you can arrange it to produce whatever’s wanted in the most efficient and reliable way. On that view managerial liberalism is the rational view of things. Religion and tradition don’t make much sense except possibly (if one wishes) as a source of styles and practical suggestions to be evaluated on other grounds. Certainly they can’t be treated as authoritative, because they have no special hold on what’s ultimately real: the sequence of observable pragmatic events journalism investigates.

A point that comes out of the distinctions among journalists is that closeness to particular events makes you less attached to liberal orthodoxy. That makes sense. Journalists seem to want to know the facts of the specific event, but in order to know what events to cover, what is significant in each event, and how to make every possible situation immediately comprehensible to a rushed and inattentive reader they have to rely on the formulaic—on some simple, uniform and extremely abstract theory that explains everything in the world and what to do about it. Acceptance of some such theory in common with other members of the profession is pretty much a precondition for functioning as a journalist. That’s especially true at the national and international level. The confusion of events is much greater, so much more of each story has to be determined by the abstract universal theory on which an orderly cooperative system for the instantaneous description and explanation of all conceivable events has to rely if it is to exist at all.

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