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Look Who's Biased

Reported by Judy - August 4, 2004 -

Perhaps feeling a bit uneasy about the unfavorable attention focused on it as a result of the movie Outfoxed, Fox and Friends today (August 4) revived the old conservative rally cry, "The press is all liberal!"

Brian Kilmeade promoted the piece (8 a.m. EDT) saying, "There's the perception that the news media is biased." Steve Doocy (8:27 a.m. EDT) interviewed Bernard Goldberg, former CBS employee and author of Arrogance: Rescuing America from the Media Elite, about an "informal poll" of Washington, D.C., reporters which showed reporters favored John Kerry over George Bush by a 12-1 margin. Nationwide, Doocy said, reporters favor Kerry 3-1.

Goldberg said he was "shocked" that reporters continue to answer that question "honestly." Then he tried to link the "poll" results to unsavory dictators, saying the only people who get 92 percent of the vote are Fidel Castro and Saddam Hussein. While he said he doesn't think there is a "media conspiracy" in which editors gather every morning and discuss how to distort the news, he said the alleged concentration of liberals in the media promotes "group think." Reporters may try to be fair, but they "are only human" and if they are able to keep their biases out of their work, they are the only people in the world who can do so, he said.

Obvious criticisms are that Fox and Friends did not indicate how many reporters were asked, how the sample was selected, and even how the question was phrased. But there is more to the incident than that.

The "poll" results allowed Fox and Friends co-hosts to state their own biases within their questions. Doocy raised the issue that "a lot of them had an agenda" or an axe to grind. Goldberg disagreed, saying reporters would run over their own "liberal grandmothers" to get a story (or advance their careers, as he put it) so they will likely not favor Kerry in their coverage. While Goldberg disagreed with Doocy's "question," Doocy was able to implant the notion in viewers' minds.

More importantly, however, the segment purports to show a liberal bias in the media without doing that at all. There was no discussion of editors' and publishers' views, editorial endorsements by newspapers (which tend to lean Republican), or any analysis of content. The "poll" results show how some reporters think, but not what they do as reporters. It was not an analysis of the work they produce. Showing that would take a lot more work and Fox didn't bother to do that. Goldberg's assertions of "group think" are not evidence of anything.

Fox has tried to defend itself against charges of a Republican bias by pointing out it has liberal commentators. A scene in Outfoxed features Rupert Murdoch making that statement before Congress. He doesn't get it. Fairness is not a matter of how many liberals and conservatives work for a news organization. Fairness lies in the work they produce. That was the unqiue contribution of Outfoxed. The internal memos show Fox News' intent to slant the news in favor of Republicans and then shows how employees followed their orders, even as they continued to proclaim the network "fair and balanced." The movie concentrates on what Fox does, not on counting liberals and conservatives.

Ironically, Goldberg's assertion that editors do not gather to discuss how to slant the news conjured up images of the Fox memos. His message was that mainstream media don't do that. We know Fox does.