In a piece titled: “There Really Was A Liberal Media Bubble,” FiveThirtyEight‘s Nate Silver writes that a lack of diversity among news outlets has led to a progressive media echo chamber:
Much of The New York Times’s coverage, for instance, implied that Clinton’s odds were close to 100 percent. In an article on Oct. 17 — more than three weeks before Election Day — they portrayed the race as being effectively over, the only question being whether Clinton should seek a landslide or instead assist down-ballot Democrats.
…political experts aren’t a very diverse group and tend to place a lot of faith in the opinions of other experts and other members of the political establishment. Once a consensus view is established, it tends to reinforce itself until and unless there’s very compelling evidence for the contrary position. Social media, especially Twitter, can amplify the groupthink further. It can be an echo chamber.
Silver recalls a book by James Surowiecki, called The Wisdom of Crowds, which claims that crowds will “make good predictions” only if they fulfill four conditions: Diversity of opinion, independence, decentralization, and aggregation. While Silver writes that journalists score high on aggregation, they fail miserably in all other categories:
As of 2013, only 7 percent of them identified as Republicans (although only 28 percent called themselves Democrats with the majority saying they were independents)…
In the end, he suggest not a change in diversity of opinion, or decentralization, per se, but a change of attitude–one of independence:
Journalists should recalibrate themselves to be more skeptical of the consensus of their peers. That’s because a position that seems to have deep backing from the evidence may really just be a reflection from the echo chamber. You should be looking toward how much evidence there is for a particular position as opposed to how many people hold that position: Having 20 independent pieces of evidence that mostly point in the same direction might indeed reflect a powerful consensus, while having 20 like-minded people citing the same warmed-over evidence is much less powerful.
This is all well and good, but the question really isn’t one of what journalists should do, but what they will do.
After Donald Trump’s historic upset, it seemed for just a moment that the mainstream journalism world was beginning to look inward; that they were seeing their own biases, and that perhaps, they would begin to change in response to their newfound insight. However, as the months passed, the pieces settled back into their most comfortable places, and everything went back to normal.
The mainstream press have rightly called out President Trump on multiple occasions since he was elected, but they’ve also continued their previous habit of conjuring scandal where none exists, and opposing policy because they themselves don’t agree with it.
The press should change, but as far as can be seen, they are unwilling to do so. What does this mean? Should the conservative press oppose the mainstream press at every turn simply because they refuse to diversify their thinking? No. One must not oppose something for the sake of opposition. The conservative media must make itself the press of intellectual honesty.
We must treasure and make sacred a commitment to absolute intellectual honesty and consistency. For some, that will be extraordinarily difficult. When a politician on “our team” is criticized, it may hurt, and we may want to rush to their defense, but we can’t do that–not if the criticism is warranted. We must evaluate every situation fairly, even when it means members of “our team” are in the wrong.
Through a commitment to honesty, we, the antithesis of the mainstream press, can develop a following built not on cult-like devotion to a person or a political party, but on a devotion to the unambiguous, candid, and sometimes painful truth.
Such a process will take time, but in that time, it will be appreciated. The progressive media bubble will stay just as it is, so it’s up to conservative media to attract an audience who come to us not because we are the opposition, but because we are intellectually honest, and reliable.