Anatomy of a Fox

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Few things tie liberals—and/or newspaper journalists—up in knots like Rupert Murdoch's Fox News. Jay Rosen does an interesting job unraveling a successful media strategy.

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  1. A few months ago, Kinsley (after praising Brit Hume’s thought process, talk about shocking) made a great suggestion for all news outlets: Forget objectivity. It is an insult for 95% of news organizations to pursue an agenda but pretend they are not. Here’s hoping everyone of every idealistic stripe slaughters the meaningless sacred cow of balance and comes out with guns blazing.

  2. Wonder if O’Reilly will ever concede to the fact that before he was FOX, he was Tabloid… I hadly think thats credentials enough to bash Journalists that have been reporting the news for decades. REAL news mind you, not the latest nip and tuck by some celeb, or whos fucking who in hollywood, which is the only ‘resume’ he brought to FOX.

    Al Franken brought it up and we all know what happened next….

    I also have to wonder why the sheeple who laud FOX can defend a network that employs ex-tabloid reporters, Geraldo Rivera, and Oliver North. Fair and Balanced?? No-Spin zone??

    Give me a break

  3. Yes, the Fair and Balanced network is taking a bold stand against “news organizations (that) pursue an agenda but pretend they are not.”

  4. Holy Christ, stop the presses! Matt Welch just posted something that doesn’t have to do with the insider goings-on of Los Angeles and California.

    This is unacceptable. If Tim Cavanaugh is going to continue hiring friends who are not libertarians, they must remember to stick to the game plan: writing about inconsequential things that are relevant only to their limited spheres of interest.

    Cavanaugh, get your nepotism back on track. Welch, get back to posting pointless stuff about Los Angeles. This lapse will not stand!

  5. “(take the ratio at CNN of pretty blondes chosen to read the news and double it)”

    I always figured Fox catered to the wrong head!

  6. Wonder if O’Reilly will ever concede to the fact that before he was FOX, he was Tabloid… I hadly think thats credentials enough to bash Journalists that have been reporting the news for decades.

    Anyone can and should bash Journalists (why the initial caps, pirate?) to their heart’s content based on their assessment of how well the [sic]Journalists are doing.

    For the most part, the people best qualified to critique journalism are people who are not journalists, because the people best qualified to critique a given story are the experts on the topic of that story. Journalists rarely bring much in the way of expertise to any given story, which explains why most reporting is so shoddy. Nearly anyone who has first-hand knowledge of something that the press has written up can give you an earful about how the press screwed it up.

    Frankly, I don’t much care what Al Franken or Bill O’Reilly have to say about much of anything, but the reason I don’t care has nothing to do with whether they are members of the elite media club. It has to do with the fact that, as far as I can tell, neither is very intelligent or very knowledgable.

  7. Does anyone besides Jay Rosen think NPR is “neutral”?

    I find the notion laughable. We could argue about various CNN, ABC, CBS, FOX (local, non-cable)and NBC personalities till hell freezes over – but NPR??? I almost never fail to hear quite a lot of bias from NPR in any half hour of listening (except for at night when they play all that diverse jazz music. Oh wait, thats liberal too – LOL!)).

    Even Joe (not me, THE Reason.com H&R marathon postin Joe) might agree with that?

    What’s next? Hillary the centrist? Bush the liberal?

  8. California politics are inconsequential?

  9. If I read the ratings reports right, Fox’s most popular show is ignored by 98% of the people watching television when it airs. More people watched the XFL than watch Fox news.

    No matter how much ‘e-v-v-i-l’ they tried to accomplish, just how much harm could they do?

  10. “More people watched the XFL than watch Fox news.”

    Coming up next, Fair and Balanced, the He Hate Me hour …

  11. I’m with joe and bennett on this one. The proper approach is not phony of “neutrality.” In practice, that just means providing 30 second sound bites from “both sides,” while adopting a pose of uncritical gullibility toward statements of either side that would clearly be falsifiable if the reporter was willing to do some digging.

    The problem here is that “both sides” are neither mutually exhaustive nor mutually exclusive. In fact, in our political system “both sides” (the New Republic Democrats and the Neocons, a half-inch to left and right of center, respectively) actually share about 80% of their world view, and these shared assumptions are never even brought up as an issue.

    The answer is unabashed advocacy journalism, on the pattern of the nineteenth century party press: make the best case for your OWN side you can, marshalling all the evidence and argumentation at your disposal, and go over the opposition’s evidence with a fine-tooth comb. The truth comes out through the adversarial process.

  12. Agreed, NPR lets people talk. So does PBS.

    The calm, give and take, rational discussion of Frontline, Fresh Air, etc. allow conservatives to speak their piece.

    The ranting and raving of Limbaugh, O’Reilly, et.al. is something else.

    In fact, when you think about the programs NPR and PBS run, they don’t do the O’Reilly type of blather. That’s what makes them closer to “balanced” than FOX News.

  13. Some on the right see something stealthy and evil in the widely recognized drift to the left of the mainstream press. I don’t. That the mainstream press does not accurately reflect the world view of the average American is self evident to the average American. But it is not self-evident to the average journalist.

    The average journalist truly believes he is presenting the facts in an unbiased way. But the average world view of the average journalist is way to the left of the average American. This assertion is factually supported by polls which show the average journalist to be much more likely to personally support self-described liberal policies, and vote almost 90% of the time for Democratic candidates for office.

    The dishonesty in mainstream journalism – and this is as much self deception as anything – is that one can divorce one’s own personal biases from one’s coverage of the news. But personal biases which define one’s world view will always determine the answers to the following questions.

