Fair & providing balance

Here’s an amazing piece from San Francisco, of all places in the Chronicle, in which Debra J. Saunders makes precisely the point to be made about Fox News:

AS FOX NEWS celebrates its 10-year anniversary, media watchers should appreciate how Fox, which tilts right, has provided balance to major new operations such as CNN and the New York Times, which tilt left.

Many tilt without knowing it.

Go to most newsrooms and you'll find a staff that overwhelmingly voted for John Kerry in 2004, while the rest keep their politics to themselves lest they be considered biased. A survey of the Washington press corps found that 89 percent voted for Bill Clinton in 1992. It's true, most reporters do their level best to tell a story straight and present both sides. To use Fox-speak, most reporters I know strive to be "fair and balanced."

But they can't escape the presumptions that underlie their stories, and they are likely not to notice the presumptions when all the newsroom management thinks alike. That's how illegal immigrants became "undocumented workers" and global warming became a certainty. (Italics added)

It’s the old one about what one fish said to the other: “What water?”

The worst of it is: They have no idea that they're biased. They think their positions are neutral.

And they say Fox is the biased one.

Do I like everything on Fox? No. I hit the remote when feuding talking heads are spouting prefab talking points and I can get a real news story on CNN. (Other times, I turn to Fox to escape the same on CNN.) I also turn to Fox because its coverage on the war in Iraq takes the longer view, and its coverage on intelligence eavesdropping does not read like an ACLU press release.

As for the Chris Wallace-Bill Clinton dustup:

Bill Clinton berated . . . Wallace for a "nice conservative little hit job" -- just because Wallace asked Clinton a question. In a respectful tone, Wallace told Clinton that Fox viewers wanted him to ask why the former president had not done more to stop Osama bin Laden.

A Bubba tirade followed, when an answer would have worked fine.

As Wallace told the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz, the surprising thing was that he (Wallace) was the only TV interviewer among many to ask Clinton that question, even though Clinton had been complaining about an ABC miniseries that faulted his handling of bin Laden. It is amazing no one else asked. It goes to show that Fox News keeps American media fair and balanced.

It was as if Wallace broke the rules and Clinton had to hit back (even threatening jobs as he left the studio).

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