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A Good Point

The Pensacola News Journal has an op-ed piece by a local attorney who occasionally appears on television as a liberal talking head: Papantonio: ABC, NBC, CBS much worse than Fox News.

His basic point is that Fox doesn’t attempt to hide what it represents, but the broadcast networks refuse to admit their underlying biases.

This goes back to a point I’ve made several times: during the majority of the history of the United States the media were openly partisan. There are a large number of newspapers in this country that include Democrat or Republican in their name, clearly identifying their partisan roots. It has only been since World War II and the conglomeration of the media that an attempt was made to appear “fair and balanced”. Much of this was driven by the “Fairness Doctrine” imposed on broadcast television.

The public would be better served if the media openly announced their bias, so people could make up their own minds as to how to judge the reporting.


1 John McKay { 09.30.09 at 3:29 pm }

When that was common, it was also common for most cities or even large towns to have several daily papers. You could choose between the Democratic paper, the Republican paper, the Socialist paper, the company paper, or the Mugwump paper. Today most towns have only one paper and even that might be controlled by a national corporation. It’s pretty easy to see where the political biases of the editorial page lie, but it’s much harder to figure out the economic interests that the paper might be advancing or protecting. In addition, Fox is completely one sided in its bias toward the Republican Party, none of the other parties even approaches its function as a party mouthpiece.

On the other hand I would love to see ABC try to define their biases. Politically they represent a king of gutless centrism and economical they are owned by Disney. Over all, they endorse a kind of feel-good consensus with reality shows. CBS is about the same, while NBC is all over the place with its main branch pandering to the lowest common denominator in culture, MSNBC branch somewhat to the political left, and its CNBC branch far to the economic right.

2 Comrade Kevin { 09.30.09 at 3:32 pm }

Fox goes well beyond objective reporting and ends up childishly chiding opponents like a puerile propaganda machine. While other networks hide their biases, they at least conduct themselves like adults.
.-= last blog ..Does Intellectual Discourse Influence the Health Care Debate? =-.

3 Bryan { 09.30.09 at 4:06 pm }

Other than the Gannett paper, the News Journal, every other newspaper on the Panhandle is own by an Orange County, California corporation that just went belly up. The problem was conglomeration, generally financed by debt, which is why they are dropping like flies all over the country.

The biggest problem on the left is the refusal to fund media outlets. The rightwingers have been buying up newspapers and other media for decades, but the left has just ignored the resource.

The broadcast networks are owned by conglomerates, and the news is another programming time slot, no different than any other sitcom. It’s too bad they couldn’t have at least tried for a reality show format, but the “talent” was better suited to a sitcom.

It was the standard corporate attack in most markets, John – under-price and destroy the competition, then buy up what was left. That’s how the evening papers died. The corporations bought the morning paper and operated at a loss until they drove the competition out of business. Pretty standard tactic.

CK, that’s my point, you know Fox is trash, so you can ignore them. With the others, you have to waste time figuring out if anything is true. Fox isn’t nearly as good at propaganda as the Soviets, and the Soviets were a joke. No one has ever come close to the quality of propaganda that the Nazis produced. If you look at what they convinced seemingly normal people to believe, it really is amazing on many levels. Just be happy that Fox isn’t that skilled, although they try.

4 Badtux { 09.30.09 at 11:01 pm }

For an example of how it is done in a democracy, look at the British press. They wear their biases on their labels. You know that The Independent is going to be fashionably socialist, The Times is going to be conservatively conservative, The Guardian is going to be reliably liberal, and so on and so forth. Once you know where their biases are, you can apply a Venn Diagram to find the intersection of where all these papers agree, and there may lie truth.

The U.S. press, on the other hand… they pretend to be unbiased, but what that really means is, “we serve as uncritical stenographers for right-wing propagandists and/or government officials”. Their notion of proper reporting is properly transcribing the words being dictated to them so that those words are faithfully “reported” in the next day’s puppy trainer. Fox is different because they came out of the British/Australian tradition and only barely pretend, it’s easy to see where they’re coming from with just a glance. In that way, they’re actually more faithful to the Anglo-Saxon tradition of the press than the bloodless stenographers.

But anyhow, I wrote about this same issue a couple of years ago on my own blog. Glad to know someone who isn’t a penguin finally noticed what I noticed way back then :).

— Badtux the Observant Penguin

5 Bryan { 10.01.09 at 4:19 pm }

I have written and commented on it before, but I’m old enough to remember when newspapers were openly partisan. Then the conglomeration started and managed to preserve the worst elements of the merged papers.

So now the local TV station is owned by Sinclair, the radio stations by a Clear Channel wannabe, and the newspaper by an Orange County, CA libertarian whacko, all of whom are in financial difficulties. Naturally, they are all declared to be part of the liberal media.

The media would be a lot better off just sticking with the facts, because they are going to be criticized regardless, and it is a lot easier to defend the truth in court.