Fox News is anything but fair and balanced

A few years ago, back when the tea party thought it was relevant, Fox News came under fire for drumming up support for tea party rallies.

At any reputable news organization, and particularly those that are so despised by the television and radio shouters, commonly known as the mainstream media, such behavior would have led to one place and one place only: The unemployment line. That’s exactly what should happen to any news man or woman who blatantly takes up a political cause.

But not at Fox News. At Fox, the hugely successful television network that masquerades as a news channel, promoting various right-wing political causes is all in a day’s work. Another part of the day’s work is criticizing news organizations Fox deems are too far to the other side of the spectrum for being exactly what Fox is: Partisans passing themselves off as news organizations.

But they’re not. That’s not to say The New York Times, for example, doesn’t tilt to the left. It does — on its editorial page, where it is clearly labeled as opinion. But its news columns, to the extent that work created by human beings can be, are opinion-free. They tell us what’s happening, and try to put it into some kind of meaningful context.

We can debate all day long whether that’s true, and disbelievers can find examples of where it’s not. Times editors and reporters are prone to err just like the rest of us. But top management at The Times and other mainstream news organizations don’t cultivate a political bias in their newsrooms the way Roger Ailes, the chairman of Fox, does at his network.

It’s hard to keep the players straight at Fox. The line between commentators and straight news people is blurry at best. Sean Hannity, for example, not one known for his objectivity, has interviewed newsmakers (Dick Cheney comes to mind) and they have been aired as straight news interviews. You can imagine the kind of tough questions Cheney got from Sean Hannity.

Apparently it’s all by design. By Ailes’ design.

Ailes, the subject of a less-than-glowing story in Rolling Stone Magazine last week, has been a Republican kingmaker since he hooked up with Richard Nixon in the 1960s.

His handiwork, much of it straight from the dirtiest of gutters, has been a staple in every Republican presidential nominee’s quiver ever since. Remember Willie Horton? He was a creation of Roger Ailes.

It was only natural after Ailes got control of Fox for him to use the network to continue his life’s work of promoting Republican and conservative causes. The old rules of journalism never applied to him. To the contrary, he’d made it clear throughout his career that he wouldn’t play by the old rules, and in fact he’d do everything he could to destroy them.

Ailes, according to Rolling Stone, begins every day by meeting with his on-air talent — the people passing themselves off as nothing more than news people — and filling them in on the day’s talking points. Every morning he tells Fox News staffers not just what stories to report and which ones to ignore, but how to spin them.

Reputable news people would walk out the minute that happened at any real news organization. Deciding what to report is certainly the prerogative of newsroom management. Determining spin is not.

One former Fox staffer who did leave the network when he realized it wasn’t interested in real journalism had this to say about Fox: “It’s a political campaign — a 24/7 political campaign. Nobody has been able to issue talking points to the American public morning after morning, day after day, night after night.” Nobody, that is, until Roger Ailes and Fox came along.

Watch Fox if you must. It’s a popular brand, not just here but just about everywhere in the United States. But remember, it’s not what it says it is. It says it is “fair and balanced.” It is not.

Denny Herzog is the retired executive editor of The Daily Sentinel. E-mail him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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