Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Difference Between a Bias and a Slant.

One of the repeated justifications of networks like Fox and most of the A.M. talk show circuit for their continued lean towards the Right is that the rest of the media in the country is tilted towards the Left, and all they’re doing is bringing balance to the political landscape. It’s a convenient argument, but it’s also hogwash.

For one thing, even if you grant the ridiculous assertion that all of the mainstream media has a liberal bias, which I don’t – if anything I feel the mainstream media has been lame at best and derelict at worst – the bias if it exists at all is small in comparison to what occurs on a daily basis on Fox and on conservative radio talk-shows. Sorry, you don’t get to lean all the way to four o’clock on your dial, while the rest of the media is holding at 11:30, and call that fair and balanced.

Secondly, and here is where it gets interesting, there is a stark difference between a bias and an outright slant. If we start with the premise that the objective truth as we know it does not exist, then we are left with the inescapable conclusion that the subjective truth is all that remains. Put succinctly, all of us are the benefactors of our upbringing and personal experiences. Collectively they form the basis for our beliefs and biases, be they liberal or conservative. It would be impossible not to take those beliefs and biases with us to our workplace, even if that workplace happens to be a news room.

But, regardless of personal biases, a professional reporter or news anchor is supposed to rise above whatever baggage he or she has and leave it outside the newsroom where it has no place. And that is where the line between Fox and the rest of the media gets blurred. For even if one agrees that a liberal bias exists within the mainstream media, the simple truth is that most of the “reporting” that goes on at Fox, et al, is not only bias towards the Right, it borders on outright fraud. It is one thing to be sympathetic to conservative views, it is quite another to manufacture news that exactly mirrors conservative talking points. And that is the difference between a bias and a slant.

Witness last year’s Tea Party rallies. Every major network within the mainstream media from CNN to NBC to ABC to CBS reported on the phenomenon. All did a pretty credible job attempting to ascertain the political impact this movement was having within the country. If anything, the major networks spent a little too much time reporting on them, perhaps not wanting to be seen as dismissive. Over at Fox, however, they were practically giddy with glee over the Tea Party movement. In fact it became their number one story for the entire summer. At one rally, a Fox correspondent was seen actively cheering on the crowd.

Interviews, like the one on Fox and Friends where Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle was thrown a series of softball questions – some so grossly flagrant Angle herself had to correct them – underscore the problem here. Even when it attempts to act like a news organization, Fox can’t resist the urge to bend over backwards to show its true colors.

If Fox was in deed a legitimate news organization, if it in deed was interested in a fair and balanced approach to reporting the news – as it advertises itself as being – then it would dispense with its clear and deliberate assaults on journalistic integrity, fire its phony “news” anchors and correspondents and replace them with professionals whose sole responsibility would be to be as honest and transparent with the day’s events as possible, and to ask probative questions of all the guests who appear on their network, regardless of political affiliation.

Such a network would be a role model for the rest of the media; a network worthy of copying. Such a network would truly be fair and balanced.

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