They dare not call it journalism


Howell Raines, the former executive editor of the New York Times, takes on Roger Ailes and the “video ferrets” of Fox News this morning in the Washington Post:

For the first time since the yellow journalism of a century ago, the United States has a major news organization devoted to the promotion of one political party. And let no one be misled by occasional spurts of criticism of the GOP on Fox. In a bygone era of fact-based commentary typified, left to right, by my late colleagues Scotty Reston and Bill Safire, these deceptions would have been given their proper label: disinformation.

Under the pretense of correcting a Democratic bias in news reporting, Fox has accomplished something that seemed impossible before Ailes imported to the news studio the tricks he learned in Richard Nixon’s campaign think tank: He and his video ferrets have intimidated center-right and center-left journalists into suppressing conclusions — whether on health-care reform or other issues — they once would have stated as demonstrably proven by their reporting. I try not to believe that this kid-gloves handling amounts to self-censorship, but it’s hard to ignore the evidence. News Corp., with 64,000 employees worldwide, receives the tender treatment accorded a future employer.

That is, don’t bite the hand that might be cutting your next paycheck. Even if, as Jon Stewart put it this week, “Fox News might be the meanest sorority in the world.”

Categories : Media


  1. Hazelite says:

    True indeed. Ironically, the notion of ‘professional’ or ‘nonpartisan’ journalism was an early 20th century creation of newspapers to ward off regulation and protect their monopolies. Our country started with many very partisan papers and leaflets. There are pros and cons to both methods. The most important thing is to protect against monopolies/oligopolies and promote diverse media and access! Here’s an article detailing the history and problems of our media:

  2. Tom Sullivan says:

    Thanks, Hazelite. That’s a keeper.

    I also liked Jim Buchanan’s AC-T piece this morning that suggested that when politicians appear on TV, viewers ought to get career stats, as in televised baseball. He congratulates the Sunlight Foundation:

    It hit a home run a couple of weeks back during the televised health care summit in Washington. Whenever a politician stepped to the plate, it ran, in live time, important stats like top career donors. The appearance of that information tended to put an entirely different perspective on what was coming out of the mouth of the particular politician it appeared alongside.

    A politician has received millions from the insurance industry and is against insurance reform? Could there possibly be a connection?

    Thinking … thinking …

  3. Don’t forget MSNBC, the propaganda arm of the Democratic Party. If you get to claim Fox as Republican, I get to claim MSNBC as Democrat.

  4. I really liked this piece in Daily Kos recently. It blows a hole in the “most trusted name in news” slogan.

    [The success of Fox News] stems exclusively from the fact that liberals and moderates are willing to avail themselves of the entire array of media offerings available to them, while conservatives are so convinced of their own victimhood on all matters media-related that they will pledge unwavering allegiance to a friendly media outlet.

    If I hadn’t observed this phenomenon with members of my family and some friends, I might know what the article is talking about. But it is that many right-leaning people watch Fox and only Fox for their TV news. And in talking with these folks about the political issues of the day, I find it impossible to avoid stumbling into teh crazy as much as I try to keep things calm and rational. I don’t blame Fox for that, but I do think they do as much as they can to fan the flames of anger and fear with their programming. For News Corp, it is just a simple business model and it seems to be working rather well.

  5. Susan says:

    I recommend catching MSNBC and Maddow’s take down of Pelosi and the health care reform debacle. It is a kabuki dance those Democrats are doing in DC, and MSNBC covered it better than anyone.

  6. Tom Sullivan says:

    There’s an old saying ordinary Russians had about their Soviet newspapers, Pravda [literally, truth] and Izvestia [literally, news]: “There’s no truth in Pravda, and there’s no news in Izvestia.”

    Does Fox News evoke a twinge of nostalgia?

    I still recall the first time I saw Glenn Beck. It was one evening on CNN in October 2006. I’d never heard of Beck before, but my initial response was, “This guy’s a propagandist!”

    That opinion has not changed. If anything, he’s a more skilled propagandist now than he was then.

  7. Deus Ex Machina says:

    Glenn Beck isn’t as skilled a propagandist as Keith Olbermann. Just sayin’.

  8. Paul -V- says:

    The media isn’t liberal or conservative – it’s corporate.

  9. Tom Buckner says:

    Paul has it right, mostly. The big American media are all corporate arms. Where is the American media outlet that is frankly anti-corporate (or do you think no such outlet need exist? That the Wall Street viewpoint is the only one Americans need hear?)

    Those few that really skewer the notion of corporate aristocracy over the citizens are labeled left of left, even though most of them would have been considered very mainstream half a century ago. In These Times, which Hazelite mentions, is one good example. Before Kurt Vonnegut died, he said the only real Americans left were the librarians and the people at In These Times.

