Sunday, October 18, 2009
Fox News Guilty of Journalism; This Annoys White House
Fox Stands Out Among News Outlets
In a CNN interview, White House Communications Director Anita Dunn pointed out that Fox News story selection differed significantly from that of CNN, the major broadcast networks and other cable channels. This was done in order to support her contention that Fox News is not a legitimate news organization, but a de facto arm of the Republican Party.
Anyone who’s been paying attention since Barack Obama became a candidate for president could hardly miss the fact that the mainstream media has protected, promoted, covered for, and even idolized him. This is scarcely debatable. Fox News has not. Their coverage of Obama and political stories has differed from the others because they wanted to cover items the others either did not cover or did so in such a manner as to put a positive spin on items that might be seen as critical of Obama, and minimize the airtime devoted to such items.
Fox News doesn’t get much respect from the White House, or mainstream media outlets, because (1) they are not invested in the political success of Obama or his opponents, and (2) they do not ridicule people who have a conservative viewpoint. Conservative opposition to Obama is viewed by the MSM as “divisive,” and basically ill-informed and in need of guidance from themselves.
In political things Obama-related, Fox is representative of actual journalism, while political journalism in the mainstream media has seemingly become dormant. It is Fox that reported adequately on Obama’s connections with Bill Ayers, Jeremiah Wright and other radicals. Not that the others didn’t report, but they made it clear that there was no cause for concern, in their view; similarly with Obama’s radical, Marxist and Marxist-leaning “czars” who don’t mind exerting their power to take away normal freedoms – such as the right of a business to pay their employees as they have agreed to. Fox reported these items in their news segments, and they were fairly heavily covered in Fox’s opinion shows with Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, etc.
On the issue of “health care reform,” for example, Fox News gave attention to the fact that many Americans oppose Obamacare, covering the tea parties, town halls and march on Washington. The MSM outlets devoted much less airtime and attention to these phenomena and gave more emphasis to their “divisive” and occasionally unruly aspects. Nor did Fox neglect critics of the events or controversies involving them. As for the issue itself, the MSM seems to start with the premise that socialized healthcare is a good idea for America, while most Americans won’t accept this without strong persuasion.
The Role of the Media
Media, by and large should have a thorough understanding and a deep appreciation for our Constitution, particularly the First Amendment protections. Traditionally, newspapers and other media have served as a watchdog over government abuses and corruption, and an advocate and protector of the people. Today, this role is much more often fulfilled in consumer matters and local politics than national political matters.
From an August 2000 article at the Australian Press Council website:
“Fleet Street  genius Sol Chandler put it this way: ‘The oldest rule of journalism, and the most forgotten, is to tell the customers what is really going on.’ If it is forgotten, it is because exposure journalism is quite impossible for all but the most financially secure media organisations.
“The reasons lie in the Eighteenth Century. Modern journalism, invented by Defoe in 1704, became what [Press Historian Francis] Williams calls ‘a weapon of freedom, a sword in the hands of those fighting old or new tyrannies, the one indispensable piece of ordnance in the armoury of democracy….’
“[Eighteenth Century British] Judges sent many honest soldiers for truth to prison during the long (and largely unsuccessful) struggle for free speech and democracy. Williams says the privations they endured impose the same obligations on all who come after: to report honestly, to comment fearlessly, and to hold fast to independence.” 
This is pointed out only to illustrate that free-press journalism has a rich heritage of an international struggle for freedom that imposes serious responsibilities.
Point and Counterpoint
The White House has excluded Fox News from some events and has hinted at further steps along this line. News organizations have sometimes been known to go out of their way to avoid offending their government sources, so as to preserve access. But what’s the point of having access if you can’t freely report the facts? But presumably, Fox won’t be denied access, they’ll simply find that the White House will “hit back” (twice as hard?). This does not appear to frighten Fox.
To their credit, Fox has responded appropriately (I think) to the criticism. Chris Wallace called the White House group a bunch of “crybabies,” and that got under their skin even further. To which I say, in the words of Harry Truman, “If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.”
Two sides of the issue, first from Anita Dunn on CNN, then Neil Cavuto on Fox:
A few things are clear from this:
1. Barack Obama and his White House staff are thin-skinned.
2. Obama’s staff includes people like Dunn and “czars” who are admirers of Communist leaders like Mao Tse-Tung and Marxists like Hugo Chavez, dictators who have not hesitated to shut down media outlets that disagreed with them. Presumably Obama shares some of these characteristics. Liberals often have not hesitated to go after critics and try to silence them, rather than engage on issues with them. We saw this in some of the town hall meetings in August. We have heard in the pronouncements of people like the FCC’s “Diversity Czar” Mark Lloyd. What stands between us and the loss our freedom of speech and freedom of the press is not so much the ethics of government as the First Amendment itself. And these days, that may not be entirely secure.
3. The warning about investigative journalism needing to be backed by financial resources is very appropriate today. Fox News has a billionaire owner. One hopes he will not be moved to change Fox News on account of White House pressure. If Fox stays in the White House crosshairs, they might expect some form of further retaliation.
Fox News has practiced actual journalism in both news reporting and opinion that deserves respect. For not being coddlers of the president, they are on his bad list.
 Formerly known as the home of the British press, though that is not the case nowadays.
 Evan Whitton, “In Function of the Press,” Australian Press Council News, August 2000, at http://www.presscouncil.org.au/pcsite/apcnews/aug00/whitton.html