In the course of reporting a story for this week’s TIME magazine, which is about the White House’s determination to take the fight to its critics, I came across a lot of sentiments like this quote about Fox News that I noted a couple days back. “They are the paid political programming for a party, and occasionally a couple of news stories break out in the midst of 23 hours and 45 minutes of political rantings and opinion,” said one senior administration official. “Everything about it is one-sided political opinion directed at a base. Period.”
Well, not entirely everything. Anita Dunn, the communications director, who is leading up the White House’s rapid response effort, did point out to me that there was at least one Fox News employee who she considered an upstanding member of his profession. Did she call out Fox News Sunday’s Chris “Biggest Bunch of Crybabies” Wallace? Or Shepard “Public Option” Smith?
No and no. “We think Major Garrett is a legitimate reporter,” Dunn told me, referring to the network’s White House correspondent. Sorry Major, if that hurts your rep among certain parts of the Fox News viewership. I would add that I personally have a professional affinity for Major, since we are both alums of Mother Jones magazine. (Note to Glenn Beck: Mother Jones magazine is named for Mary Harris Jones, who was a socialist. Put this fact up on your chalkboard and I am sure you will quickly conclude that both Garrett and I constitute a KGB sleeper cell with White House press credentials–a clear threat to the republic. Or maybe not. Nothing wrong with asking questions. Etc.)
While we are on the topic of the media and politics, I recommend that people take a moment to read the latest from Thomas Edsall, a poker-playing mainstream media lion, most notably for the Washington Post, who betrayed his “village” roots (I use that term ironically) and started working for Huffington Post a few years back. He has a new piece up at Cjr.org, arguing that reporters should stop protesting and just acknowledge their own (usually) liberal views, which, it must be added, do not always lead to coverage with a liberal slants. Indeed, he complicates his whole argument by attacking, you guessed it, Fox News and its institutional kin. To wit:
The mainstream press is liberal. . . . But, and this is a mega-but, even though the mainstream media are by this measure liberal, ending the discussion at this point would be a major disservice to both the press and the public. While the personnel tend to share an ideological worldview, most have a personal and professional commitment to the objective presentation of information, a commitment that is not shared by the conservative media. FOX News, The Weekly Standard, National Review, The Washington Times, Drudge, The Washington Examiner, The American Spectator, CNS News, Town Hall, WorldNetDaily, Insight Magazine are all explicitly ideological. FOX makes the bizarre and palpably untrue claim of ideological neutrality, “We Report, You Decide”—a claim it violates so routinely that no one takes it seriously.
While the mainstream media often fail to live up to their own standards, their committed pursuit of neutrality and objectivity is crucial to the quality of American journalism. While the mainstream media often fail to live up to their own standards, their committed pursuit of neutrality and objectivity is crucial to the quality of American journalism. That commitment is the main reason the mainstream press is so intensely sensitive to allegations of bias. The refusal of mainstream media executives to acknowledge the ideological leanings of their staffs has produced a dangerous form of media guilt in which the press leans over so far backward to avoid the charge of left bias that it ends up either neutered or leaning to the right.
On this point, I believe, many in the White House would agree. Edsall then offers a number of solutions to this conundrum. Read it all here.
Finally, my honorable mention for the day goes to Mediaite’s Glynnis MacNicol who found the funniest (and most SEO-friendly) spin for my magazine story: “The White House And Glenn Beck Agree! Mainstream Media Is Failing At Its Job.” Well played, Glynnis. Well played.