Move the media elite outside its bubble
ATLANTA — Former CBS-TV correspondent Bernard Goldberg rocked the journalism world in 2001 with his bestselling book "Bias." It was an indictment of what Goldberg believes to be an unintended but pervasive liberal prejudice in America's television and print newsrooms. Now, Mr. Goldberg is back with a more in-depth look at why this perceived bias exists.
In his new book, "Arrogance: Rescuing America from the Media Elite," there is plenty of fresh red meat for those who believe that too many people in the media hold a baseline view of things that runs too far to the left.
That point is well taken, but Goldberg presents a more significant one in "Bias." The author posits the existence of a "bubble" inside which most established national media live and work. By looking through an elite pair of myopically focused glasses, these media movers deceive themselves that everything revolves around their own business and social circles in New York City and Washington, D.C.
Goldberg's point is right on target. In fact, his thesis can be expanded to include more than just print and TV reporters, editors, producers and other media types - and to more than just a "liberal" elite.
America's pillars of power - be they political, financial, or other influential players - have become so insular with intellectual inbreeding and self-promotion as to leave us wondering if fiction works "Alice's Adventures In Wonderland," "1984," and "All The King's Men" have all leaped from the written page and fused into a new and twisted reality. It's a plot that features thought control, falsehood represented as truth, and the elite's belief that "even when we lie, it's really for America's own good."
Along the same lines, political leaders often pose as being in touch with the electorate when they are anything but. Take, for example, the group of manipulative public-image handlers who landed President Bush on an aircraft carrier in that silly "Top Gun" outfit and then displayed a "Mission Accomplished" sign behind him that they claim was put up by the sailors. Another case in point was Howard Dean's absurd comments that in effect painted all Southerners as rebel-flag waving "rubes" in need of enlightenment.
In other words, Goldberg's bubble is the true big tent, housing those on both sides of the political aisle. Make no mistake: Everyone from D.C. journalists to most US representatives and senators draw an unstated and perhaps unconscious line in their minds and actions between their colleagues they see every day and those who live "back home." Most of them will tell you they are in touch with heartland America. What they won't tell you - or admit to themselves - is that this communion with the common man comes only occasionally, and only on the elitists' own terms.
Next comes Wall Street. Almost two years after the excesses of Enron were first revealed, we still witness a small bubble of mostly exclusive New York financiers and business executives who make a career of scratching each other's backs. Meanwhile, the rest of America, whose hard-earned dollars make up the mutual and pension funds with which the elites play, were struggling to accept the declining values and continued "management" and "broker's fees." It was nothing shy of outrageous that it took more than 24 hours for this financial fraternity to toss out New York Stock Exchange President Dick Grasso once his ridiculous "deferred compensation" package was revealed. What could be more out of touch?
And then there's Hollywood, home to so much conceit and excess as to prevent more than a casual glance here. The pitiful performance of this year's fall lineup of shows on network TV is proof positive that the entertainment industry is stocked with an insular bunch of "let's do lunch" types who would never dare look outside their own bubble. Most of them can't even imagine letting anyone besides their own house hacks rework another tired story idea for this season's broadcasts.
All this isn't to say there isn't a growing, if still modest, conservative media elite that can be just as clannish and shortsighted as the left-leaning one Goldberg exposes.
A solution? I like one of Goldberg's. He suggests moving some of the major national news broadcasts to new locations outside New York. How about the evening news from Topeka, Kan.; Dallas; or Jacksonville, Fla.? According to Goldberg, that would force talking-head superstars to interact with mainstream Americans. And why not the same prescription for Hollywood and Wall Street kingpins? (Remember, we now have automated securities trading.) As for Washington, our founders never intended that Congress should be a full-time profession.
But for now, Americans have only one effective response: Bring the political elite - and thereby perhaps their media and financial friends and allies - back down to earth by voting them a one-way ticket back home.
• Matthew Towery is chairman and CEO of InsiderAdvantage.com, a subscription-based source for advanced information about government and public issues for corporations and the media © 2005 Creators Syndicate Inc.