In his June 25 "Media Notes" column in The Washington Post, Howard Kurtz cited an MSNBC report and wrote that journalists "overwhelmingly gave to Democrats," again without noting that the 143 journalists identified in the study as having made political contributions "are a tiny fraction of the roughly 100,000 staffers in newsrooms across the nation," as MSNBC itself stated. As Media Matters for America has noted, the people named in the MSNBC report represent less than two-tenths of 1 percent of news staff in this country.
In listing examples of journalists contributing to campaigns, Kurtz cited "New Yorker writer Mark Singer, who profiled Howard Dean in 2004 and then gave $250 to Dean's America Coming Together [ACT]." But ACT was not "Dean's ," and it was not identified as "Dean's" in MSNBC's report. ACT was an independent advocacy group that was not affiliated with Dean's presidential campaign.
In a June 25 washingtonpost.com chat session, Kurtz did finally note that "99 percent of journalists DON'T contribute to candidates or political parties." He also argued that a different standard should be applied to corporate owners of media organizations: "It's widely known that media corporations and executives make political donations to protect what they see as their interests. I'm not wild about the practice, but they're in a different category than working journalists."
As Media Matters also documented, Kurtz similarly referred to the study without citing the percentage on the June 24 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources, which he hosts. Throughout the Reliable Sources segment, the on-screen text read: "Journalists' Donations: Many Give to Democrats." Kurtz did not acknowledge the tiny percentage even after one of his guests, Huffington Post media editor Rachel Sklar, pointed it out, saying that the number who gave was "like one percent."
From the June 25 Washington Post:
Why do journalists keep making political contributions?
The issue has surfaced again with a lengthy report by Bill Dedman on MSNBC.com, replete with lame-sounding excuses from the donors, who overwhelmingly gave to Democrats. Among the examples:
· George Packer, who covers Iraq for the New Yorker, gave $750 to the Democratic National Committee: "My readers know my views on politics." New Yorker writer Mark Singer, who profiled Howard Dean in 2004 and then gave $250 to Dean's America Coming Together, says he felt good about his support for "getting rid of George Bush, who has been the most destructive president in my lifetime."
The news outlets that don't ban donations seem to regard them as a matter of personal preference, like joining the PTA. But they seriously underestimate the public distrust of journalists, which is only fueled by such practices. Those who work for opinion magazines or are employed as commentators have a stronger case that their views are no secret. But there is still an important distinction between rhetorically supporting a candidate and helping bankroll one.
The scorecard -- 125 of 144 donations to Democrats -- provides fresh ammunition to those who say the press has a liberal tilt. It's hard to argue you don't favor one party when you've just coughed up cash for that party.
From the MSNBC report:
Many of the donating journalists cover topics far from politics: food, fashion, sports. Some touch on politics from time to time: Even a film critic has to review Gore's documentary on global warming. And some donors wield quiet influence behind the scenes, such as the wire editors at newspapers in Honolulu and Riverside, Calif., who decide which state, national and international news to publish.
The pattern of donations, with nearly nine out of 10 giving to Democratic candidates and causes, appears to confirm a leftward tilt in newsrooms -- at least among the donors, who are a tiny fraction of the roughly 100,000 staffers in newsrooms across the nation.