John Stossel Says Media Biased in Its Coverage of Business Issues

By May 15, 2006General

John Stossel was on Howard Kurtz’ “Reliable Sources” show on CNN yesterday. Thanks to the good folks over at Powerline for calling our attention to it. Glenn Reynolds picked it up, too. It’s a fairly extraordinary exchange between Kurtz and Stossel on the topic of media bias in its coverage of business.

Those of us who work in this business every day see it plain, from stories about OSHA, government regulations (see Ruth Marcus’ piece, below) and our favorite, global warming. We’ve posted excepts from the transcript below. As you can see, it’s ironic that Kurtz tries to accuse Stossel of having a point of view that colors his reporting.


Pause here for full ironic effect.

In any event, Stossel’s new book is called, “Myths, Lies and Downright Stupidity: Get Out the Shovel, Why Everything You Know is Wrong.” Sounds about right to us, can’t wait to buy a copy. Among the “Myths” in an ad we saw for his book was, “Global Warming is a Disaster Waiting to Happen.” We like this book already.

Here’s a link to the full transcript of the Kurtz interview. Excerpts are below.

KURTZ: You say that the media are clueless, especially on science and economic matters. That sounds like a pretty sweeping indictment to me. Are all journalists clueless or just some journalists clueless?

STOSSEL: I would say most journalists are clueless when it comes to science, and there this pride in the newsroom of not being able to do your expense account. We hear all these stories about record-high gas prices and this being so evil. I’d say journalists are hostile to capitalism and clueless about science and economics.

KURTZ: OK. Now, you say that reporters go along with environmental activists and other activists who you more or less describe as scare mongers. How much of this is influenced by your views about government regulations? You’ve been critical of the regulatory bureaucracies. You said that you wouldn’t mind if the Food and Drug Administration just went away. So how much of this has to do with your own philosophy on these things?

STOSSEL: From my years of consumer reporting I have concluded that almost all government regulation makes life worse, so, yes, I look at life with that spin. I have a point of view.

KURTZ: That’s a perfectly legitimate viewpoint, but it is a viewpoint. So what I’m asking is, when you talk about these are all myths, are they myths or are they just a view of the world that doesn’t agree with your view of the world?

STOSSEL: I think there are myths backed up by facts. And I list the facts and myths lies and stupidity.

KURTZ: All right. Now, it seems to me that you set up some straw men in this book and knocked them down. For example, you write, “Myth, businesses rip us off. Truth, most don’t. You think reporters are saying that most businesses are dishonest?

STOSSEL: Reporters look at business with great suspicion. And hype Enron and WorldCom as if that’s the norm. And in a 10 trillion dollar economy, you’re going to have Enrons and WorldComs, but they are the exception. I think reporters cheer on the ignorant politicians, who then pass laws like Sarbanes-Oxley that end up hurting the poor.

KURTZ: You seem to view journalists, from your own description here, as advocates, advocates for government regulation, openly skeptical of business. I mean, it seems to me what makes Enron or WorldCom newsworthy is that it is an aberration, that most corporations are not engaged in multi-billion dollar accounting fraud.

STOSSEL: But the intensity of the and the sneering tone, suggests to me yes, they are an advocate…

KURTZ: I want to come back to your point on journalists being advocates, journalists being anti-business, journalists being perhaps pro-government regulation. Aren’t there a lot of journalists, who I read, some of whom I watch on television, who at least are trying to strike a balance and are not pushing an agenda? I mean, it just seems to me that you’ve concluded that they really are on one side of this debate.

STOSSEL: I don’t think journalists are trying to push the agenda. I think most of you think you’re right down the middle. But the people you hang around with all think as you do here in New York and Washington. And that leads to a bias.

KURTZ: So you think it is to some degree subconscious or, at least because — in other words, you think that journalists are out of touch with ordinary people, who perhaps are and ought to be more skeptical of government regulations?

STOSSEL: Yes. I think we are steeped like tea bags in “The Washington Post” and “The New York Times”, and it affects the way we view the world.

Join the discussion One Comment

  • James Mason says:

    Mr. Stossel is spot on. Full stop.

    In my field of reporting and journalism, I’m continually amazed at the anti-business tone and frenzy. Scare tactics and capital suspicions are slung more than good ol’ mud and corporations are villified more than thick-headed and perverse politicians.

    As you examine any American campus, you’ll see lefty liberal students heading off to so-called ‘fuzzy’ fields of study with outcast conservative students heading to so-called ‘techy’ fields like finance and capital markets.

    A business degree is rich in quantitative analysis whereas my field of work reeks of biased qualitative analysis.

    My hat is off to business grads that endured so much mathematics, statistical analysis and corporate strategy. An academic endeavor I could never survive.

    Hence my current occupation, albeit an occupation free of the universal language of mathematics, just generalizations, assumptions and imaginitive languages designed to grab the attention of readers muddling through advertisements.

    I’m in the business of selling papers, internet links and air time. Drive by reporting sells papers to an audience targeted with only an 8th grade reading level. God forbid we force our readers to comprehend the arithmetic complexities of business, finance and economics.

    Some stereotypes DO come with guarantees: alarmist over-simplifications are fodder gobbled up by our readers. It’s our job to feed them slop that’s easy to chew and digest.

    Textbook business class content is far too complex and merely upsets our customers that prefer topics easy to understand.

    KISS=keep it simple stupid.

    We sell what readers are willing to pay for, thus why business textbooks are NEVER national best-sellers. Those books, like math, chemistry and physics textbooks are best relegated to only a small number of people smart enough to survive graduate school.

    I’m paid to print what’s wanted, not needed.

    This isn’t China nor India. This is America.