Inaccurate, distorted and misleading news reports that further a conservative agenda or undermine progressive ideas dominate our newspapers and airwaves. But this isn’t necessarily because reporters or media outlets are biased towards conservatives.
For every Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, there are dozens of reporters who don’t have an ideological axe to grind, but whose work contains conservative misinformation anyway.
Sometimes that’s because they lazily repeat Republican talking points. Sometimes it’s because the conservative communications apparatus is larger, more lavishly funded and better able to disseminate its message. Regardless of the reason, conservative misinformation appears in news reports written, produced and read by all kinds of journalists.
The Right has spent decades framing the debate over media coverage as one of ideological bias, and it has worked for them. But that’s an overly simplistic view of the media. Rather than mimicking conservatives, progressives should recognize that we can’t read reporters’ hearts and minds—but we can read their articles and columns.
By focusing our criticism on content rather than intent, we can more effectively address the problems in news reports. Criticism based on content rather than claims of “bias” will also resonate with a larger portion of the public.2. stay informed
Also seek out progressive voices in the media, from Air America to bloggers to the soon-to-launch Progressive Book Club.3. Get active
Every day, reporters are bombarded with inaccurate and misleading information promoted by conservatives, and they face constant allegations of “bias” from right-wing organizations and politicians, including the president and vice president of the United States.
Is it any wonder news reports are filled with conservative misinformation?
Well, it won’t change—unless we all do something about it. When you see a misleading news report, write a letter or make a phone call. Tell the news organization why they are wrong. Tell your friends, tell your neighbors, tell your family, and encourage progressive leaders to do the same. Progressive efforts to fight back against conservative misinformation in the media will gain credibility and momentum when we all join the fight—from local activists to elected officials.
4. Be patient– and be persistent
Conservatives have spent decades actively and intensely “working the refs,” as former Republican National Committee chairman Rich Bond famously described the right’s criticism of the media. Progressives took longer to get started, so it will not be enough to occasionally hold media outlets responsible for purveying conservative misinformation: We have to do it every day.
5. Fight back in innovative ways
Aside from writing letters and making phone calls, we must think of new, creative and effective ways to combat conservative misinformation in the media. Come up with your own ideas, try them out—and share them with other activists.
Jamison Foser has been Senior Adviser at Media Matters for America since the organization’s launch in early 2004.