At a gathering of major media outlets, representatives of many of the major news sources were asked point blank if media bias was a major issue.
Rupert Murdoch, CEO and Chairman of News Corp responded, "I wouldn't call it a "major issue", but it certainly exists."
Other representatives of the media were even more candid in their responses.
Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., Chairman of the Board at the New York Times stated, "We are biased because the public demands it."
Asked to clarify, Sulzberger expounded, "Listen, every human being on the planet has their own personal bias, and we just try to cater to the largest demographic, politically speaking. People like to believe they know everything, and hearing information being fed to them in a way that massages their ego certainly helps add to the appeal of what could otherwise be a pretty dull exercise in information dumping."
Gerard Baker, Editor-In-Chief of the Wall Street Journal was asked if he felt the existing bias could be harmful in terms of manipulating information in the news to fit a certain perspective, "Not at all." He said. "If people don't like a liberal perspective on their news they can always turn on Fox News. That's why we have them."
Roger Ailes, President of Fox News Channel and Chairman of Fox Television Stations Group was asked if he felt the same way. "Absolutely!" he stated. "A lot of people probably believe that there is some feelings of resentment between Fox News and organizations like MSNBC, but we are all in this together. Sure, we compete on some level for those fringe viewers that pretend to be independent, but overall we all exist to cater to our base demographic. For example, we exist because middle and upper class white people need to get their news somewhere. All those other organizations exist to take care of everyone else."
Another topic that was brought to the group was the issue of the growing trend of presenting magazine stories and even blatant advertising as news. Robert Greenblat, Chairman of NBC Universal TV Group answered, "Where is the harm in it?" His opinion was "People aren't really interested in finding out information that is really useful to their every day lives; they are just looking for distractions. For example: ask the average person the name of Beyonce and Jay Z's baby, and then ask them to name their state representative or if their taxes went up and why. I think my point is made. We are giving the public what they want. Isn't that our job?"
Mary Junck, Chairman of the Associated Press was asked her opinion about branding any and all information provided by the press as news. "It really comes down to your own perspective." she explained. "Entertainment news still has "news" in the title, does it not? And, as some of my colleagues have pointed out there is an interest from the general public to be supplied this information, and we are here to serve them."
Rupert Murdoch clarified his opinion on the matter, "We are a business after all, so our customers interests will drive content. It also ties into the original question of bias." Asked to clarify Murdoch explained, "our perspective also helps draw interest to stories that may otherwise be ignored. For example: If you present a story about, let's say nutrition, it is going to garner interest from a certain demographic that cares about that sort of thing. Now, take that same story and ask Sarah Palin what her opinion on nutrition is, and it is going to draw interest from a much greater number of demographics. It could become a nationwide story that appeals to many different outlets for different reasons. News Corp could use a story like this to expose how uninformed Mrs. Palin is about the topic, while Fox News could use it to highlight how important good nutrition is. There is a lot of money to be made from a story like that. That is why we love quoting politicians so much. They will garner positive and negative interest from both sides of the aisle, which is all the same to us. It all generates profit."
Roger Aisles was asked if he shared Mr. Murdoch's opinion, "We refer to politicians as our unpaid extras. It's not a matter of agreeing or disagreeing with them, it's a matter of finding the best way to generate interest and profit from them." Mr. Aisles continued, "In a lot of ways democrats are our greatest contributors, because it is easy to take something they say and get our customers riled up about it. Controversy sells, especially in the short term."
A final question was posed to everyone in attendance, does anyone feel that not trying to offer the public unbiased relevant news and let them decide their own opinion about it is a disservice to their customers. The question elicited thunderous laughter from the gathered representatives.
Someone yelled out, "The public wants to think for themselves, please!", which caused even louder laughter, and even a little bit of applause.
After the room settled down Sulzberger did offer, "At the end of the day we just need to make money. Yes, we have an obligation to the public to present them with information. However, it is in everyone's interest to do our best to make sure that we are leading the public in the direction that best serves everyone. We don't want to cause chaos in the streets, and when we accidentally do we try our best to redirect the public with the many distractions and other content that we have at our disposal. We are the cattle drivers of the public in that regard. It is our solemn duty to make sure that we ruffle feathers just enough to get people talking, but not to the point where ordinary citizens feel the need to get up from their couch and take action."