Let’s face it – we live in a time of 24-hour news programming that seems pretty much incapable of complete objectivity. What irritates me though is the way FOX News Channel tends to be plucked out from the rest as ideologically driven, while other channels are left alone, implying that they are not. Hogwash.
For several years I didn’t have cable television, so I couldn’t rightfully formulate an opinion on the matter. But I come now, fully equipped, with a verdict on the ideological make-up of our most influential news sources.
In general, I don’t think that there is an overwhelming bias in either direction. There are a lot of voices on both sides of the debate, although news outlets and especially the entertainment industry (whose opinions are given significant media attention) lean left. That said, here are some things to consider:
1. As the chart below shows, journalists in America are further left than the general public. As such, it can be expected that their observations and reports are put through an ideological filter. Not always, but to some degree. Complete objectivity is nearly impossible. (chart from journalism.org)
2. Is FOX News really that conservative or are they just responding to what viewers want to hear? I hop around to all the major news programs, but FOX tends to highlight the stories that I want to hear and ask the questions that I want to know. When a segment focuses on anti-Obama protests I want to hear what they are saying and why. If another station isn’t going to provide that info, or if I feel that they are not providing it comprehensively, I will go back to FOX. The fact that their ratings are leaps and bounds above the rest tells me that a lot of people feel the same way.
3. The assumption that other cable news shows are not biased is a naive one. Take for example a couple of clips – one from CNN, the other from MSNBC.
The first is a ridiculous segment where CNN spends nearly 4 minutes telling us why the SNL skit criticizing Obama was a misrepresentation of facts. Really? Where are the segments about John Stewart, Stephen Colbert, or other anti-[insert republican] skits and satirical remarks? We can let those slide – they’re funny, no matter how absurd and untrue. But suddenly, when Obama is in the hot seat, there is a concern over the accuracy of political humor.
Second, we have MSNBC’s Dylan Ratigan saying that Republicans want half of America to die if it will take down Obama. I can’t embed the video, so you’ll have to click the link:
4. We should understand the difference between news and punditry. Because of 24-hr programming there is a lot of time to fill, and not always enough interesting news to fill it with. Analysis and opinions provide a nice complementary service to people seeking a better understanding of current news. This, however, is where the real controversy begins. Interpreting news and giving opinions is inherently biased. It would be preferred that programs provide all views on a given subject… but that brings us back to square one.