The national embarrassment to honest journalism that is Fox News continues to contaminate our country’s airwaves with false and misleading information designed to promote a conservative Republican agenda and to demonize Democrats and progressives. Almost a year ago I wrote an article that asked the question: “Who’s Afraid Of Fox News?” My answer was: “The Rest Of The Media!” It was an examination of how Fox aggressively attacked their competitors and how their competitors simply rolled over, apparently afraid to fight back. Now, a year later, not much has changed.
Sure, there have been a few disjointed, lucid moments. For instance, Rick Sanchez of CNN, who called out Fox for a thoroughly dishonest report that claimed that no one but Fox covered a Tea Bagger event in Washington. However, not only did CNN cover it, Fox used photos from CNN’s coverage to make their false claim that there wasn’t any coverage. Another example was when former White House Communications Director, Anita Dunn, honestly told Howard Kurtz that Fox News operates as “the communications arm of the Republican Party.” Her remarks were seconded by Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod. It was a promising trend.
But overall, there is still a deafening silence from most of the press. They still seem to be skittish and reluctant to offend the mighty Fox. That is, when they aren’t trying to emulate it. One voice that has arisen is that of Howell Raines, the former executive editor of the New York Times. He has written an op-ed for the Washington Post that is far more insightful and combative than anything he produced when he was at the Times. The article asks some questions that ought to have been asked long ago by every member of the media who values journalistic integrity:
Why don’t honest journalists take on Roger Ailes and Fox News?
Why haven’t America’s old-school news organizations blown the whistle on Roger Ailes, chief of Fox News, for using the network to conduct a propaganda campaign against the Obama administration — a campaign without precedent in our modern political history?
Why has our profession, through its general silence — or only spasmodic protest — helped Fox legitimize a style of journalism that is dishonest in its intellectual process, untrustworthy in its conclusions and biased in its gestalt?
Why can’t American journalists steeped in the traditional values of their profession be loud and candid about the fact that Murdoch does not belong to our team?
Why indeed? And why has it taken so long to ask these questions? And why aren’t all of Raines’ colleagues signing on to his rebuke of Fox, Murdoch, and Ailes? It shouldn’t take much courage for responsible journalists to defend their honor, but courage is in short supply in today’s press corps.
The sooner the rest of the media come to grips with the fact that Fox is NOT a news organization, the sooner they themselves can return to the business of news. Fox is in an entirely different category. It is a hybrid entertainment/soap opera/televangelist network. It is just as unnecessary for the media to worry about competition from Fox as it is to worry about competition from Nickelodeon (which, ironically, is a better source for news than Fox, and plays to a smarter audience).
It will be interesting to see if the questions Raines raises are taken up by others. And more importantly, will they provide answers? American media is in dire condition, and part of the reason is that news consumers do not perceive value in the product. That is going to have to change before things improve. And the most fruitful change would be to start behaving as real journalists and not tabloid sensationalists. In other words, abandon the Fox model and expose it for the phony, divisive, disinformation factory that it is. Of course, that would take real reporting and, at present, there is precious little of that in evidence.