Books by conservatives are hot these days, but it still comes as a surprise to see that Bernard Goldberg's Bias (Regnery; 232 pages) has bounced to the top of the New York Times best-seller list. The former CBS News correspondent caused a stir in 1996 when he published a column in the Wall Street Journal complaining that a snide CBS Evening News piece about presidential candidate Steve Forbes was an instance of biased reporting. The book expands that charge into a broadside against liberal bias in the media. Goldberg, though foaming a bit at the mouth, lands a few good punches. He notes, for example, how ABC's Peter Jennings, ticking off the Senators at President Clinton's impeachment trial, labels all the conservatives ("Senator McConnell of Kentucky; very determined conservative member of the Republican Party") but not the liberals ("Senator Mikulski of Maryland").
Yet a few examples get stretched awfully far, and the tough-minded media critic loses out to the ideologue for long stretches (arguing that the media have underplayed the downside of having kids in day care and overplayed the "myth" of heterosexual AIDS). The book also has a heavy dose of score settling. CBS News executives come across as duplicitous scoundrels, and Goldberg claims that Dan Rather, after assuring him just before seeing the Journal editorial that "we were friends yesterday, we're friends today, and we'll be friends tomorrow," hasn't spoken to him since. Which may explain why Bias is No. 1. Press critiques are for journalism schools; any book with a chapter called "Mugged by 'the Dan'" has got a real shot.
--By Richard Zoglin