Monday, October 19, 2009


Jacob Weisberg is tired of the "phony debate" over Fox News's bias:
There is no longer any need to get bogged down in this phony debate, which itself constitutes an abuse of the fair-mindedness of the rest of the media. One glance at Fox's Web site or five minutes randomly viewing the channel at any hour of the day demonstrates its all-pervasive political slant. [...] What's most distinctive about the American press is not its freedom but its tradition of independence—that it serves the public interest rather than those of parties, persuasions, or pressure groups. Media independence is a 20th-century innovation that has never fully taken root in Europe or many other countries that do have free press. The Australian-British-continental model of politicized media that Murdoch has implemented at Fox is un-American, so much so that he has little choice but go on denying what he's doing as he does it. For Murdoch, Ailes, and company, "fair and balanced" is a necessary lie. To admit that their coverage is slanted by design would violate the American understanding of the media's role in democracy and our idea of what constitutes journalistic fair play. But it's a demonstrable deceit that no longer deserves equal time.
I don't have much to add to this except to say that it's dead-on, and the whole piece is worth reading. The "Murdoch Model" of openly-biased newspapers was one of the things that bothered me most about English media and political culture. Of course, it's fashionable to claim that such a system is simply more straightforward; that American newspapers are biased, but they're just not open about it.

I think that's an oversimplification. I'm not naive enough to suggest that the major newspapers are completely unbiased, but it is true that most of the time, the professional journalists who work at those newspapers are trying to present a story as accurately as possible. Whatever political slant ends up in the story is usually in spite of, not because of, the journalist's intent. With Fox, it's just the opposite. (Of course, Jon Stewart is all over this.)

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