MINOT, N.D. — I wrote a column recently about local journalists getting blowback for the bias of the national news media.
I almost always get a lot of feedback from my writing, which I’m deeply thankful for, but this particular column garnered more responses than I expected.
Mostly from two categories of reader.
One was from people across our region who work in local journalism. They’re tired of getting lumped in with the nationals when it comes to the debate over media bias.
The other was from readers who are right-of-center in their political perspective, who argued against my point because, in their view, local media bias is just as bad as national media bias.
I don’t agree with that point, though it is undoubtedly true that most who work in the journalism industry lean left. “The characterization of mainstream media newsrooms as left-leaning hives indeed has documentary backing,” the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple wrote in 2017, citing several reports and studies illustrating the point.
A national survey in 2013 found that only 7% of reporters identified as Republican, compared to more than 28 percent who said they were Democrats.
People who work in journalism tend to lean to the left, and it doesn’t matter if they’re working for the New York Times or the Podunk Daily Bugle.
What helps the locals be better, I think, is that they’re local. Closer to the people and topics they cover.
But let’s stipulate, for the sake of argument, to the idea that all levels of the news media are equally biased.
What are we conservatives going to do about it?
One thing we shouldn’t do is abandon our local media outlets. What does that accomplish outside of hurting the local media outlets which employ the local journalists who cover the issues closest to us?
Local journalists are most accessible to us.
Local journalists are most likely to be responsive to us when we’re critical of their work.
As local media outlets die, what fills the vacuum is the national news media. The people who are furthest from our communities. The people who are least likely to respond to us.
If conservatives opt-out of supporting local journalism, we’re only going to make media bias worse.
We on the right have a terrible habit of ghettoizing ourselves. I grind my teeth a bit when I hear conservatives talk about the “mainstream media” because it supposes that right-of-center points of view are out of the “mainstream.”
We’re mainstream too.
If you think a local reporter is off the mark, by all means, tell them about it.
It will resonate more if you can tell them you’re a subscriber. And when you subscribe to local journalism, you’ll help ensure you have someone to hear your complaint.
If I can be self-serving for a moment, my company has launched a paywall for news outlets we operate across the region.
If you subscribe, you’ll get access to all of our outlets for one minimal monthly fee, and help ensure our content (including this column) survives.
Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, a North Dakota political blog, is a Forum Communications commentator. Listen to his Plain Talk Podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RobPort.