Sunday, July 10, 2005

Fox News Might Not Be As Bad As We Thought

Originally posted July 3, 2005
Most of us liberals are pretty comfortable slinging, or at least passively accepting, the slur "Faux News" in reference to Rupert Murdoch's allegedly right-slanted 24-hour cable news network. After all, it is home to two of American punditry's most annoying conservative blowhards, Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly, and its newscasts have been criticized for consistently softballing the Bush administration (more egregiously than most other MSM outlets, I'm assuming). But I wonder how many of the people who condemn Fox News as a right-wing propaganda machine have actually visited the channel's web site and taken a look at some of its news items. I don't have the empirical data to back this up, but my own unscientific investigations lead me to conclude that FoxNews' web site at least (to say nothing of its TV content) is a bit more "fair & balanced" than many nonconservatives give it credit for.

Now as you might guess, I'm about to cite a few articles in support of my claim. But before you click over to the site to dig up counterexamples, remember that I'm excluding from my analysis all of Fox's op-ed writers, who I'll admit are not only ideologically bonkers but discursively pathetic as well.

So, with that caveat in mind, allow me to submit the following: (1) a recent article on the Federal Election Commission's debate over whether to regulate political blogging included interviews with two left-of-center bloggers (DailyKos's Markos Zuniga and Wonkette's Ana Marie Cox) and the executive director of no counterbalancing conservatives. (2) An article titled "Democratic Ranks Pleased by Dean Performance" proved remarkably well-balanced, covering a wide range of opinions from both grassroots organizers and beltway insiders (again, no Republicans). (3) And to my personal surprise, today's report on a gaggle of consevative talk-show hosts' junket to Iraq (cheekily dubbed "The Truth Tour") focused on their critics' charges of propaganda and shoddy journalism. Said critics, which included Joe Conason of the American Prospect and Peter Beinart of The New Republic, took the opportunity to duly castigate what they saw as a flagrant right-wing PR maneuver.

If you read the above and thought "this doesn't prove much," you're right. In the absence of a more systematic investigation, all I can do is cherrypick articles that support my theory. But I've at least shown that in covering several strongly partisan issues, the news reporters at aren't shilling quite as hard as some on the left assume. It's certainly not the Village Voice by any stretch, but it's no WorldNetDaily either.