BROOKE GLADSTONE: When George W. Bush was spotted toting around a copy of the New York Times number one non-fiction book, Bias, it was the best example of presidential product placement since Clinton sipped Canada Dry during his deposition. Bias is subtitled: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News. And Bernard Goldberg is that insider. Welcome to OTM!
BERNARD GOLDBERG: My pleasure.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Your campaign against bias in the newsroom went public in 1996 when CBS ran a report called Reality Check where reporter Eric Engberg criticized Steve Forbes' flat tax. Actually he mocked it. And that seems to have been the straw that broke your back.
BERNARD GOLDBERG: Yeah.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: You opined against it in the Wall Street Journal.
BERNARD GOLDBERG: Yes.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: It eventually led you out the door at CBS.
BERNARD GOLDBERG: Right.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: What about that got your goat?
BERNARD GOLDBERG: I had been complaining about liberal bias at CBS news for years, but they didn't pay anything attention. And on this particular story, it was a straw that broke the camel's bakc, and I sat down and wrote the op-ed.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:You talk about how to illustrate social problems like homelessness or AIDS the networks want to showcase attractive white people with the afflictions as opposed to how it really looked in the population.
BERNARD GOLDBERG: Now you're going to tell me that's a conservative bias.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: No, what I'm asking is: is this a question of liberal bias or is this merely a reflection of TV's obsession with its largely white, affluent self?
BERNARD GOLDBERG: Yes, that's part of it. And they do it for ratings, because you're, you're much better off showing people who look like your neighbors as homeless, than people who are baying at the moon who are homeless! so that's part of it. But if we get the homeless story wrong -- and we did -- I mean we exaggerated the numbers; we misled people on who the homeless were --but there's a sympathy-for-the-homeless lobby that you don't get for the NRA. Now you may think--
BROOKE GLADSTONE: I may think it's because the NRA population is less in need of my sympathy than the homeless population!
BERNARD GOLDBERG:That's, that's, that's a seductive point, but that's precisely the problem. When the media picks certain groups to, to feel sympathy for, and in the process doesn't give the rest of the -- America the correct picture of the situation in order to drum up support for a good cause, that's not what we should be doing. That's something that social workers should be doing.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Can we move on to I.D.s?
BERNARD GOLDBERG:Yep. You know that Rush Limbaugh will always be referred to as a conservative talk show host but Rosie O'Donnell is just a talk show host. Is that an indication of bias or is it just that Rosie got famous being a standup comic and that Rush's only job is to talk politics?
BERNARD GOLDBERG: Well, the bigger point there is that we have 20/20 vision when it comes to identifying conservatives. We're deaf, dumb and blind when it comes to identifying liberals. If you've got two groups and one group is made up of conservative women which we identify as such but the other group is made up of members of NOW and we don't identify them, I think that's a problem!
BROOKE GLADSTONE:But we don't identify the NRA as conservative because we don't need to; we know what it is. But who knows who the Eagle Forum is?
BERNARD GOLDBERG: No, I understand what you're saying, and I think certain groups need more identification than others. What I find so fascinating is that this book which has touched so many people in America really gets some people in the media way angrier than it should, and I wonder what it is about this subject that gets people as angry as, as it does.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:Well Mr. Goldberg, let me give you an analogy that might explain it. You're a sports journalist. You can say anything about the NFL you like except that the games are fixed.
BERNARD GOLDBERG: And I'm saying the game is fixed.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Yeah.
BERNARD GOLDBERG: If they said the game is fixed in the NFL, everybody, every reasonable person would be yelling bloody murder if it were true.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Even if it were false they'd be yelling bloody murder.
BERNARD GOLDBERG: Yes. But lots of people would, is my point. Many, many people out there - millions and millions of Americans agree with what I'm saying. They agreed with it before I said it.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:I, I think it's been said for years that the population at large is too the right of the population of the major networks. I also think that the center is a moving target. The sorts of issues that Richard Nixon held on to in the '70s would be regarded as wildly liberal today.
BERNARD GOLDBERG: Oh, I think he was our last liberal president.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: And yet he was considered very right wing at that time, and I think it's a lot to ask that the people in the news media constantly shift to reflect the political leanings of the public at large. I think that both of those tend to shift with relation to each other across the decades.
BERNARD GOLDBERG: I don't want the media to pander to America. I don't want them to present a newscast that's to the right of center, even if most Americans are to the right of center. I think they should merely present us with more points of view along the political spectrum and we'll be fine! That's all I'm asking for!
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Bernard Goldberg, it was a pleasure talking to you.
BERNARD GOLDBERG: It was a pleasure, and it was very interesting.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Bernard Goldberg is the author of Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News.