He Fought Liberal Bias in Media But Then Realized He Didn't Understand Journalism

Matthew Sheffield fought against liberal bias in the news media for years. He grew up in a fundamentalist Mormon family, one of 10 children. His street preacher father watched CBS News. And in the late 90's Matthew started getting into blogging, as we called it then, mostly pointing out examples of media biased. He started a site called Rather Biased, inspired by CBS News' famous broadcaster. And in 2005 he and his brother started Newsbusters.

A few weeks ago, Matthew wrote out a remarkable thread on Twitter, where he wrote that he “was part of a decades-long tradition of complaining about media elites being ‘unfair’ to conservative views.”


And Sheffield doesn’t dismiss the notion of liberal bias in the media. “There is still much to that argument,” he wrote, “but eventually I saw that I was missing context.”


After Sheffield went to work at the Washington Examiner, where he was the newspaper’s first online editor, he says he realized that “U.S. conservatives do not understand the purpose of journalism.”


“I didn't understand that journalism is supposed to portray reality,” Sheffield wrote.


The Examiner was the first place where Sheffield says he saw the kind of standards that differentiate “actual media and reporting institutions” — that may have inherent or even conscious bias — from right-wing websites for whom partisan bias is the north star, the guiding principle.


“Truth for conservative journalists is anything that harms ‘the left.’ It doesn't even have to be a fact,” he wrote. “I eventually realized that most people who run right-dominated media outlets see it as their DUTY to be unfair and to favor Republicans because doing so would some how counteract perceived liberal bias.”


“Most conservative media figures have no journalism training or desire to fact-check their own side,” he added.


After his time at the Examiner, Sheffield oversaw the polling operation at The Hill newspaper, and has also been a staff reporter for Salon.


Sheffield is writing a memoir about his upbringing and is host of a podcast called Theory of Change. He's also working on launching a new online venture which he says will be called Flux. 

Sheffield believes that much of the mainstream press doesn’t write empathetically enough about most conservative voters.


“The tens of millions of people who vote Republican are not deplorable. They are misled,” he wrote. “And the mocking and tribalistic coverage that lefty media often engage in only makes things worse.”

Outro music: "Californian Soil" by London Grammar

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