    1. What is legitimate news?
    2. Why is it legitimate news?
    3. Who is news worthy?
    4. When (how often and how much) should an issue, person, or event be covered by the news?
    5. Where is the news “happening?”
    6. How should the news be presented, i.e. what is the assumed “neutral” framework of the news?

    Basically, one’s personal world view and personal biases determine the assumptions made about what is news. And when one associates almost exclusively with like minded individuals, it is not difficult to assume that one’s basic assumptions are the correct basis of “neutrality” upon which the news should be presented.

    Until the mainstream press acknowledges this self-deception (recognition is the first step to recovery), and starts an “affirmative action” program of hiring more conservatives, they will not recover. When the polls of newsrooms show that reporters are roughly equally divided between conservatives and liberals, Democrats and Republicans, then we will know that the mainstream news is being presented in as fair and unbiased way as possible.

    The mainstream news organizations have failed to challenge their own orthodoxy. They have failed to have the courage to incorporate those who disagree with them personally. They unconciously reward their fellow news collectors and diseminators who most closely resemble themselves.

    This phenomenon is not evil. It is natural and normal. But it is also lazy and dangerous. Sears was once the powerhouse of the retail world in America. Now, I haven’t met a single person in the last five years who I know has made a purchase at Sears. Mainstream news organizations must change or die. It is the American way. And it is the prospect of this death that scares the mainstream press – as it should.

    One other point. “Neutrality” as a standard is desirable to a point. But absolute neutrality is neither acceptable nor desirable. For example: neutrality in regards to child pornography is repugnant. Absolute neutrality is also not achievable. This is why the individual biases of reporters and editors matter.

    Ironically, “affirmative action” really only makes sense in the marketplace of ideas – the press. Rather than strive toward some mythical quality of neutrality, the press should try to accurately and proportionately represent the wide spectrum of ideas and world views of its society. Only then can it be assured that the news will be accurately portrayed.

    The “sin” of big media has been to draw its practitioners from a limited pool of American experience. The press needs to embark on an affirmative action hiring agenda based on the diversity of ideas. Race, religion, political affiliation, and every other broad classification of American society needs to be represented in a proportionate manner. This is the way out of the maze.

  14. “Does anyone besides Jay Rosen think NPR is “neutral”? ”

    Doesn’t matter if they’re neutral or not. If some liberal NPR guy does an interview with Grover Norquist and G.N. gets to speak at length, uninterrupted, about his beliefs, then the result is the same as if NPR were neutral. All points of view get aired.

    On the other hand, I’ve seen Fox commentators twisting the truth and pushing their opinions shamelessly. And that’s not counting the confrontational “Hannity & Colmes” type shows.

  15. Anon 0321:

    On the Right, both Tucker Carlson and Pat Buchanan (to take figures on opposite ends of the neo/paleo spectrum) are capable of civil discussion.

  16. That was a good piece. Thanks for that link!

    I’ve often wondered how much of the ire over Fox was due to the direct challenge it posed to the given that Dan Rather IS news. The networks have for a long while been caught up in the idea that a bit can only be news if filtered through The Standard News Machine. Part of this filter is, sorry to say, left leaning political assumptions. Rather doesn’t perceive bias because he defines his POV as centrist.

    It is a simple case. Find one, just one, network story sympathetic to the idea that a woman who is outweighed and surprised can shoot her way out of victimhood. I’ll not be silly and demand a sympathetic story. Find one that even brings up the idea at all as one option among several.

    You can play the same game with abortion.

    To be fair, once courts started shooting down affirmative action, the court opinions became news.

  17. Fox News’s marketing strategy was very simple – find an underserved niche of the market and serve it. In this case, the underserved market was the rougly 40% of Americans with Conservative values (a pretty large niche). Prior to Fox News, the only outlet these people had to get news filtered with a Conservative slant was talk radio on the AM dial. There are still plenty of Liberal sources of news out there – NPR, CNN, MSNBC, NBC, CBS, ABC, etc. And they all compete for the same market – the roughly 40% of Americans with a Liberal belief system. So, while all these networks fight over the 40% of Americans who tend to be Liberal, Fox News has a virtual monopoly over the 40% of Americans who lean towards being Conservatives.

  18. I don’t want news reporters to be neutral. I want them to be dedicated to the truth. If one side’s ox gets gored by an accurate presentation of the facts, too bad for them. The studied neutrality and refusal to distinguish between truth and falsehood that permeates mainstream news is a perversion of the ideal of fairness.

    “The parties had different takes on…” should not be the story. What actually happened should be the story.

  19. joe – the point is, there can be different views and interpretations of the same “truth”. For example, a story might be that there were x number of homicides in the US last year. The story in-and-of-itself doesn’t change – it is an empirical fact. However, views and interpretations of the underlying cause of the story can differ. If you’re a Liberal, your view is that access to guns in the US is too easy, which enables homicide. If you’re a Conservative, your view is that the breakdown of the nuclear family has led to a lot of lawless (and violent) behavior.

    There may be only one absolute truth, but there are almost always (at least) two sides to every story.

  20. Laurie Dhue, Kiran Chetry, Juliet Huddy, Catherine Herridge, Claudia Cowan, Linda Vester, Dari Alexander etc.

  21. At last I agree with Joe. It should happen more often. The fact that news organizations attempt to “balance” their news coverage insures that it is anything but impartial. The truth can not be balanced against anything other than falsehoods and lies.

  22. NPR’s not really neutral – and goddamnit how much shitty fusion jazz does one station need to play? – but they do give more air time to more ideas from more areas than any television station ever would, liberal or conservative.

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