Former NYTimes executive editor (from July 2003 until September 2011) Bill Keller regarding FOX News in an op-ed over the weekend:
It is the most reliable profit center, expected to net a billion dollars this fiscal year. It is untainted so far by the metastasizing scandals. It is a source of political influence more durable than Murdoch’s serial romances with British prime ministers. This year the Fox News Primary probably did more to nominate Mitt Romney than New Hampshire or Michigan.
And yet I would argue that — at least for Americans — Fox News is Murdoch’s most toxic legacy.
Put down the coffee and make sure you have none of it in your mouth when you read this next part:
My gripe against Fox is not that it is conservative. The channel’s pulpit-pounding pundits, with the exception of the avuncular Mike Huckabee, are too shrill for my taste, but they are not masquerading as impartial newsmen. Nor am I indignant that Fox News is the cultural home of the Republican Party and a nonstop Obama roast. Partisan journalism, while not my thing, has a long tradition. Though I do wonder if the folks at Fox appreciate that this genre is more European than American.
My complaint is that Fox pretends very hard to be something it is not, and in the process contributes to the corrosive cynicism that has polarized our public discourse.
I doubt that people at Fox News really believe their programming is “fair and balanced” — that’s just a slogan for the suckers — but they probably are convinced that what they have created is the conservative counterweight to a media elite long marinated in liberal bias. They believe that they are doing exactly what other serious news organizations do; they just do it for an audience that had been left out before Fox came along.
I would never suggest that what is now called “the mainstream media” — the news organizations that most Americans depended on over the past century — achieved a golden mean. We have too often been condescending to those who don’t share our secular urban vantage point. We are too easily seduced by access. We can be credulous. (It’s also true that we have sometimes been too evenhanded, giving equal time to arguments that fail a simple fact-check.)
But we try to live by a code, a discipline, that tells us to set aside our personal biases, to test not only facts but the way they add up,
*Sniff-sniff*….smell that? It’s the stench of elitist bull****.
Just what planet is Keller from that he is so oblivious and lacking in self-awareness?
to seek out the dissenters and let them make their best case, to show our work. We write unsparing articles about public figures of every stripe — even, sometimes, about ourselves. When we screw up — and we do — we are obliged to own up to our mistakes and correct them.
By doing what? Burying the corrections on page A12?!
Fox does not live by that code.
Why does this matter? In the digital era of do-it-yourself news consumption, it is easier than ever to assemble an information diet that simply confirms your prejudices. Traditional news organizations, for all their shortcomings, see it as their mission to provide — and test — the information you need to form intelligent opinions. We aim to challenge lazy assumptions. Fox panders to them.
Tim Groseclose of UCLA along with Jeff Milyo of the University of Missouri published a paper in 2004 measuring media bias. What did they find:
Our results show a strong liberal bias. All of the news outlets except Fox News’ Special Report and the Washington Times received a score to the left of the average member of Congress. And a few outlets, including the New York Times and CBS Evening News, were closer to the average Democrat in Congress than the center. These findings refer strictly to the news stories of the outlets. That is, we omitted editorials, book reviews, and letters to the editor from our sample.
our method concludes that the New York Times has a liberal bias. However, in no way does this imply that the New York Times is inaccurate or dishonest
For instance, the two most conservative outlets are the Washington Times and Fox News’ Special Report, two outlets that are often called conservative (e.g. see Alterman, 2003). Near the liberal end are CBS Evening News and the New York Times. Again, these are largely consistent with the conventional wisdom.
Groseclose and Milyo’s findings suggest that Fox News’ Special Report with Brit Hume is the 5th most centrist news source in their study, whereas,
The New York Times is slightly more than twice as far from the center as Special Report. Consequently, to gain a balanced perspective, a news consumer would need to spend twice as much time watching Special Report as he or she spends reading the New York Times. Alternatively, to gain a balanced perspective, a reader would need to spend 50% more time reading the Washington Times than the New York Times.
For a salient point of reference, compare Fox’s soft-pedaling of the Murdoch troubles with the far more prominent coverage in The Wall Street Journal, which has managed under Murdoch’s ownership to retain its serious-journalism DNA.
The Groseclose-Milyo study also points out what I suspect most FA readers are already well aware of: That the WSJ tilts liberal (according to the study’s findings, even further to the left than the New York Times); where it is conservative is in its opinion section.
