FOX News' John Gibson's false claim: "80-some percent of reporters are self-described liberals"July 14, 2004 5:16 PM EDT ››› KATIE BARGE
In his "My Word" segment on the July 12 edition of FOX News Channel's The Big Story with John Gibson, host John Gibson responded to charges of conservative bias at FOX -- showcased in the new documentary Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism -- by falsely claiming, "You have America's major media dominated by the left; 80-some percent of reporters are self-described liberals." He repeated this falsehood in his July 13 "My Word" column, "Liberals Bashing FOX News ... Again," published on the FOX News Channel's website.
Gibson was off by about 46 percent. A report released on May 23 by The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that 34 percent of national journalists identified themselves as liberal; 54 percent identified themselves as moderate; and 7 percent identified themselves as conservative. Twenty-three percent of local journalists identified themselves as liberal; 61 percent identified themselves as moderate; and 12 percent identified themselves as conservative.
Even if Gibson had correctly stated the Pew report's numbers and said that 34 -- not "80-some" -- percent of national reporters are "self-described liberals," he would still have been disregarding commentary by Bill Kovach, Tom Rosenstiel and Amy Mitchell (Kovach is chairman of the Committee of Concerned Journalists; Tom Rosenstiel and Amy Mitchell are director and associate director, respectively, of the Project for Excellence in Journalism), which was included in the Pew report and specifically warned against drawing such conclusions:
Journalists' own politics are also harder to analyze than people might think. The fact that journalists -- especially national journalists -- are more likely than in the past to describe themselves as liberal reinforces the findings of the major academic study on this question... But what does liberal mean to journalists? We would be reluctant to infer too much here. The survey includes just four questions probing journalists' political attitudes, yet the answers to these questions suggest journalists have in mind something other than a classic big government liberalism and something more along the lines of libertarianism. More journalists said they think it is more important for people to be free to pursue their goals without government interference than it is for government to ensure that no one is in need.
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