In 2007, Media Matters released a study showing that newspapers run far more columns by conservative syndicated columnists than by progressives:
Sixty percent of the nation's daily newspapers print more conservative syndicated columnists every week than progressive syndicated columnists. Only 20 percent run more progressives than conservatives, while the remaining 20 percent are evenly balanced.
In a given week, nationally syndicated progressive columnists are published in newspapers with a combined total circulation of 125 million. Conservative columnists, on the other hand, are published in newspapers with a combined total circulation of more than 152 million.
But, as the news that the Philadelphia Inquirer has hired John Yoo as a columnist reminds us, the numbers only tell half the story. There's a huge qualitative difference between the conservatives given newspaper columns and their progressive counterparts as well. The conservatives tend to be more partisan, more aggressive, and more reliable advocates for their "team."
The Washington Post employs as a columnist Bill Kristol, a hyperpartisan neocon Republican strategist who has been a key player in GOP efforts to block health care and start unnecessary wars. Who is supposed to be Kristol's counterpart? Richard Cohen, who opposes affirmative action, supports torture, and attacked liberals who opposed Kristol's war in Iraq?
On the right, the noxious Karl Rove and the monstrous John Yoo have high-profile columns. Who on the left is even remotely comparable to these two? Nobody with the platform they have, that's for sure.
It should be obvious how this skews the public discourse: the leftmost voices in the media are fairly moderate, while the rightmost voices are bloodthirsty war criminals advocates of unnecessary wars and immoral torture enhanced interrogation*.
Actually, as Cohen reminds us today, many of the supposedly "liberal" columnists favor baseless wars and torture, too. When the people major newspapers try to pass off as their liberal columnists support the policies of Karl Rove and John Yoo, it really shouldn't be much of a surprise that eventually papers would go straight to the source and hire Rove and Yoo themselves.