Catching up on last week: Romenesko's letters page has a couple of entries with opposing opinions on the L.A. Times liberal bias memo, pegged to the article by R. J. Smith in the current issue of Los Angeles magazine. The letters are reproduced here:
First, this one came in:
From JOHN PARKER, copy editor, Oklahoma Gazette: I agree with Los Angeles Times Editor John Carroll's conclusion (May 22 memo) that the use of "so-called" was unwarranted in the abortion story, but his claim that conservative bias is rare at the L.A. Times is flat wrong.
Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting has alleged persistent conservative bias in the L.A. Times, including biased wording in news reports that favors one side in highly contentious issues. On July 31, for example, Media Beat columnist Norman Solomon noted the paper's uncritical use of "security barrier" to describe the West Bank wall. Will we see "homicide bombers" next?
Despite other reasonable complaints by FAIR, Carroll claims "you seldom see a story in which there's something you might consider a flagrant bias on the conservative side." If Carroll is truly interested in weeding out political bias, why is he going after alleged liberal bias and downplaying (despite highly public complaints otherwise) alleged conservative slants? The lack of balance in his criticism makes his impartiality suspect.
Carroll obviously isn't "concerned about the perception -- and the occasional reality" that the Times is a conservative, "politically correct" paper. It should raise red flags with all fair-minded journalists when they see an editor crusading about "purging all political bias" at a paper through a one-sided complaint.
Then this reply:
From TIM GRAHAM: John Parker's suspicious eye on L.A. Times Editor John Carroll -- for not somehow writing and having leaked a memo warning of a story biased toward conservatives -- needs a better example than Normon Solomon's to be persuasive. (Put aside for the moment the fact that Mr. Solomon is opposed to the very idea of media objectivity -- in the column Parker cites, he urges the media to spend its column inches denouncing the "illegal" Israeli occupation.)
Parker thinks it's appalling the L.A. Times would use the term "security barrier" to define a wall through the territories. But pro-Israel groups like CAMERA have recently noted the Times reported that an Israeli tank shell killed four Palestinians, then later had to issue a note that the story needed to be "modified," since the four Palestinians had actualy blown themselves up building a bomb. That would seem to be a more serious journalistic mistake than using a term Ariel Sharon likes.
It would be more impressive if Parker could cite how Carroll is wrong on the subject of his controversy: abortion. Has there been a Times story that blatantly promotes the National Right to Life Committee or uses the term "partial birth abortion" without "what opponents call"? Unfortunately for L.A. Magazine readers, they might not realize that Scott Gold's story, the genesis of this controversy, was a very shoddy hatchet job that attacked the pro-life side urging a serious look at an abortion-breast cancer link as unscientific, while most of the liberal critics in the piece had no scientific credentials. It's laughable that Gold can claim he doesn't have any bias to explain.