The Pundit Who Cried Bias

Though I’ve argued before that conservative insights are given insufficient due by the media, I think the right does as much damage to itself by misunderstanding the nature of media bias, and engaging in simplistic attacks on journalists who deserve better.

Consider this post by Michael Goldfarb:

ABC runs a report showing the names and faces of two CIA contractors who may have had a role in the waterboarding of KSM and Abu Zubaydah. The network apparently outsourced this report to a freelancer named Matthew Cole, whose record in Nexis includes just three bylines — two stories for Salon (one of which about “how Bush administration aid to Pakistan helps fund insurgents who kill U.S. troops”), and one for the San Jose Mercury News just two days after 9/11 reporting “anxiety about a backlash” among Muslims, who assure the reporter that the attack “has nothing to do with Islam.”

In other words, Cole is a left-wing partisan with questionable reporting chops.

As far as I can see, the excerpt above is insufficient to demonstrate that Matthew Cole is a leftist, or that he is a partisan, or that his reporting chops are questionable. Is there any doubt that the Bush Administration funneled billions to the Pakistani regime, or that elements within the Pakistani government are actively hostile to American efforts in Afghanistan? Is there any doubt that Muslims feared a backlash in the days after 9/11? (Wouldn’t you have feared a backlash if you were a Muslim?) And why is it noteworthy that American Muslims assured the reporter that the 9/11 attacks had “nothing to do with Islam”? Isn’t that what you’d expect American Muslims to say? Isn’t it the duty of the reporter to communicate the fact that it was said?

I haven’t researched the work of Matthew Cole, so my purpose here is neither to criticize nor praise him. Based on the evidence that Goldfarb cites, however, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that he is entirely unequipped to evaluate what constitutes bias in the press. This is strange, given that he’s made his career as a journalist and a press secretary, so perhaps he should be given an opportunity to explain himself.

What do you say, Mr. Goldfarb? Why should the stories you cite lead anyone to conclude, “Matthew Cole is a left-wing partisan with questionable reporting chops”?