We Report. You have a hissy fit.

November 26, 2004

Unless you've been in a coma for 5 years, you've heard the accusations that FOX News Channel is spewing right-wing talking points, rather than reporting the news. I don't think this would bother me if at least some of the accusations were accompanied by examples, but they're not. In the vast majority of cases, the "evidence" to support these claims cites either Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity or both. This begs the classic question first posed by Sean Riley: How did someone that god damn stupid even know which side of the TV to watch? Of course Hannity and others are biased! Not only are they not journalists, they don't even pretend to be reporting the news. As a matter of fact, these people have built their entire careers around giving their personal opinion. I don't know if you know this, but agenda pushing by a particular person is only supposed to upset us if it's done in the context of a news report that claims neutrality. If you can't even tell the difference between news and entertainment, or as O'Reilly so pompously puts it, "news analysis", then maybe I can't tell the difference between the sounds of you talking and my crap hitting the back of the toilet.

Obviously, the majority of FOX-haters are too easy to pick on. To be fair, I'll mention another reason for which people accuse FOX News of bias that's rarely heard, but at least worth looking at. Some people have tried to show that FOX hires a disproportionate number of conservatives to work at the network. They waste our time by mentioning people that don't even report the news, but they also expose the political leanings of some of the network's journalists. There's even some documentation on this. You can find actual quotes from FOX News reporters that show, without a doubt, that they are politically to the right. Unfortunately, this proves nothing. None of the quotes I've seen to date come from news reports delivered on the air. They all come from conversations, interviews, and other situations outside of their jobs as journalists. Where's the controversy?

Efforts to show that FOX News hires a large number of conservatives raise another more interesting point. FOX-haters seem to be suggesting that the political makeup of a news organization is a predictor of bias in their reporting. Whether or not that's true, I can't help wondering why liberals, of all people, would want to point that out. If that's what they really think, then based on the political makeup of the media in general, they would be forced to admit, after years of denial, that the media has a liberal bias. Somehow I doubt they're ready to do that.

FOX News is clearly unique in some way. Why else would they be singled out for attack so often? Many suggest that what makes them unique is their right-wing tilt, but what if the thing that sets them apart is that they really are "fair and balanced", while the other networks are not? (Conspicuously absent from most complaints about FOX News are points like "the reports are incorrect". But hey, the accuracy of the reports are a minor side issue, right?) Has it ever occurred to you that if a network really did report nothing but the facts, completely, consistently, and objectively, the reports would overwhelmingly favor one political ideology? You could hardly accuse such a network of bias for reporting the facts, simply because the facts themselves tend toward a particular side. I know liberals agree with this idea, though we may differ on which ideology is favored. How many distraught Democrats explained Bush's reelection by saying "the voters were uninformed"? In other words, if only people had the facts, they would agree with me. Is there anyone who doesn't feel this way? Or let's say that, hypothetically, the majority of the mainstream media were biased in one direction [ahem]. Toward the left, for example. How would an objective news source look in comparison to a left-leaning media? They would appear to lean to the right, even if that wasn't the case, would they not? Hmmmm. I don't expect to convince anyone that FOX isn't biased. In fact, I don't really feel that way myself. I just want everyone to slow down and think — and this goes for people all over the political spectrum. If some imaginary perfect news source reported nothing but facts, and their reports constantly undermined your beliefs, would you be able to tell that they were doing their job and remaining objective? Or would you go on the attack?

To the FOX-haters, I leave you with a couple of thoughts. First, if FOX leans right, so what? It's one channel. Why does it scare you so much when pretty much every other network is in your corner? Every news source is made up of humans and therefore likely to stray from the path of perfect objectivity. Why don't we just accept that there's bias everywhere and sort out the truth by thinking for ourselves? Second, quit acting like FOX News Channel has broken some law and needs to be forcibly shut down, you champions of free speech, you. They are a private company and they can report the news however they want. Leaving your personal opinions at home when reporting the news is a journalistic principle, not a legal requirement. If you think a particular network suffers from a lack of journalistic integrity, then don't watch it.

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