October 11, 2005
John Tierney: Where Cronies Dwell.
John Tierney today. Yes, there is cronyism, alive and well in the US. But where?
Journalists and legal scholars have been decrying
''cronyism'' and calling for ''mainstream'' values
when picking a Supreme Court justice. But how do they
go about picking the professors to train the next
generation of journalists and lawyers?
David Horowitz, the conservative who is president of
the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, analyzed
the political affiliations of the faculty at 18 elite
journalism and law schools. By checking all the party
registrations he could find, he concluded that
Democrats outnumber Republicans by 8 to 1 at the law
schools, with the ratio ranging from 3 to 1 at Penn to
28 to 1 at Stanford.
Only one journalism school, the University of Kansas,
had a preponderance of Republicans (by 10 to 8). At
the rest of the schools, there was a 6-to-1 ratio of
Democrats to Republicans. The ratio was 4 to 1 at
Northwestern and New York University, 13 to 1 at the
University of Southern California, 15 to 1 at
Columbia. Horowitz didn't find any Republicans at
Some academics argue that their political ideologies
don't affect the way they teach, which to me is proof
of how detached they've become from reality in their
monocultures. This claim is especially dubious if
you're training lawyers and journalists to deal with
controversial public policies.
I realize, from experience at six newspapers, that
most journalists try not to impose their prejudices on
their work. When I did stories whose facts challenged
liberal orthodoxies, editors were glad to run them.
When liberal reporters wrote stories, they tried to
present the conservative perspective.
The problem isn't so much the stories that appear as
the ones that no one thinks to do. Journalists
naturally tend to pursue questions that interest them.
So when you have a press corps that's heavily
Democratic -- more than 80 percent, according to some
surveys of Washington journalists -- they tend to do
stories that reflect Democrats' interests.
When they see a problem, their instinct is to ask what
the government can do to solve it. I once sat in on a
newspaper story conference the day after an
armored-car company was robbed of millions of dollars
bound for banks. The first idea that came up for a
follow-up story was: Does this robbery show the need
for stricter regulation of armored-car companies?
We kicked this idea around until I suggested that
companies in the business of transporting cash already
had a fairly strong incentive not to lose it --
presumably an even stronger incentive than any
government official regulating their security
arrangements. That story idea died, but not the
mind-set that produced it.
The surest way to impress the judges for a journalism
prize is to write a series of articles that spur a
legislature to right some evil, particularly if it was
committed by a corporation. When journalists do
exposes of government malfeasance, they usually focus
on the need for more regulations and bigger budgets,
not on whether the government should be doing the job
in the first place.
To some extent, this is a problem of self-selection.
Journalism attracts people who want to right wrongs,
and the generation that's been running journalism
schools and media businesses came of age when
government, especially the federal government, was
seen as the solution to most wrongs. These executives,
like the tenured radicals in law schools and the rest
of academia, hired ideological cronies and shaped
their institutions to reflect their views.
But those views are no longer dominant outside
newsrooms and academia. A lot of young conservatives
and libertarians have simply given up on the
traditional media, either as a source of news or as a
place to work.
Instead, they post on conservative blogs and start
careers at magazines like The Weekly Standard and
Reason, knowing these credentials will hurt their
chances of becoming reporters for ''mainstream''
publications -- whereas a job at The New Republic or
The Washington Monthly wouldn't be a disqualifying
I'm not suggesting that journalism or law schools
should be forced to have ideological balance on their
faculties -- this is one of those many problems that
doesn't require a solution by government. But it's
curious how little the schools seem to care about it.
They keep meticulous tabs on the race and gender and
ethnic background of their students and faculty. But
the lack of political diversity is taken as a matter
of course. As long as the professors look different,
why worry if they think the same?
A palpable hit there, a very nice snipe. As mentioned earlier today our experience in the UK is different which is why we have a different style of blogging to go with our different style (and diversity of viewpoint) of media.
