Tuesday, October 21, 2008

What Shall We Do With the Media?

The media has always had a somewhat liberal bias, no doubt because the people who are attracted to journalism are somehow predisposed to be liberal. That's unfortunate but things worked out OK as long as the journalists were fairly diligent in rooting out their own biases and the conservative establishment did a reasonably good job of exposing the more egregious failures of impartiality.

Then came Fox News.

Now, I really don't have anything against Fox News. First of all, a network with a conservative bias seems like a really good marketing idea. And a network to offset the other networks' liberal bias seems like a pretty good idea at first blush. But it's really a disaster.

The impartiality of the media has always been at best metastable. It required constant attention to standards and practices to keep it objective. Fox News didn't do that; their target audience wanted a conservative slant and Fox gave it to them, with only the slightest nod to objective standards. Furthermore, Fox was the first outlet to discover that punditry could be fun--and much cheaper than gathering actual news.

The problem with this is that it took the rest of the media off the hook. Once Fox adopted a point of view, other networks and newspapers had to adopt one to compete. Unfortunately, few of them were as clever as Fox. They just stopped enforcing standards and practices, told their correspondents to be more interesting, and let 'em rip. Since the vast majority of those correspondents were liberal, we got a media noticeably more slanted to the left.

This is how we get no serious Ayres investigations, no serious ACORN reporting. This is how we get a series of excoriating Palin stories and nothing on Biden. This is how we get no serious policy analysis of Obama's ludicrous tax and health care plans while every inconsistency in McCain's plans is poured over in loving detail. This is how we get no coverage of the John Edwards follies until it's too late to matter. This is how we get MSNBC.

Please note: I'm not saying that Obama is going to win because of the media. I'm saying that the media has done us a huge disservice by adopting a frivilous point of view in order to compete. This is extremely troubling. Things really don't work very well without objective reporting. Somebody needs to figure out how to have good ratings/circulation while still imparting high quality facts and considerably less opinion.

No comments: