Sunday, October 16, 2005

Jessica McBride: Former Journal-Sentinel Reporter Vilified at the Paper

Jessica McBride used to be a reporter on the Journal-Sentinel, in spite of being a conservative. Her politics weren’t known among her colleagues at the paper, and indeed were largely irrelevant, since she functioned in a professional way as a journalist.

But she quit the paper to teach, and then recently started her own blog. When she started criticizing the paper on her blog, her former colleagues freaked. She recounts what has happened:
  • Friends of mine at the paper are being asked by co-workers how they can still be my friend when I am expressing such conservative views, and when I dare to be friends with Charlie Sykes, their Prince of Darkness. And there is no liberal media, right?
  • I often receive emails from reporters, who expose their liberal views by attacking conservative postings.
  • Editors are going to other editors to complain about my blog. What are they going to do? Send me to the copy desk? I don’t work there anymore, remember?
  • Twice in the three months since I started my blog, reporters with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel have filed, or have threatened to file, open records requests against me at work.
  • It’s demanded that I apologize. For what?
McBride doesn’t claim there is an intentional liberal bias, but rather states:
I believe the bias that exists springs from the well of a reporter’s own philosophical beliefs. Bias derives from the things a reporter sees as norms. Often, liberal principles are believed to be the “correct and human norm” and thus they emerge as the norm in news coverage. I believe a lot of reporters are liberal. I know this because I know them and I’ve heard things they’ve said or they emailed me since I had the blog. So inmates’ rights get covered more than cops’ rights — and things like that. And some politicians are always given the benefit of the doubt because they are good people with a moral compass and others are always called to task.
Not only does the paper, in classic “mainstream media” form, fail to see its own biases, the people there are extremely hostile to any criticism. They seem to believe they are some sort of secular priesthood, free to criticize others, but immune to criticism themselves. According to McBride:
I don’t understand why an organization that is so quick to turn a microscope on others freaks out so much when a microscope is turned on it.


Reporters have the thinnest skins of anyone I have ever met. This is hardly unique to Milwaukee. . . . Some of it is arrogance. They are not used to people having any mechanism to answer back. With the blogosphere and talk radio, that media paradigm has cracked. No, it’s long gone.
When Luther criticized corruption in the Catholic Church, and started the Reformation, the Catholic Church was able to respond with a Counter Reformation — a period of revival and renewal. Indeed, the reform movement began even before Luther (who was hardly the only person to see corruption in the Church). Had there been no Counter Reformation, it’s quite an open question whether the Roman Church would exist today.

Is the mainstream media capable of a Counter Reformation? At the moment, it seems more inclined to burn heretics at the stake. McBride observes:
Why do I think they would not be shocked if I had started a liberal blog that blasted Charlie Sykes and Mark Belling? . . . I have conservative beliefs. Why that would make people not be my friend is beyond me. I have never faced more intolerance than I’ve faced from the left. It’s disappointing.
Will there indeed be a mainstream media in 30 years? At the moment, it looks doubtful that they have the ability to reform themselves.


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