25 Most Influential (or Not) Liberals (or Not)

Leave it to Forbes to get someone from the Hoover Institution to do an “in-depth” feature on “The 25 Most Influential Liberals in the U.S. Media” (1/22/09).

The results are about as bogus as you might imagine, including a number of people who are not only not liberals, but who are actively loathed by the actual left end of the media spectrum–and the feeling is generally mutual: folks like Fred Hiatt, Thomas Friedman, Fareed Zakaria, Christopher Hitchens (did their Nation sub lapse in 1998?), Maureen Dowd, Chris Matthews and Andrew Sullivan.

Then there are some corporate journalists whose “liberalism” seems entirely resume-based: Kurt Andersen founded Spy and does a culture show on NPR! David Shipley wrote speeches for Bill Clinton and works at the New York Times! Gerald Seib works at the Wall Street Journal but doesn’t write for the editorial page! Andersen is the kind of “liberal” who writes about “the Democrats’ ‘mommy party’ M.O. of naivete, mollycoddling, and profligacy,” Seib does pieces like “Bipartisanship Could Help Victorious Democrats,” while Shipley’s Times op-ed page has been the object of repeated complaints from FAIR for its right-slanted choices.

There’s a couple of people on the list–Jon Stewart and Oprah Winfrey–who are indeed influential liberals who are “in U.S. media”…but if by “media” they don’t mean journalism, why not include Steven Spielberg or Bruce Springsteen? They’re “in U.S. media” too.

Then there’s the bloggers, who largely define themselves as not being part of the “MSM”: Arianna Huffington, Kevin Drum, Glenn Greenwald, Ezra Klein, Matthew Yglesias, Markos Moulitsas Zuniga and Joshua Micah Marshall.

That leaves six people on the list of 25 who actually are liberal journalists with a regular platform in traditional U.S. media: the New Yorker‘s Hendrick Hertzberg; the Atlantic‘s James Fallows; Michael Pollan, a freelance writer for the New York Times; Times op-ed writer Paul Krugman; MSNBC‘s Rachel Maddow; and PBS‘s Bill Moyers. What does this say about the myth of the liberal media? Maybe the Hoover Institution can study that.

What would a real list of the most important progressive media figures look like? Feel free to leave suggestions in comments.

About Jim Naureckas

Extra! Magazine Editor Since 1990, Jim Naureckas has been the editor of Extra!, FAIR's monthly journal of media criticism. He is the co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error, and co-editor of The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s. He is also the co-manager of FAIR's website. He has worked as an investigative reporter for the newspaper In These Times, where he covered the Iran-Contra scandal, and was managing editor of the Washington Report on the Hemisphere, a newsletter on Latin America. Jim was born in Libertyville, Illinois, in 1964, and graduated from Stanford University in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in political science. Since 1997 he has been married to Janine Jackson, FAIR's program director. You can follow Jim on Twitter at @JNaureckas.