Former US Vice-President Dan Quayle claims: “One of the strengths of democracy is diversity, but there is an amazing lack of it at the top levels of the national media. The best-known journalists are rich, travel in elite circles and share a common ideology. They are far removed from the great working-class traditions of American political journalism.” Top journalists also receive very high salaries—television news personalities get millions of dollars per year and network correspondents get over $100,000—which gives them a very privileged view of the world: “They are part of the moneyed class, just like the people they report on.” They are happy to support the status quo because they themselves are doing well out of it.
Many of those who haven’t reached the top yet are also fairly well off. Big city reporters have incomes only “slightly lower than those of their neighbours the lawyers and corporate middle managers.” Also modern journalists are fed a continual diet of corporate ideology from their college days, where courses in journalism schools are now endowed by corporations and foundations. And in their jobs they are bombarded daily with propaganda from conservative think tanks.
Some commentators have suggested that journalists have a social bias arising from their middle class background, which manifests in the sorts of topics they are interested in and therefore report on. For example, Elizabeth Martínez and Louis Head argue that the media have neglected the issue of environmental racism. Environmental racism is a term that describes the tendency to site hazardous and undesirable facilities in Latino, African, Asian, Native American and other ‘minority’ communities and Martinez and Head suggest journalists are not generally interested in such communities. Environmental racism was nominated as one of the top 25 censored stories in 1991 by the staff of Project Censored at Sonoma State University in California.
Similarly academic Dorothy Nelkin notes that, despite all its coverage of chemical carcinogens and contaminated sites, journalists have seldom covered the workers in the chemical industry and how they are affected. Occupational health is generally avoided by journalists and when they do cover it they tend to use official sources rather than workers themselves.