The media isn't supposed to be neutral - it is supposed to be objective. There is an enormous difference between the two. And this is a difference that has been lost on the mainstream media for quite awhile now.
Conservatives have shouted from the rooftops that the media isn't being fair to them when they report news that shows conservatives in a bad light. But it isn't the media's job to decide what is and is not fair to any political party. Their job is to report the news -- whatever it might be.
Republicans have pulled a very effective switcheroo on the press, substituting the concept of neutrality for objectivity. Whenever the press dares to report something that does not reflect well on the Republican Party, it gets accused of having a "bias." As Stephen Colbert would say, "Reality has a well-known liberal bias."
If the media reports on a story objectively and it does damage to the Republicans, that is not a bias. That is a sad day for the Republican Party. The truth hurts. Of course, the same is true of the Democratic Party.
So, if people weren't rescued for five days in New Orleans, it is not biased to report the Bush administration didn't show up. They didn't. It would be folly to report that some say the administration did a terrific job in rescuing people in an effort to appear neutral. If Ted Kennedy drove off a bridge, it is not a conservative bias to report that either.
It is not biased to say that Iraq is undergoing tremendous civil strife. It is not biased to say the administration claimed the Iraqis would throw roses at our feet. It is not biased to say that the administration's claims did not match reality. Though reporting these facts might not be neutral to the administration, it certainly is objective.
Conservatives often complain that liberals want equality of results rather than equality of opportunity in social programs. They say equality of results is not possible and the best we can do is equality of opportunity for everyone in society. I agree. However, they argue the exact opposite when it comes to the press. They don't want equality of opportunity, they want equality of results. They don't want fair coverage, they want coverage which shows two equal sides no matter what actually happened.
Since liberals didn't make the same complaint for a long time (they've gotten better at this recently), you have had an uneven playing field. Reports that were negative to Democrats would register no complaints. But reports that showed negative results for Republicans would be met with a chorus of bias accusations.
This whining to the refs has worked for years for the Republicans. It has resulted in a press that is gun shy to objectively report bad news about Republicans, but has no similar restraint for reporting negatively about Democrats.
It has also led to the absurd idea of "balanced" coverage for issues like the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. It is not biased to say that group ran a well orchestrated smear campaign against John Kerry. In fact, you give up your claim to objectivity if you cover that story by reporting their side of the story as equally valid to John Kerry's side. One side was lying, the other wasn't. It is irresponsible and inaccurate to report otherwise.
I love the idea of importing this nonsense idea of media neutrality to sports journalism. Tonight the Phoenix Suns beat the Los Angeles Lakers 121-90. If the Lakers were the Republicans and the Suns were the Democrats, conservatives would cry foul when the press reported that they had gotten their ass kicked tonight. Is saying the Lakers lost evidence of a Suns bias? No, it's evidence that you watched the game.
Truth exists. It is supposed to be the job of the press to try to find it and report it to the best of their abilities. It is not their job to try to create an artificial neutral reality.