Vital Signs

Trust(s) in the Media

Back when I was in college, a sociology professor assigned our class Michael Parenti’s Inventing Reality for reading and review.  In this book, subtitled The Politics of News Media, Parenti, an unabashed Marxist, comes across as a pale imitation of media watchdog Ben Bagdikian.  Anyone who owns a media outlet or holds a position of authority in the media is, by definition, a “conservative,” and, thus, any decision not to run a story that Parenti believes should have been run (or to leave out details that Parenti believes should have been in the story) amounts to “conservative censorship.”

In my review, I fairly easily disposed of the book by analyzing the footnotes, showing that Parenti cited the very same sources that he criticized to back up his version of events.  If the Washington Post “censored” a story, Parenti’s discussion of what actually transpired would include a footnote to a New York Times story, and vice versa.  In other words, Parenti’s analysis proceeded on a case-by-case basis, with each successive case undercutting the previous one.

To his credit, my professor—whose political views were only slightly to the right of Parenti’s—recognized that I had effectively dismantled Parenti’s claims of conservative bias in the media, and I received an “A” on the paper.

Still,...

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