I'm skeptical of simplistic theories of liberal media bias. It's true that coverage of social conservatives is often unfair or condescending. However, it's also true that elite news reporters skew conservative on economic issues. Similarly, I think journalists' devotion to the cult of objectivity and focus on coverage of personalities and politics instead of substance are more damaging to our democracy than any ideological biases.
That said, there's no denying that the New York Times has a problem with its coverage of conservatives, which has been limited in scope and often sneering or uncomprehending in tone. The problem is bad enough that the paper created a conservative beat in January 2004.
Still, there's obviously more work to be done in changing the culture of the paper. Today's edition features a long and generally favorable profile of Patricia Heaton, the Christian conservative who starred on "Everybody Loves Raymond" and recently became enmeshed in the controversy over a Missouri ballot initiative to promote stem cell research. In praising Heaton, however, the Times writer Jesse Green derides other conservatives by referring to "her un-wingnutlike desire for conciliation":
It isn’t so much her views that cause her trouble as her unwillingness to finesse them for public consumption. She is compulsively honest, though she feels that’s not so much a virtue as “an illness, like Tourette’s.” Even her more extreme positions are stated without hedging: If it were up to her, she said, there would be no abortion for any reason. But she offers such thoughts with a sense of helplessness, as if she were trapped by the implications of her core principles.
And then there is her un-wingnutlike desire for conciliation. As soon as she realized what had happened, she sent Mr. [Michael J.] Fox a message saying that she was sorry and that she prayed for his recovery. He responded graciously (the amendment passed with 51 percent of the vote) and later said, “If we can have a healthy dialogue about issues that people see differently, that’s marvelous.”
Would the Times use a term like that in reference to liberals? I doubt it.