There was something in the news today that mirrors a facebook conversation I had with a friend last week. Yesterday, our local paper ran an editorial by Leonard Pitts that excoriated FOX News for being so biased. Responding to charges (which in this case, happen to be true) that FOX was the only network that covered the controversy around Obama advisor Van Jones until after he resigned, Pitts points out that even a stopped watch is right twice per day. He then goes on a tear about factual errors on FOX, giving examples from such leading names as Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly, and Sean Hannity.
Hey, Leonard--here's a news flash: those guys are running OPINION shows, not news reporting. Yes, FOX is a conservative channel. And their editorial views feature many more conservatives than liberals. I'll even spot you that the token liberal commentators on FOX are not the very best and brightest; whether Juan Williams from NPR, or back in the days where Alan Colmes shared airtime with Hannity, they rarely measure up the Charles Krauthammers of the world (in fairness, few pundits do). But that's true of every channel. MSNBC is at least as rabidly left as FOX is right. But what continues to gall me is that the so-called "mainstream" media, that gets to present themselves as the objective heirs of Walter Cronkite, also lean left.
Case in point: yesterday, CNN, one of the "objective" networks, ran a story doing a "fact-check" of the first-ever anti-Obama skit on Saturday Night Live. I couldn't believe it! Since 1975, SNL has done comedy. They have skewered every president since Gerald Ford. After 200 days, they FINALLY decided it was safe to poke just a little fun at Obama, and CNN has to point out that they are using hyperbole. Does anybody remember CNN doing a piece on how Tina Fey's impersonation of Sarah Palin wasn't a documentary? Did they ever step up to defend George W. Bush from criticism by SNL in the last 8 years? Of course not! So if you wonder why FOX news is the most-watched news network in the USA, here's your answer.
Don't get me wrong. FOX should not be the only news channel anybody watches, any more than National Review or The New Republic should be the only news magazine anyone reads. But the folks who run the New York Times, Newsweek, and CNN seem to think that if you only tune into them, you'll have all the news you need. Bull-hockey! The NYT editorial page leans every bit as far to the left as FOX's editorial panels do to the right. And their token "conservative," David Brooks not only has the mother of all man-crushes on Obama, his version of conservatism is about as robust as Pee Wee Herman. If that sort of editorial position calls into question the biases of FOX, why does it not do the same for "All the News That's Fit to Print?"
One last disclaimer. This is not intended so much to be a defense of FOX as an indictment of the so-called "mainstream" media. And I won't even drink the conspiracy theory kool-aid and claim that folks like CNN do it on purpose. A poll a while back showed that over 80% of journalists self-identify as liberals. (That's OK, the numbers are just as bad for history teachers.) I don't doubt that they try to play it straight, at least most of the time. But a liberal trying to be fair is still not the same as a conservative. The reverse is also true--as a conservative US history teacher, I work very hard to show both sides of the issues, and to be fair to those with whom I disagree. But it's a lot easier for me to teach the successes of the Reagan administration than to sing the praises of LBJ. In some cases, I may even go overboard in the opposite direction in an attempt to mitigate by biases. But obviously, I think my positions (on politics, economics, religion, philosophy, and SEC football) are the correct ones--if I didn't, I'd change them! Journalists are human, too (except for Olbermann).