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Talk of the Town - Puncturing the 'liberal media' myth April 15 2000

Many news readers and their bosses lean to the right

Truth betold, many of those who report or critique the news indeed tend to be more politically progressive than the population as a whole. (I guess liberals look better on the tube. Or maybe they're better reporters). Even so, it is a gross mischaracterization on the part of right-wing zealots to constantly weep and cry about the "liberal media." The messengers may have a more liberal bent, but the folks who dole out the paychecks - and, in many instances, call the shots on what makes the news - are anything but "liberal."

I'm tired of hearing about the supposed liberal domination of media. Just for fun, I decided to toss out a few names in local TV and try to apply a label to them. Remember, these observations are how I perceive the anchor/reporter or electronic news manager; you may agree or disagree (and I'll surely hear from those who think I've categorized them unfairly).

Although blood and guts still top Atlanta newscasts, the individuals you see every day reporting the news, weather or sports can be categorized politically. But I've never seen any attempt to break them down ideologically; this may be a first. Clip and save.

So let's get specific and examine mainstream local TV, leaving aside the loony local right-wing AM radio and print media.

Let's start with WSB-TV Channel 2, which usually tops the news ratings. Monica Kaufman may be neutral to most focus groups and viewers but, deep down inside, she's a liberal. Her co-anchor, John Pruitt, leans toward moderate, but he probably votes Republican. Bill Nigut is an arrogant liberal - he ticks off the left as much as the right. Investigative reporters Mark Winne and Richard Belcher are definitely on the right, as is sports anchor Chuck Dowdle. Weatherman David Chandley can be put in the liberal column. Andy Fisher, exec VP for Cox Television (which owns Channel 2) is probably a Democrat, while station GM Greg Stone thrusts his finger into the wind before leaping either way.

At WXIA-TV Channel 11, what you see is what you get in Wes Sarginson. He often looks angry, and is in my view the most conservative of Atlanta's anchors. On the other hand, Brenda Wood and Paul Ossmann are either in the center or drift to the left. Reporters Kevin Rosen and Paul Crowley are more right than left. The VP and GM Bob Walker looks and acts like a Republican, while news director Dave Roberts appears at times to be more sympathetic to the needs of those left out and left behind

Over at super-conservative Rupert Murdoch's WAGA-TV Fox 5, general manager Gene McHugh leans very much to the right, but news director Budd McAntee has, much to his credit, assembled a very diverse crew to report the news. Multilingual anchor Russ Spencer probably is a liberal. Sports anchor Jeff Hullinger is a sane voice of liberalism that's counterbalanced by his sports colleague Ken Rodrigues, who would fit well in Miami's Little Havana.

WGNX-TV Channel 46 is still in the midst of a remake, but Meredith Broadcasting, the new owner of the station, is regarded as a fair-minded and respected media corporation based in Des Moines, Iowa. So to the right-wingers they're probably considered lefties. News director Mike Cavender and VP Allen Shaklan seem, at this point, to be rather progressive.

I'll have to leave a lot unsaid, or save it for another column. I haven't touched on the supposedly liberal Atlanta newspapers, where the myth of liberalism reigns supreme. But when you think "liberal media" in Atlanta, let me remind you of the influential right-wing voices who play a daily role in our city's life: broadcasters Neal Boortz, Kim Peterson and Skip Caray, columnist Furman Bisher and Atlanta Business Chronicle publisher Ed Baker. And don't forget the suburban rags delivered free of charge under the guise of neighborhood newspapers.

Liberal media? Perhaps there are a few reporters and anchors that are smart enough to circumvent the decidedly conservative management of most media outlets in this city. But, by and large, Atlanta is a conservative media town.

Houckline: Call, 404-614-1886; e-mail, thouck@mindspring.com



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