Friday, October 30, 2009

The Three Stooges

I don't often read Los Angeles Times media critic James Rainey's columns. They're usually not as well-written as they should be, and they don't really focus on the issues I'm most interested in. Today, however, he did a better job. He acknowledges, mostly by implication, that the big three of cable news networks (Fox News Network, MSNBC, and CNN) usually are more about opinion than actual hard news.

The column focuses primarily on Fox News, home of another big three: O'Reilly, Beck, and Hannity. However, his interest is not on those gentlemen, but on the shows that are supposed to be "newscasts."

The debate over the meaning of Fox News has become so routine, and so routinely partisan, that one hesitates to join the fray again. But when the debate reaches a presidential level, it seems worth reminding everyone, again, how much the boundaries between news and opinion have blurred and how sanguine most people have become about it all. ...

I spend part of virtually every day with Fox. Yes, there are stretches of straight reporting apparently bereft of ideology. And then there are all-too-frequent instances of what the military might call "mission creep," opinion journalism bleeding into what are ostensibly news programs.

So Fox news anchors and reporters hype "tea parties" that rail against the Obama administration. Reporters flog liberals who support healthcare reform while tossing softballs to conservatives who are sure government is growing out of control. The nightly "Fox All Stars," capping a news program, employs a quirky math that finds two rock-ribbed conservatives plus one neutral party equal one balanced panel. ...

Fox employs some other neat devices for infusing its newscasts with the view from the right. How about zippy headlines, like the one this spring that asserted: "House Dems vote to protect pedophiles, but not veterans."

Outrageous! And outrageously misleading. That claim referred to hate crimes legislation designed to protect gays and others, a proposal which at least one Republican lawmaker falsely claimed could protect pedophiles, even though federal law already made it clear such statutes covered only consenting adults.
[Emphasis added]

Mr. Rainey could make the same complaints (and does, briefly) about the other television news sources, whether on cable or network television. "Meet the Press" and the other Sunday morning talking-heads roundups rarely provide a balanced line-up of guests (whether on the basis of ideology or gender) and rarely challenge the distortions presented by those guests.

What is especially sad about all of this is that most Americans get their news from television, as the print media is discovering. If the news was presented as news, real information with as little bias and b.s. as possible, Americans just might be better informed and able to make better decisions. Unfortunately, the days of Walter Cronkite have apparently passed, something which Mr. Rainey clearly laments:

I'm still burdened with the antique notion that news people have more power and influence when they can bring unique information to the table. But as I noted in an earlier column, opinion making is on the rise.



Blogger Woody (Tokin Librul/Rogue Scholar/ Helluvafella!) said...

Jon Stewart did a bang-up job on the reciprocality of Faux Nooz/Opinion last night...

4:30 PM  

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