  10. Matt says:

    The primary concern of the media is reaching the maximum number of people since that means greater ad revenue. For profit media will only broadcast/print what helps their numbers.

    Ever notice that the left leaning media is more likely to be “fair and balanced” and allow the “right” to express itself? The right is less comfortable with hearing both sides. This is a reflection of their viewers values. Notice how many right-wing blogs/websites do not allow open discussion/comments.

  11. SueTwo says:

    Wow- Tom B., Paul, Susan- very insightful comments. We are indeed propagandized from all directions,and the health care “debate” has been nothing but kabuki from all sides.

  12. randallt says:

    Propaganda used to be a benign word. Communists and the Nazis however gave it a bad image and it hasn’t recovered. Which is a really, really good thing, because we now know what to look out for.

    So yes, in purest terms, KO is a propagandist; someone with a common ideological thread of opinions and reporting choices. The primary difference between GB and KO is that GB makes shit up. Keith doesn’t. MSNBC has some liberal talent but the entire organization of Fox News is built around propagandizing for the far right. Thats why it was established. That’s what it does. It is a propaganda machine on every level.

  13. Jim Reeves says:

    Fox news had some good teachers

  14. Jim Reeves says:

    Fox doesn’t have a monopoly on deception…

  15. According to recent polling info, it is not as the libs would prefer:

    According to conventional wisdom, liberals trust CNN and the broadcast networks more and conservatives trust Fox News more. And the results of the newest Public Policy Polling survey bears those results out.

    But even more specifically, more people overall trust FNC than any other network – and the breakdown shows some surprising results.

    From the survey:

    These numbers suggest quite a shift in what Americans want from their news. A generation ago Walter Cronkite was the most trusted man in the country because of his neutrality. Now people trust Fox the most precisely because of its lack of neutrality. It says a lot about where journalism is headed.

    The ‘do you trust’ percentages are (yes/no): FNC – 49/37, CNN – 39/41, NBC – 35/44, CBS – 32/46, ABC – 31/46.

    With the specific crosstab breakdown, here are a couple other notable results:

    • The liberal/conservative divide is what you’d expect, in that more conservatives trust FNC and more liberals trust the others (specifically NBC News). But a higher percentage of liberals trust FNC than conservatives trust any other network. CNN is the most trusted network for moderates, while FNC is the least trusted.

    Source: Mediaite whixh also has links to the crosstabs for those who prefer data to speculation and stereotypes.

  16. Bobby – you cite the same poll that the Kos piece that I cited up thread cites. The totals are as you indicated. But the crosstabs are very telling. Basically, conservatives trust Fox by a huge margin over moderates and liberals, while conservatives also distrust every single other outlet. While liberals largely distrust Fox, they have reasonably high trust of every other outlet. Moderates are evenly spread with a slight distrust of Fox. Since liberals made up only 14% of the sample versus 39% for conservatives, we have a “winner” for most trustedand it is Fox.

    Many assume that MSNBC is the counterweight to Fox, but the crosstabs of this poll make it clear that liberals do not encamp in MSNBC the way conservatives do in Fox. By the way, does Fox have a three hour program on every weekday for a liberal (or even a Democrat) the way MSNBC has Joe Scarborough?

    I’m not sure this is a problem for liberals as much as it is a problem for everybody. When any large proportion of the electorate encamps in a single news outlet, it gives that news outlet more power than any other. And we know the Fox is not shy about using the power that it has. In order to be “most trusted,” Fox only needs to be the most conservative and not the most accurate.

  17. Ben says:

    Hilarious article by AC-T’s Buchanan! Ever see people show up with some wacky statistic that they swear is true because they found it online, or “Glen Beck said so”? Most people really don’t know WHERE their news is coming from and by whom it is reported.
    Baseball card-like statistics would be VERY telling:
    Glenn Lee Beck
    DOB Feb 10, 1964
    Residence : New Canaan CT
    Income: $23,000,000
    1st wife: Claire (divorced him in 1994 due to his substance abuse)
    2nd wife: Tania
    Religion: Mormon

    Accomplishments: Alcoholism and drug abuse, diagnosed ADHD, was arrested for speeding with one of his gull wing doors open on his DeLorean, refers to himself as an entertainer not a reporter,…

    I AM not kidding about this information! Ridiculous.
    KNOW your source of info – don’t cite wickipedia, glenn beck, or jay leno ….(Also anyone ever seen Hilarious!)

  18. As if to underscore the point, Brett Baier’s interview of the President on Wednesday was an absolute disgrace. If it can be called journalism it can also be called pitiful. The conservative blogosphere cheered. And the rest of the mainstream media was silent. I have no problem with reporters asking the President tough questions. I think back to Tim Russert’s Whitehouse interview of President Bush in 2004 as an example of how that can be done while at the same time according the President and the office respect. Baier totally lost control of himself and created a spectacle instead of a piece of journalism.