Posted Friday, December 7, 2001

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 [Dan] Rather is portrayed as a Mafia don whose whims are humoured by senior executives and whose vendettas resulted in the squeezing out of any who crossed him.
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London, Friday, December 7, 2001


US journalists disown former colleague over claims in book

America's TV liberals "twist stories to fit their own agenda"

Oliver Poole reports

FOR 28 years, Bernard Goldberg was a pillar of the CBS newsroom, winning seven Emmy awards for his reporting. On air, Dan Rather -- the channel's anchor and doyen of American television news -- referred to him as our "veteran correspondent, colleague and friend".

But, this week, no one at the channel had a good word to say about him.

Journalists closed ranks to disown their former colleague and portray him as a bitter has-been whose latest big exclusive is motivated by spite, not substance.

For Goldberg had broken the unwritten rule of newsrooms everywhere and turned his powers of scrutiny on his own trade.

In a controversial new book, Bias: A CBS insider exposes how the media distort the news, he argues that news journalists in America are driven by a crusading liberal agenda.

Such has been the kerfuffle resulting from his claims that Bias has already leapt on to the Amazon bestsellers list -- even though it is not to be published until next month.

The book's central thesis is that stories are twisted to fit certain journalists' own political philosophy and to demonise those supporting conservative policies as crackpots and extremists. Reporters, he claims, nicknamed the non-metropolitan public "white trash".

Rather is portrayed as a Mafia don whose whims are humoured by senior executives and whose vendettas resulted in the squeezing out of any who crossed him.

"If CBS News were a prison instead of a journalistic enterprise, three-quarters of the producers and 100 per cent of the vice-presidents would be Dan's bitches," he writes.

Citing examples of coverage on all the main networks, Goldberg argues that the majority of American broadcast journalists have abandoned objective reporting and that, in part, public recognition of this has led to nightly news audiences falling by a quarter in the last 20 years.

"All the networks tilt Left," he says. "I know that. My guess is many of the people in the media know that, though they are not going to say it out loud.

And, most importantly, millions of people who are watching us right now know that."

The irony of it all, says Goldberg, is that if he had been a whistle-blower working in a cigarette factory, he would have been hailed as a hero by his erstwhile colleagues in the media. "But when you talk about 'them', they call you names."

He remembers Andrew Heyward, then a CBS executive producer, telling him: "Look, Bernie, of course there's a liberal bias in the news. All the networks tilt Left."

In his book, Goldberg, who left the channel last year, highlights the bias on a range of social issues -- including abortion, affirmative action, the death penalty, race relations and gay rights.

"The Aids story -- there were 10 million stories on the air that said we are all going to get Aids. Heterosexuals were just as likely as everybody else. Well, that's not true. But the gay lobby wanted that story out," he says.

And executives are so nervous about the issue of race, he claims, that they often avoid broadcasting the real story in case it angers black pressure groups.

He says pressure groups or politicians were described as the "conservative Senator from" or the "conservative family values body", but groups such as the prominent anti-abortion group NOW or figures such as Ted Kennedy rarely had the word liberal prefixed to their title.

In a chapter about the influence of feminism on the networks, he writes: "I once asked Susan Zirinksy, a first-rate journalist who had been the CBS evening news senior producer in Washington, how many times she went to conservative women's groups for on-cameras reaction either to Supreme Court decisions or to votes in Congress regarding women's issues.

"She thought about it for a few seconds, then told me she couldn't think of a single time."

Goldberg says: "I don't think that these guys come in, in the morning, roll up their sleeves and say, 'We will slant the news and get those conservatives'. But they are broadcasting for their pals, for their friends.

Most of them live in Manhattan or in Georgetown, Washington. They go to all the right parties. They are, generally speaking, liberal people and they don't want to do a story on affirmative action that makes affirmative action look bad."

Clinton dressThe political make-up of American journalism, he says, has hardly changed since a survey in 1996 found that 89 per cent of journalists had voted for Bill Clinton -- compared with 43 per cent of the public -- and only seven per cent for George Bush Sr, compared with 37 per cent of voters.

When news of his claims broke in America this week, the response from the journalism establishment was vitriolic. The controversy has already made headlines in the Washington Post.

Opponents claim the book is the result of a personal feud with Rather because the anchor has refused to talk to Goldberg since he first aired his concerns in an article for the Wall Street Journal in 1996. Others feel that he has a political axe to grind, despite Goldberg's insistence never to have voted Republican in a presidential election.

Bob Schieffer, the station's chief Washington correspondent, said: "In the end, [Goldberg] seemed to think his job was to report on CBS News instead of reporting for CBS News. Bernie just seemed to be upset about everything. He was upset with the world."

Eric Engberg, a correspondent who is criticised for a report in which he ridiculed Steve Forbes's flat-tax plan, said Goldberg had committed an "act of treason" by deciding that the best way to sell a book was "to trash your friends and former colleagues".

"He didn't have many friends in this organisation because he was a selfish, self-involved guy who was not a team player," Engberg said.

Professor Cinny Kennard, assistant professor of journalism at the University of Southern California and a former CBS reporter, says that there is a widespread belief among the general public that television news does reflect a liberal bias, but that Goldberg is one of the most senior journalists to claim this publicly.

"He was a brilliant journalist," she acknowledges. "I have never seen supervisors instruct journalists how to report a story -- but I was troubled that CBS was so vocal and negative about the book. It can only make one more suspicious."

© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2001.

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