Bill Keller, the former executive editor of The New York Times – and a frequent Fox News target – wrote a scathing editorial about Roger Ailes and Fox News. Finally, a mainstream journalist not only gets exactly what’s wrong with Fox but is able to express it in perfect prose.
There are so many nuggets in the piece, I can’t reprint them all here and still feel confident I’m on the right side of the copyright laws. But starting with the title, Murdoch’s Pride Is America’s Poison, here are a few of the most golden ones:
Partisan journalism, while not my thing, has a long tradition. Though I do wonder if the folks at Fox appreciate that this genre is more European than American.
My complaint is that Fox pretends very hard to be something it is not, and in the process contributes to the corrosive cynicism that has polarized our public discourse.
I doubt that people at Fox News really believe their programming is “fair and balanced” — that’s just a slogan for the suckers — but they probably are convinced that what they have created is the conservative counterweight to a media elite long marinated in liberal bias. They believe that they are doing exactly what other serious news organizations do; they just do it for an audience that had been left out before Fox came along.
…Traditional news organizations, for all their shortcomings, see it as their mission to provide — and test — the information you need to form intelligent opinions. We aim to challenge lazy assumptions. Fox panders to them.
Keller goes on to talk about three forthcoming biographies of Roger Ailes and how Ailes is trying to use the same toxic tactics he uses in cable news to manipulate what will be said about him in the books.
But Keller also suggests that the one biography Ailes is doing his best to sabotage, from New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman, is also the one that will do the best job of getting the story and getting it right.
Sherman’s work is densely reported and not innuendo-laden or agenda-driven. (He has written a fair amount about The Times, and pulled no punches.) He may be 32, but he’s old-school.
Whether Sherman will prevail against the Ailes' Goliath remains to be seen. But Sherman is no pushover and I’ll bet there will be lots of people rooting for him.
Journalism as a whole only became relatively neutral or non-partisan after WWII (the McCarthy era notwithstanding) and didn’t really change until the late 1980s after the Reagan Administration abolished the Fairness Doctrine, when extreme right-wingers became freer to get their views out through radio and television stations without the “unnecesary” restriction of requiring a “balance” be presented on what was broadcast (ie, a station that promoted a bill requiring looser controls for handgun ownership was previously required to permit someone opposing that bill; without the Fairness Doctrine, the station could now have dozens of people supporting looser handgun ownership and not let a single voice of opposition be heard).
So, basically, that “non-partisan” journalism thrived for about 40 years. (And wasn’t it about a decade ago when the Times was one of the backers of that whole “George and Dick’s Funtime in Iraq” story? And wasn’t the Times right there attacking the people who opposed that little adventure and piling in on calling them “traitors”? When exactly did the Times return to being “neutral”?)
I wonder if Fox and it’s loyal viewers ever consider this whenever they rail about “European Socialism” . . .