>Is FOX News “un-American?”

>Jacob Weisberg makes this argument in an online blog that appeared on Oct. 17. Weisberg argues that, in light of the Obama administration’s criticism of the cable news network, real news organizations would “take  pains to cover presidential criticism fairly. It would regard doing so as itself a test of integrity.”

At Fox, by contrast, complaints of unfairness prompt only hoots of derision and demands for “evidence” that, when presented, is brushed off and ignored.

Weisberg further argues that FOX has become more “boisterous and demagogic.” He also cites its overt support of the Tea Party Protests, its use of Karl Rove as a source to “fact-check” Obama’s health care proposals, Glenn Becks “Strangelovean concern” about the direction of the government. 

But here’s the nut graph of Weisberg’s argument:

That Rupert Murdoch may tilt the news rightward more for commercial than ideological reasons is beside the point. What matters is the way that Fox’s model has invaded the bloodstream of the American media. By showing that ideologically distorted news can drive ratings, Ailes has provoked his rivals at CNN and MSNBC to develop a variety of populist and ideological takes on the news. In this way, Fox hasn’t just corrupted its own coverage. Its example has made all of cable news unpleasant and unreliable.

What’s most distinctive about the American press is not its freedom but its century-old tradition of independence—that it serves the public interest rather than those of parties, persuasions, or pressure groups. Media independence is a 20th-century innovation that has never fully taken root in many other countries that do have a free press. The Australian-British-continental model of politicized media that Murdoch has applied at Fox is un-American, so much so that he has little choice but go on denying what he’s doing as he does it. For Murdoch, Ailes, and company, “fair and balanced” is a necessary lie. To admit that their coverage is slanted by design would violate the American understanding of the media’s role in democracy and our idea of what constitutes fair play. But it’s a demonstrable deceit that no longer deserves equal time.

He further argues that journalists, politicians and pundits who continue to appear on the network subconsciously promote FOX’s propaganda, undermines legitimate news organizatins and any “respectable” journalist should stop appearing on its programming. 

I think what makes this argument interesting is that it doesn’t continue to beat the dead horse of FOX News is slanted right in its coverage. The argument that it’s adaptation of the British-Australian models of politicized news sources is inherently “un-American” is one that any viewer of FOX should pay attention to.

To FOX’s credit, the new channel is completely independent by the government whereas the British Broadcasting Corporation, known as the BBC, is funded by a license fee each household in the UK contributes to. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation is financed by the federal government. So, FOX does have differences to the the major components of the British-Australian model of media.

However, one can not overlook FOX’s politicization of the news. There is no need for me to re-list some of the channel’s offenses. Any avid news and political junkie or anyone with a brain can think of at least one instance in which FOX has tainted it’s “fair and balanced” coverage with the opinions of its “journalists.”

It seems odd that a network that likes to brand itself of being independent of the traditional, liberal media and a network proudly uses the American flag as part of its graphics would be an industry stand out in its co-opting of foreign media models. While I’m concerned with the affect this slant right-ward is having on FOX follower’s psyche, I’m more worried about the influence it’s having on the cable news media.

To counteract FOX’s line up with angry, conservative white males, MSNBC has a left-wing all-star lineup of stars such as Ed Schultz, Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow (which, I must add, doesn’t do much to counteract the network of white men and the token hot blonde). CNN, in a battle to appeal to those who have questions, but still haven’t committed to the angry white male party, has Lou Dobbs as its champion of those pragmatic, center-right folks who are fed up with the influx of brown people into this country. Also, the use of no-nonsense, center-brain pundit Jack Cafferty is also used to lure in those moderates who don’t know which side to join.

This pandering by these news channels to both sides of the political spectrum forces me to speculate about what the Murdoch affect has done to the state of cable news. Lost in the battle for the biggest audiences is reporting unbiased, factual news to the public. The race to finish first on cable news channels (as well as other forms of media) seriously compromises the quality of reporting viewers deserve. Viewers are left in a whirlwind of misinformation, slanted coverage of events and essential, lingering questions about the actual story.

So, what do you think? Is FOX News “un-American?” Has FOX’s “un-American” approach to covering politics and other news stories tainted the cable news media?