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Fair Does Not Have to Mean Balanced

November 3, 2009


Fox News brags that it is “fair and balanced.” You hear it on “The O’Reilly Factor” virtually every night.

Fox should come up with another slogan. Neither Fox News, nor MSNBC for that matter, has any obligation to provide forums for a balanced presentation of opinions from the Left and the Right on their opinion shows.  Yes, journalistic ethics does demand objective, non-ideological news reporting.  But opinion shows such as “The Factor,” “Hannity’s America,” and “Glenn Beck” are just that – opinion shows.  They should reflect the host’s political ideology. Bill O’Reilly in particular should stop trying to prove how fair-minded he is. His lame attempts at even-handedness and tries to distinguish himself from Beck and Hannity are growing tiresome.

The so-called Fairness Doctrine, which the Federal Communications Commission had once imposed on the holders of broadcast licenses to present controversial issues of public importance in a manner that was (in the FCC’s view) honest, equitable and balanced, was eliminated in 1987. Let it stay buried and not come back through the back door as a result of the Obama administration’s intimidation tactics or attempts by the media to stave off government regulation by voluntarily imposing the “fair and balanced” mantra on itself.

Of course, I am not suggesting that lies be presented as facts in order to support an opinion. Nor is there any place for race-baiting. Any host or guest on a show who does anything like that should be called out for it in no uncertain terms.   But so should President Obama, Congresswoman Pelosi, Congressman Frank, Senator Reid, Valerie Jarrett, David Axelrod etc., especially since their lies have real consequences for the American people.

The marketplace of ideas provides its own corrective in this age of the Internet and many hundreds of cable stations. The blogosphere has demonstrated the power of ordinary citizens who keep a watchful eye on the establishment purveyors of mass information, whether the government or the traditional news media, and report what they see as distortions of the truth.  The NewsReal Blog is part of that exchange, and  has plenty of company representing all points along the political spectrum.

Trust the people to use their common sense in choosing the outlets for their information and in evaluating what they read and hear.  As Thomas Jefferson said:

Let common sense and common honesty have fair play, and they will soon set things to rights.

Bernie Goldberg, Fox’s media commentator who appears weekly on “The Factor,” claimed last night that cable TV was causing the intense partisan divide that we are witnessing in the country today.  That is completely wrong. Intense partisanship has played a central role in American political discourse since the founding of the country. Opinions on individualism versus collective responsibility, and less government versus a strong centralized government, were passionately debated among supporters and foes of George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. The media of their time – newspapers and pamphlets in particular – reflected the divide and added fuel to the fire, but the media did not create the conflict.

The same holds true today.  So lets welcome sharp-edged ideological warfare and clash of ideas on the air and on the Internet.  Our democracy will not only survive it but be better for it.

  1. November 3, 2009 9:24 am

    [Trust the people to use their common sense in choosing the outlets for their information and in evaluating what they read and hear. ]

    “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”
    ~ Winston Churchill

    • Joseph Klein permalink
      November 3, 2009 9:29 am

      “Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

      – Winston Churchill

    • In the Know permalink
      November 3, 2009 10:03 am

      “How fortunate for leaders that men do not think.”

      -Adolf Hitler

  2. SanePerson permalink
    November 3, 2009 10:15 am

    I agree that O’Reilly’s attempts to be “objective” are lame. He just seems mealymouthed. But I don’t think FNC should change its slogan. They don’t advocate the fairness doctrine and I never took it to mean that.

  3. Harmon permalink
    November 3, 2009 10:27 am

    Joseph, you may have not noticed, but MSNBC does not purport to be a news station, they are “The Place For Politics.” Both CNN and Fox purport to be news channels. Big difference.

    Obviously, MSNBC has decided that it can’t outfox Fox – remember the Michael Savage debacle several years ago. So they have gone the lefty route in the evening, but they have conservative Morning Joe for 3 hours. In doing so, they have gone from airing PSA’s to advertizing real products and have beaten CNN in primetime.

    • In the Know permalink
      November 3, 2009 10:39 am

      “you may have not noticed, but MSNBC does not purport to be a news station, they are “The Place For Politics.” ”

      Liberal semantics game. If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, it must be a….? Almost as laughable as morning joe being conservative. Compared to MSNBC, Hugo Chavez is conservative; from what I understand. LOL

  4. John Davidson permalink
    November 3, 2009 12:29 pm

    Depending on your present personal situation, everyone seems to be searching for the righteous one to help them overcome some form of oppression, but in the end, they realize the agenda their savior is promoting only benefits the savior.

  5. oldwolves permalink
    November 4, 2009 4:12 am

    Whats the ratio of conservative guest on CBS MSNBC et al… as compared to liberal guest on FOX? After doing a couple of hundred sit-ups I turn to the MSM channels,(You need a strong stomach) , sometimes to see what is happening in wonderland. 95% of the time it’s liberal commentators high fiving each other over some liberal scheme or plot created by the government.

    I remember several times getting angry at FOX because of times when they went nuke on Bush.
    But the one thing I had to give FOX credit for were they had their facts straight. As proof I saw that the left MSM never disputed the facts. They attacked the people who reported the information. I learned a long time ago that when the left attacks personalities that the truth has been told.

  6. Howard Reed, Durhamville, NY permalink
    November 5, 2009 8:41 am

    What makes Fox News so refreshing as the ONLY VIABLE ELECTRONIC NEWS SOURCE out there is their slogans . . . ‘fair and balanced’and ‘We report. You decide.’ The rest are nothing more than clones of Hitlers propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels misinformation ministry.

    I call all of MSM (Mainstream Media) American Pravda, which the more I think about it may be unfair to the old Soviet media propaganda machine that is still in existence in Russia. Pravda, though still the current clone of the old Soviet ruling mentality that is alive and well with the Putin Gang, gets it right on occasion to very seldom with American Pravda.

    Since the current White House resembles the old Soviet political apparatus, it is fair to call a spade a spade when defining their lapdog media. Thank God for the right wing media off set to the MSM Oval Office and Congressional carpet. Fox News and conservative talk radio ratings prove their worth to ‘We the people . . .’ and the rest of the world.

    The Turban Torpedo

  7. Megan permalink
    November 10, 2009 10:33 am

    You are wrong, Mr. Horowitz. And your article is full of propaganda. The Fairness Doctrine crippled many small stations because they were required to give equal time (without compensation to the station) for anyone – yes “ANYONE” – who disagreed with viewpoints expressed. How would any media, let alone a small operation, comply and survive with such a mandate. And now, the current administration wants to outlaw the free speech on the Internet and fine people and on and on. If you think intelligent thinkers are going to buy into your dribble, you’re nuts!


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