Cedars’ Supposed Liberal Bias

There is a persistent myth in our country that some supposedly-monolithic entity known as “the media” have a horrible “liberal bias” that dominates public discourse. This liberal agenda supposedly silences conservative voices and prevents Republicans from getting a fair shake from those shady elitists known as “journalists.” These days this demonstrable lie, constructed for extremely partisan reasons, is even admitted to be such by far-right pundits such as Bill O’Reilly and Ann Coulter. Yet this myth is so politically useful (“McCain/Palin stood no chance against those wily notepad-wielding ne’er-do-wells!”) that it continues to form the base assumption of so much national dialogue.

Unsurprisingly, Cedars itself has been repeatedly subject to charges of a strong liberal bias, despite all evidence to the contrary. In fact, an informal study of this very paper reveals no such left-leaning ideological bias (Imagine the WorldNetDaily-esque headline: “Liberal Media Denies Existence of Liberal Media”).

The results of that study may be illuminating. The Viewpoints section as we currently know it was not created until Spring of 2001 (and did not receive its own editor until 2004). Between then and December of 2008 there have been 397 articles (over the 8 years and 85 issues examined) penned by Cedarville family, of which 69% were wholly unrelated to politics at all. In other words, Cedars is more biased towards devotionals and humor columns than toward radical leftist politics.

Of the politically-oriented argumentative pieces, the liberal bias simply does not show up: 44.4% of the opinion articles were identifiably conservative, 37.4% were balanced or moderate, and only 18.2% were liberal. Note, however, that the liberal Cedars articles were never that far left; typical liberal pieces were on taxes, the Iraq war, or global warming.

Perhaps some of the acrimony arises because conventional wisdom says this campus is overwhelmingly Republican. Hence, the great number of articles that attempted to find middle ground are derided as “liberal” simply because they don’t parrot GOP talking points. Furthermore, perhaps some of the discomfort is over such opinionated pieces in the first place. Over time there has been a marked increase in the number of Viewpoints articles (starting in ’02-’03 and climaxing in ’06-’07), and more crucially, in the number of political, argumentative pieces that began abruptly in the ’05-’06 year under a decidedly conservative editorial staff. If the Cedarville constituency has been historically accustomed to comedic diatribes on the foibles of dating and the quality of cafeteria tator tots, then it is perhaps understandable that a dramatic increase in articles of a much more complex nature might come as a minor shock.

In reality, there’s no real reason to fear this relatively recent development. Cedars, and the Viewpoints section in particular, has evolved a lot in just the 21st century. A student newspaper should, by definition, reflect the opinions and intellectual vacillations of the student population. Cedars does in fact reflect this school’s historically conservative bent, but opposing viewpoints should be actively welcomed, not discouraged. Cedarville cannot claim to be a true liberal arts university if only a very narrow slice of opinion is sanctioned or its own newspaper turned into yet another public relations brochure.

—– a slightly edited form of this editorial appears in Cedars in Spring of 2009.

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