Speaking "Untruth" To Power

Whereas progressive white opinions are feared by big conservative papers and their corporate sponsors, free Black opinions are feared by white newspaper owners across the board.


I have concluded that when white critics complained about the “liberal media” or “liberal news” or “drive-by media” as talk-radio’s Rush Limbaugh asserts, that they were pointing at a target that doesn’t really exist.

At least not nearly at the rate of influence they claim “liberal” media wields.

The watchdog group Media Matters for America, MMFA, the same group that exposed the Don Imus racist insult of the Rutgers Basketball women’s players, published the results of a study they undertook called: “Black and White and Re(a)d All Over: The Conservative Advantage in Syndicated Op-Ed Columns.” 

It is a major newspaper-by-newspaper, state-by-state, region-by-region study of nationally syndicated columnists who are getting the most exposure and why MMFA feel this is due more to political ideological overkill than supply and demand.

“Conservatives are often heard to complain about the ‘liberal media,’ a nefarious cabal of journalists and media owners supposedly endeavoring to twist the news to serve their ideological agenda. Media Matters for America has shown in a variety of ways that the ‘liberal media’ is a myth.” 

The ideal slate for a big city newspaper is to have a balance of views on the opinion editorial page; a newspaper’s political leanings are generally given away once you read the views of their anonymous editorial writers on the editorial page.

The op-ed page however is a different animal; this is where personalities dwell and the nation’s views are shaped. These writers carry more weight than front-page reporters; whose job is to get both sides.

If an op-ed writer throws in both sides of his or her commentary, they are pretty much giving you a gift because they are paid to shoot from the hip and most of them do. Understand that major city newspapers are among rich white boys’ most infamous toys.

They pick opinion writers that reflect their own views. Whether or not the majority of their readers agree is immaterial to them. These are some of the criteria used to determine the rights’ influence on the editorial decision makers:

There are 201 nationally syndicated columnists in America. In these raw numbers, the total list of columnists looks relatively balanced; there are 75 “conservatives,” 79 “progressives” and 47 “centrists.”

This does not mean, however, that there is ideological balance among the nation’s columnists. Conservative columnists appear in more papers than progressive columnists do and conservatives reach more readers.

Conservative columnists have a greater reach than progressive columnists in 38 states, plus the District of Columbia. In only 12 states does the progressive voice outweigh the conservative voice.

The top columnists as ranked by the number of papers in which they are carried include five conservatives, two centrists and three progressives.

The top five conservative columnists carried by most big city papers according to MMFA are George F. Will, Cal Thomas, Kathleen Parker, Morton Kondracke, and Thomas Sowell. The top three liberal or progressive columnists are; Ellen Goodman, Leonard Pitts Jr. and Nat Hentoff.

Of course, the shortage of major Black columnists is the subject for a study that’s pretty much been done; yet the topic is never irrelevant. Pitts for instance came during a time when the long-tenured columnist Carl Rowan was nearing the end of his life, so their columns didn’t overlap a lot of years. Just having a column in the most papers does not always equate to being the most circulated.

Pitts is carried by 186 newspapers for a circulation of 13,788,002 which makes him the biggest Black columnist out there in terms of the amount of different big city papers that carry him and the total copies of those particular papers distributed. This is even more amazing when you consider he is considered a liberal columnist playing in a field now said to be dominated by conservatives. The closest Black pundit to him is the conservative Thomas Sowell, whose column is carried by 141 major papers for a circulation of 6,658,305.

Here are additional figures, with the number of newspaper carrying the column, and the circulations in parentheses: Clarence Page 100 (5,998,704); Limbaugh sidekick Walter Williams 79 (3,082,329); Eugene Robinson 75 (6,149,652); Michelle Malkin 70 (3,442,353); and Cynthia Tucker, 44 (3,446,161).

Fallen from grace due to the “No Child Left Behind” payola scandal is Armstrong Williams; otherwise no-doubt he would have been highly ranked by now. He was dropped by Tribune Media back in January 2005. Previously William’s work was widely circulated.

So it’s not just talk radio and Sunday morning talk shows that Republican conservatives dominate, MMFA reveals a conservative monopoly on the nation’s Op-Ed pages as well. Of course most of the Black columnists I mention primarily work for large city papers in Miami, Chicago, DC and Atlanta. The larger the city the more progressive opinion writers you’ll see across the board. According to this study, it’s the smaller cities that will prominently run the conservative columnist. 

You can assume columnists like Sowell, Williams, and Stanley Crouch have taken positions similar to the same papers that denied Blacks opportunity for years, but the same holds true for Black columnist writing for so-called liberal papers.

Whereas progressive white opinions are feared by big conservative papers and their corporate sponsors, free Black opinions are feared by white newspaper owners across the board.

Black Star News contributor Stevenson is a columnist for the Buffalo Criterion.
Contact him at
[email protected] 


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