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One Man’s Cheekiness

Finding press bias in the darndest places

2:24 PM, Nov 1, 2010 • By PHILIP TERZIAN
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One of the inherent difficulties of defining left-wing bias in the press to journalists is that it is something like describing the ocean to fish: It is so pervasive, and such a comfortable, nurturing environment, that it is hardly noticed.

One Man’s Cheekiness

And this can be demonstrated in hundreds of small, unexpected ways. Consider, for example, the October 31 bestseller list published in the Washington Post. It is a distillation of book sales in the Washington area and, as such, largely a reflection of popular taste in a particular area. But each title has a brief description, courtesy of the Post, and it is the nonfiction bestsellers, for the most part, that get the treatment.

Obama’s Wars by Post associate editor Bob Woodward, for example, is “an exhaustively researched look at the president as commander-in-chief.” Earth (The Book) by comedian/civic philosopher Jon Stewart is “a cheeky guide to the human race and its myriad accomplishment.” At Home: A Short History of Domesticity by Bill Bryson is “an illuminating tour of Bryson’s own home” and Ron Chernow’s Washington: A Life  is “a humanizing portrait of perhaps our most revered founder.”

But Extraordinary, Ordinary People by Condoleezza Rice is flatly acknowledged as “an intimate memoir of her parents,” and Pinheads and Patriots: Where You Stand in the Age of Obama by Bill O’Reilly—who has a number of strikes against him, not least his association with Fox News—is dismissed in three well-considered words: “Rehashing familiar themes.”

It would be churlish, of course, to suggest that Bob Woodward ever rehashes familiar themes, or that what strikes the Post as “cheeky” in Jon Stewart might seem like “rehashing familiar themes” to other readers. The day that Bill O’Reilly is commended for his “exhaustive research” or described as “cheeky,” and that Jon Stewart and Bob Woodward are rebuked for “rehashing familiar themes,” I will begin to believe in the power of redemption.

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