The Vacuous Television News Media
This article in the Columbia Journalism Review (Thanks, Atrios! Thanks, Media Matters!) is a nice summation of why the whole "Is the television news media 'liberal' or 'conservative'?" argument misses the more important point.
The television news media consists of highly paid middle managers whose main function is to trivialize politics and divert attention from citizen policy-making in a republic. There is no "memo" and no conspiracy to execute this function. It is just the way television developed starting in the late 1960s when network executives decided that the news was getting too serious, and NBC decided a guy named Tom Brokaw--a fundamentally dumb person who had nice hair--would become the archtype for television news readers.
From there, these so-called television journalists and pundits began to focus incessantly on tone and body language of candidates (Nixon being a prime guinea pig in this political vivisection), and on horse race analogies. When you watch or listen to these people on television, you realize after awhile most would fit more comfortably hosting beauty pageants or psycho-babble daytime talk shows.
If you check their backgrounds, they were largely Communications majors in college, or took vacuous Journalism courses--and they know very little about history, political systems or structures, economics, sociology, or even philosophy. They certainly are ignorant regarding math or science, which makes their environmental and biological reporting so alarmist when it is not simply dumb. And in the case of climate change, the "serious" media too often strive to find "equal" time for those who are deniers, not merely skeptical about the extent of climate change, when the scientific consensus is that humans do contribute to the weather. This bias for an "equal" time that is not justified by scientific consensus may also be because the media managers know their network sponsors and top bosses are invested in or on boards in the oil and gas industry, or in agribusiness.
In such an atmosphere, there should be no surprise, but only sadness that Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and Bill Maher know far more about public policy issues than a Wolf Blitzer or the often ridiculous Candy Crowley, just to take two of so many, many examples in the so-called "serious" news media.
The television network news media are the true enemy of our Republic. Whether they are liberal or conservative is really not at issue. The news media elite have a bias, but its bias is "corporate," in that it reflects the top executives who operate the television, and radio, networks. And that corporate bias is "liberal" on things like stem cell research, abortion and gays, "conservative" on economics and labor unions--with a toss up about the environmnent which again shows why there is equal time to deny "climate change," and little "equal" time between voices supporting the opinions of labor union leaders compared to business leaders.
The bias one can live with, and filter. What is truly disconcerting and frustrating as a citizen is the shallowness and trivializing of public policy in favor of "reporting" more fit for Hollywood Access types of shows.