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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Howell Raines Rant

Howell Raines was once king of the media world. He was the executive editor at the New York Times. Then, the Jayson Blair scandal broke and Raines took the fall for lax oversight and questionable hiring and advancement. Raines crawled out of seclusion to take a potshot at Fox News and their coverage of the health care debate in the Washington Post today.

It is true that, after 14 months of Fox's relentless pounding of President Obama's idea of sweeping reform, the latest Gallup poll shows opinion running 48 to 45 percent against the current legislation. Fox invariably stresses such recent dips in support for the legislation, disregarding the majorities in favor of various individual aspects of the reform effort. Along the way, the network has sold a falsified image of the professional standards that developed in American newsrooms and university journalism departments in the last half of the 20th century.

Whatever its shortcomings, journalism under those standards aspired to produce an honest account of social, economic and political events. It bore witness to a world of dynamic change, as opposed to the world of Foxian reality, whose actors are brought on camera to illustrate a preconceived universe as rigid as that of medieval morality. Now, it is precisely our long-held norms that cripple our ability to confront Fox's journalism of perpetual assault. I'm confident that many old-schoolers are too principled to appear on the network, choosing silence over being used; when Fox does trot out a house liberal as a punching bag, the result is a parody of reasoned news formats.

The piece is remarkable on two levels. Folks like Raines show a lot of chutzpah in claiming others are biased. Raines presided over the same New York Times that ran over thirty front page articles on Abu Ghraib. When Air America was about to launch, the New York Times was also as liberal with their coverage of its launch.

Worse yet, Raines was long on obscure words in his piece. He was very short on any evidence or opinion. It appears that according to Raines Fox News is biased because it dared to employ Glenn Beck. Raines goes on and on in condemning Fox News and accusing them of bias but doesn't back it up with any numbers, any examples, or any actual evidence of bias. Given how certain he is, you'd think he could come up with an example or two. He couldn't. Instead, he spewed a plethora of invectives at Fox News and didn't actually explain how he came to his conclusion.


AG said...

How is reporting on Abu Gharaib evidence of bias? Is it just impossible for the Bush Administration to do anything that is universally, objectively, fundamentally wrong?

Have you considered that other networks failure to cover Abu Gharaib as much as NYT did could be evidence of bias?

In any case there's only one real solution to recriminations about bias: critical thinking skills.

mike volpe said...

Coverage is fine but the NYT became obsessed with Abu Ghraib. They had a month where nearly everyday they had a new front page article on it. That's overcoverage.