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Mr. Tierney's (and other conservatives') concern for diversity in academia and journalism would have a lot more credibility if they ever showed any concern for the lack of political diversity in the professions which they overwhelmingly control, like high management positions in commerce, industry and the military. I guess it all depends on whose ox is getting gored, and the problem only exists when you are not on the controlling side!
Posted by: Jerome Jauffret | Oct 11, 2005 8:31:01 PM
The liberal tendencies of academic is a problem, but not as great a one as is often supposed. The academics, shielded from the real world can afford to be naively liberal and to cling to ideas most of us grow out of in adolesence and early adulthood. The students they teach are adolescents and young adults, so wil be in their liberal phase anyway, and most of them will develop normally once they have left university. We should pity the academics for having to work in an environment which stunts their political maturity, but lets not forget that they are only academics, and though important are not the real movers and shakers. They are just teachers really.
Posted by: simnn | Oct 11, 2005 11:30:48 PM
I understand the logic behind people wanting journalists and academics to be neutral or at least balanced. Exposing citizens to a full range of opinion means that they are better able to judge between opposing viewpoints. Society gains from the competition between ideas. Objectivity is part of the job description.
By different logic, I understand the concern that an elite group of citizens might unfairly buy favourable policies or favourable media coverage. All citizens are free to lobby government but clearly having money makes that lobby more effective, which is why political donors have to be named. But this disproportionate influence is not limited to companies. It also applies to any rich or famous lobbyist such as MoveOn, Jane Fonda, Bono, Chris Martin, Bob Geldof etc.
I would not expect social workers to be balanced. The vocation self selects individuals of a certain political persuasion and it would be silly to expect balance. Similarly, the vocation of running a business self selects people who at least share some assumptions. Companies don't exist in a legal vacumn. If a law is passed by whatever party, a company is expected to obey that law. So I fail to see why company directors should be expected to be balanced any more than social workers.
It's not as if left minded company directors do not exist. If George Soros and Bill Gates are unconvincing then look at this or here. In England, the examples of Ecclestone and Sainsbury spring to mind, and we shouldn't forget oddities such as the fact that Murdoch has supported Labour the last three times, despite being the current prime exemplar of right-wing tycoon.
Similarly I can't see the logic for a balanced military. Putting aside the vocational qualifications that would seem to rule out members of CND et al, it has to be stated that the organisation exists to fulfil certain functions that are dictated by it's masters in Whitehall. This left-wing government has started more wars than any other government in the last century. Any military adventure is an extension of government policy ("diplomacy by other means"). It is therefore follows that present military activities are a left wing war. Following reductio ad absurdum, George Bush is fighting a right wing war and the enemy, being inspired by right wing theologians are fighting a ring wing war. What would be achieved by having more socialist officers. What would make them different? Would they refuse to obey orders? Would they shoot only deserving opponents? A moments thought reveals that an army that follows a path different to that expected by it's elected government is not desirable. The conclusion is that the political opinions of the army are immaterial to it's ability to perform it's job.
Perhaps you should clarify your logic.
Posted by: JohnM | Oct 12, 2005 9:22:37 AM
It may all be true but this : -
"David Horowitz, the conservative who is president of the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, analyzed the political affiliations of the faculty at 18 elite journalism and law schools"
doesn't inspire confidence.
American conservatives who might otherwise become academics and make a comfortable $120 000 per annum as tenured professors after a 10-or-so-year struggle up the greasy pole seem to gravitate instead to places like "the Center for the Study of Popular Culture" where they don't have to have their research methods scrutinised by restrictive leftist processes like peer-review and have to struggle by on a mere $750 000 p.a.
Michael Berube has looked at the luckless Horowitz in some detail.
Posted by: dave heasman | Oct 12, 2005 11:06:50 AM
Are American academics paid for by removal of choice, forced labour of working citizens and extortion like their British comrades are?
Posted by: Rob Read | Oct 12, 2005 2:59:10 PM
"Are American academics paid for by removal of choice, forced labour of working citizens and extortion like their British comrades are?"
Some are. Makes you want to go to Mauretania and become a recognised slave, don't it?
Posted by: dave heasman | Oct 13, 2005 6:08:23 PM