Dealing with FOX News as a political enemy

Gene Lyons on Salon: "Appearing on CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” the White House’s Dunn made it clear that the Obama administration intends to deal with the network as a political enemy. “We’re going to treat them the way we would treat an opponent,” she subsequently told The New York Times. “As they are undertaking a war against Barack Obama and the White House, we don’t need to pretend that this is the way that legitimate news organizations behave.” {...}

Providentially, the Obama administration appears to grasp that Rupert Murdoch’s minions may inadvertently have done them a big favor. By taking sides so brazenly, Fox has gained audience share at the expense of turning itself into a big fat political target."

Many of the critics of political coverage over the last decade have focused on the the media's obsession with "fairness" and how that leads to false equivalencies. For example, see the story template of "this side says this, and the other side says this," with no discussion about which side is more supported by the facts. It's much easier for a reporter to just chronicle the tennis match without getting into the substance of the issues under consideration. It also is far more defensible under the traditional notions of media ethics.

FOX News has seeded much confusion over their blurring of the lines between journalism (e.g. "Fair and Balanced," "We Report, You Decide") with a much more aggressive form of issue advocacy. While there probably was some level of systemic "liberal bias" in the media through the seventies and eighties, that seems to have balanced out in the nineties and early aught-aughts. Now it seems FOX has dropped the pretense of balance (to wit: no more Hannity and Colmes, now it's just Hannity) and is willing to play the role of pure opposition, which makes the decision about how to respond to them simpler. I think the White House branding them "illegitimate" is a mistake -- there is no illegitimate voice in a debate over policy. But I think viewing FOX as an advocacy organization is a more appropriate treatment than viewing them as a journalism organization.

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