Hunter Baker refers below to a recent study alleging liberal media bias in the news. The methodology used was to count citations of outside "experts" to see if there was a partisan balance.
The study found a strong tilt to the left in the reports of most media organizations.
Now is this proof in itself of bias? Let's look at a recent Washington Post article on the NSA domestic "spying" affair.
Aside from the contentious wording that the administration has "assertions" while the contrary congressional report has "conclusions," we see that the WaPo quotes two "experts," both of whom are dismissive of the administration's position.
I discussed this very article with a lefty pal of mine and he sees no bias. Me, I see not only Congress lined up against the executive branch (little surprise---this tug-of-war over national security authority has been going on since the founding of the republic), but 100% of the outside experts. I would expect the casual reader to conclude that the weight of arguments is against the administration, since they occupy the lion's share of the volume.
I find this article to be representive of the norm, and certainly my liberal buddy saw nothing unusual about it. Which is precisely the point.
Since I'm feeling magnanimous today, I'll offer that no Bush-friendly "experts" were consulted because the WaPo simply doesn't know any. But whatever the reason, the aforementioned study (and it is not the first such) clearly indicates it is the rule rather than the exception in our national news media that among third party commentators, the left get more air than the right.
Put simply, an article or news segment is imbalanced unless it presents both sides in roughly equal proportion, as spoken by third parties, not just the accused and the aggrieved themselves. We all tend to give credence to the views of third parties when making up our minds about things, as we should. For that reason, I find the theory behind the study's methodology entirely proper, and can think of none better.
The WaPo rounded up two "impartial" witnesses against the Bush administration and none in its defense. Any reasonable person would, based on the evidence presented, be obliged to conclude its guilt.
The WaPo article was biased, whether intentionally or not. I do not know which of those possibilities is more disconcerting.