The fact that Keller thinks WSJ has “retained its serious-journalism DNA” merely reveals how high-minded, self-important elitist liberal journalists regard themselves as above partisan bias in their straight news reporting; and that they fail to see the bias in other outlets because they agree with the perspective and language. It all sounds so fair, balanced, and reasonable when others agree with your political perspective. When Keller writes:
Partisan journalism, while not my thing, has a long tradition. Though I do wonder if the folks at Fox appreciate that this genre is more European than American.
It just makes me shake my head at the lack of self-awareness.
I don’t have as much of a problem with the bias as I do with the dishonesty that the NYTimes is objective and non-biased. I’d have more respect for journalists and news rags if they’d simply own up to their political leanings and perspective. It would be a more honest way of reporting, regardless if they are covering the straight news or printing editorials. Reporters should not be afraid of being open to readers and viewers in regards to their personal politics. Enough with the masquerade and illusion of objectivity. Drop the pretense or delusion of non-partisan, detached perspective in reporting.
Pg 62-65, Arrogance (2003) by Bernard Goldberg:
The Times still looks and feels like a great newspaper. It has news bureaus all over the world. The paper itself is hefty and contains all kinds of sections. And more to the point, its reporters are smart and sophisticated- probably as strong a group of journalists as you can find anywhere. And of course, the cast majority of the articles have nothing to do with ideology. yet what’s so surprising is how many do, and how ideology regularly gets shoehorned into places you’d never expect to find it- not just in pieces in the editorial or book or culture sections but, for instance, on the sports pages, too, where diversity and feminist issues are always being rammed down readers’ throats. Reading the New York Times these days can be like taking a PC bath.
As soon as you move into lifestyle journalism, it’s basically all opinion. Today there are lifestyle stories on page one almost every day. And lifestyle is an inherently liberal concept- it’s a term that you only hear conservatives use sarcastically, because it implies perpetual change and the denigration of traditional standards.
As the women’s movement picked up steam, its appeal was precisely to the sorts of people who comprise the Times core constituency- privileged liberals who like to see themselves as cutting-edge and socially aware. The Times had always been an editorially liberal paper- responsibly and intelligently liberal. But now, as more and more of its reporters and editors emerged from the hip sixties generation, it took on an aggressive liberal-activist edge.
For committed feminists, gay activists, multiculturalists, and all the others who took their side in the culture wars that grew in intensity in the eighties and nineties, “neutrality” was nothing to be admired. The very point of the movements they supported was to attack and undermine traditional forms of thought and behavior.
These days reporters and editors at the Times pick up the language of the Left either without noticing or, if they do, without even caring.
Biased Brent Bozell:
Keller tut-tutted that Fox can’t really believe its shows are “fair and balanced,” because “that’s just a slogan for suckers.” And “All The News That’s Fit to Print” is for scholars? Isn’t the “fair and balanced” just as implied when Keller talks of how the media elites have a “code” where we “set aside our personal biases”?
But think of that Times slogan for a minute. The key words for Keller are “fit to print.” In the glory days of pre-Fox journalism, if the Times insisted a story — let’s just guess a story that gores the liberal ox — was not “fit to print,” the story was deep-sixed. Spiked. Axed.
The real reason Fox is somehow “America’s Poison” is because of its willingness to go around the liberal censorship wish list and define what is “fit to print” in a different way. If Keller really liked “seeking out the dissenters,” wouldn’t he applaud Fox instead of comparing it to metaphorical cyanide?
Instead, Keller unspools the classic liberal complaint that what’s wrong with “news” consumers these days is they often seek “an information diet that simply confirms your prejudices.” The elitists in “traditional news organizations … see it as their mission see it as their mission to provide — and test — the information you need to form intelligent opinions. We aim to challenge lazy assumptions. Fox panders to them.”
Ah, those insufferable elites. But here’s what really, truly gets them: We don’t have to suffer them any more. We don’t have to rip up our morning papers daily. Only the subscription notices, once.
Now conservatives have choices. Now we can insist that it’s liberal twits such as Arthur Sulzberger who are “not fit” for media ownership, at least not the kind we want to bankroll. The republic will survive without having its information diet loaded with the empty calories of The New York Times.
Also biasly blogging: