Book Review: Bias


Rebecca Aguilar
Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News by Bernard Goldberg
September 24, 2017

“For me this was a nagging problem that none of the big shots would take seriously. It was about liberal bias that overwhelm straight news reporting” (p.21) and with that quote Bernard Goldberg set the tone for his book “Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News” (Regnery, 2001). His 232-page book exposes how the press uses liberal bias to slant the news. At the core of the issue was his employer CBS News, where Goldberg had worked for 28 years.

It has been no secret that conservatives have always thought the major news networks and major newspapers in the United States are a “liberal media.” Goldberg was the right person to write this book because he was on the inside at CBS News; a network known in the past for fairness by journalists like Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite at the helm. Now Goldberg was tearing down a golden reputation and not holding back.

Goldberg’s methods of research to prove his point were twofold; situations he witnessed and numerous studies he turned to for facts that proved a liberal bias press. In his book, he detailed how often producers, correspondents, and even anchorman Dan Rather decided what stories would run on the evening news and what angle they would take.

The veteran correspondent recalled network coverage of everything from politics to abortion, affirmative action to Christianity, and how the the outcome always had a liberal slant. “Roxanne Russell, sitting at a desk inside the CBS News Washington bureau, nonchalantly referred to this conservative activist ‘Gary Bauer, the little nut job from the Christian group’” (p.127).

Goldberg used several studies done by reputable organizations to prove liberal bias in the media. His book is full of results like the one conducted by the Freedom Forum and the Roper Center in 1996 of 139 journalists “…Washington journalists are far more liberal and far more Democratic than the typical American voter” (p.123).

Goldberg had complained to CBS management about the liberal bias on several stories. Finally he had enough after correspondent Eric Engberg produced a story about Steve Forbes, the Republican presidential candidate. Goldberg thought it was wrong that Engberg used a David Letterman Top-10 style to explain Forbes’ flat tax plan. He felt Engberg’s use of words like “scheme” and “wacky” were examples of liberal bias and management approved.

“On February 13, 1996, I committed my unpardonable sin and began to die” (p.12). That was the day Goldberg wrote an op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal. He put a target on liberal bias. “There are lots of reasons few people are watching network news, and one of them, I’m more convinced than ever, is that our viewers simple don’t trust us. And for good reason” (p.13).

Goldberg took on CBS News and pointed the finger at other television networks. “…a showcase of smart-ass reporters with attitudes, reporters who don’t even pretend to hide their disdain for certain people and certain ideas that they and their sophisticated friends don’t particularly like” (p.15). The backlash at CBS News was swift. Goldberg was benched and not given any assignments for several months.

Dan Rather denied accusations of liberal bias at CBS News, but wouldn’t allow Goldberg on his newscast. “The News Mafia was all over me, and no one with any brains was taking bets that I would survive. Dan Rather made sure I was kept off the air” (p.109).

Av Westin who reviewed the book in February 2002 for Variety didn’t care for Goldberg’s angle. “He gets personal about Dan Rather (who cares if Rather wears expensive Saville Row suits?) and CBS News President Andrew Heyward. His attitude gets in the way of any hope that his readers will find solutions in the text.”

Goldberg lost his popularity inside CBS News, but outside the newsroom he gained national attention. The New York Post, a conservative newspaper wrote, “CBS News, which prides itself on its bold willingness to expose the dark secrets of corporate America, has apparently discovered that the truth hurts” (p.112).

Janet Maslin with The New York Times reviewed the book in December, 2001 and added, “Mr. Goldberg has done real homework and has written a real book. Whatever his conclusions, however shaky his suppositions, he asks questions that are worth asking.” Nat Hentoff reviewed the book for The Voice and in “A Liberal Slant to the News? (May 2002) determined, “Goldberg makes clear in his book that he does not believe there is a conspiracy among liberal journalists to manipulate and distort the news.”

Goldberg retired from CBS News in 2002 and soon after joined Fox News as a contributor. Dan Rather was fired by CBS in 2005 over a controversial story about George W. Bush. Media watch dog, FAIR stated after the firing (April 2005), “If Rather’s unguarded comments over the years indicate any kind of bias, it’s a fondness for power…”

Today conservatives still believe the media is bias. Chris Matthews wrote in Fortune magazine (November 2015), “But it is safe to say that the median journalist in America is to the left of the median American voter, and that this affects how the news is presented to the public.”

I would recommend this book to any journalist, because it is a teaching tool. We all have bias thoughts, but do journalists do a good job of keeping them out of their stories? Goldberg’s book teaches journalists to choose their words carefully because what they say and write can persuade a viewer. I also think this book would be interesting to those outside of the news business. It has the capability to teach news consumers to analyze what they see on television and not be afraid to challenge journalists if a story is one sided.

Book Report:Citations

AP Style

Westin, AV (February, 2002) Review: Bias” A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News’. Variety.
Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News

Maslin, Janet (December, 2001) Books of the Times; A Network Veteran Bites The Hands That Fed Him. The New York Times.

Hentoff, Nat (May, 2002) A Liberal Slant to the News?, Village Voice.

Hart, Peter (April, 2005) Rather’s Real Bias.

Matthews, Chris (November 2015) Conservatives Are Right: The Media is Very Liberal. Forture Magazine.