Having worked in the newspaper business for 25 years, I'm often at pains to explain to folks that the pro-big-government slant of the news media (though very real) is not a "conspiracy," in the simplistic sense. That is to say, I've never known an editor to wear a hole in his carpet, pacing the floor as he waits for the phone call from the Tri-Lateral Commission (or whomever) to "instruct" him which stories to feature, and how to interpret them.
What goes on is much subtler than that, as you have correctly surmised. Unprepared young reporters are generally assigned to cover complex government agencies, whose meetings are full of undecipherable "code-talk" about bond ratings, amortization of tax-exempt debt, RFBs ("Requests For Bids,") ... a whole arcane sub-language.
In over their heads, smart young reporters will ask a helpful government bureaucrat or "Public Information Officer" to sit down and explain it all. PIOs "love" to do this. Soon, the reporter feels very important, and far more secure, as he or she carries around not only the government spokesman's office phone number, but also his/her home phone, cellular phone, and even pager number. Occasionally, "exclusive" interviews can be arranged with even more important figures.
What's more, those on the city desk are happy to be receiving copy from a reporter who seems to be a "quick study" at the complex science of squeezing revenues out of the taxpayers, and building up the size and power of government, all while making it sound like what's being done follows the most sensible and unimpeachable rules of economic science.
The reporter isn't actually bribed (though a few free dinners and "junkets" may come his or her way). Rather, he or she feels happy to have been inducted into the inner circles of the cognoscenti, those who "know what's what" and have quick and easy access to the powerful "decision-makers." The reporter's career advances as the politicians and flacks he or she met at city hall move up over time to offices at the state -- or even the U.S. -- capitol. The TV stations start inviting the new press "expert" to appear on talking head shows. Soon the reporter is buying tailored clothes from the same stores as the bureaucrats and officials he or she covers. ...
The reporter - only two generations ago a guy in a crewcut more likely to play cards and drink beer down at the firehouse - now starts to move in the "social" circles of the governing elite. And, of course, the reporter wouldn't stay at it if he or she hadn't been convinced by years of academic indoctrination - unchallenged by any real-world, blue-collar work experience - that government is generally beneficent - forcing racial harmony on the benighted racists, stopping greedy industrialists from polluting the air and water, etc.
Now, imagine someone approaching that reporter with a "story" about how the government agencies he or she covers every day is systematically bleeding the citizenry of both their prosperity and their rights. It becomes second nature to dismiss such a critic as a "paranoid wacko conspiracy nut."
Reporters are rewarded for learning the "language" of the bureaucrats they cover. They come to speak a patois that naturally refers to stifling tax hikes as "modest revenue enhancements."
Reporters don't "have" to be subverted by any secret "news management" conspiracies. A little laziness, a hunger for the "glamour" of rubbing elbows with the rich and powerful - and most of all the lack of the "troublemaker's" willingness to question and ridicule authority that "defined" the profession of Mark Twain and H.L. Mencken - is usually all that's required.
Voir Dire: A French term which means "jury stacking."
by Vin Suprynowicz