Voting with the remote

Jacob Weisberg in Newsweek: "Any news organization that took its responsibilities seriously 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...

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... A boycott would make Ailes too happy, so let's try just ignoring Fox, shall we?"

I agree that the best strategy is to ignore. No one wants to compromise free speech -- everyone in the US should be able to say whatever they want. But there's no law that says the rest of us have to pay attention. If Glenn Beck wants to rant endlessly that's his business, but there's no obligation the rest of us have to tune in every day. We need a movement to urge people to vote with their remotes, to choose programming that appeals to the better parts of our nature instead of the lowest common denominators. I don't think this is only FOX, by the way -- by playing into the narrative, MSNBC is reinforcing the problems. I don't think the insipid coverage of CNN is the solution, necessarily. I think there's a place for intelligent, thoughtful news that engages viewers and acknowledges complex realities (I think of the News Hour, but there are other examples as well -- Amanpour also does a good job) ... we need to move past the era of the commentariat and get back to hard news. It's more expensive to produce, yes, but in the end it will be more compelling, and much healthier for our nation.


I think to some extent this de-evolution of cable news was inevitable due to the increasing number of cable TV channels. As the television audience gets more and more splintered between many, many channels, the only way to hold an audience is to cater to a specific niche and give them exactly what they want. In this case, the niche being pandered to is Republicans who desperately want to believe that they are a persecuted minority.
I put Fox News squarely in the same category as fundamentalist religious programming such as The 700 Club (which also used to have "news" reports during its broadcasts). If people want to watch Fox that's fine, but they shouldn't delude themselves that it's anything other than blatant right wing propaganda. I think Obama and his advisors are absolutely doing the right thing to stay far away.
That being said, I get almost no news from TV these days. Most of my news comes from either NPR, or online from a combination of news wires and specialized blogs such as for politics.

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