fruitless battles against the yenta media

One of the reasons I can’t stand watching 24-hour cable news channels for long is the attempt to present editorialized material as news. Now, I’m not talking about the shows on these channels where you see debates or opinions on issues, but I speak of presenting opinions of events as news (as opposed to the events themselves).

Regarding these channels – I’ll just call them the “big three” – you have:

  • CNN, which I believe is the most moderate of the three, though I’d say it’s slightly left-of-center. I’d say it’s a must-watch for geeks (like myself) – did you see the holographic models they busted out during the 2008 Presidential Election? Quite unnecessary – though I chuckled when they froze for a bit! System Error!
  • Fox News, part of the Newscorp umbrella. In my eyes, the News Corporation is a prime example of media consolidation; last I heard they were looking into a possible stake in NBC. Also, they have many other assets, including the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal, and MySpace – yes, MySpace. Anyway, I believe Fox has an unmistakable right-wing bias; despite this, Fox continues to lead in ratings versus CNN and…
  • MSNBC. Just as people make fun of Fox for its right-wing bias, others make fun of MSNBC for its blatant left-wing bias (some go as far as calling it “BSNBC”). Now, imagine if Newscorp actually did acquire stake in NBC; that would be ironic! Notwithstanding, I voted for Obama in 2008, but even I can’t stand the Obama ass-kissing on this network!

(Don’t get me wrong, each of these three outlets will present news as it happens; I just wish it could be presented without having to filter out the bias. Personally, I prefer the wires.)

That said, let me get to the point of this piece.

I learned through an article that the White House recently assailed Fox News for “waging a war against Barack Obama”.

Among the statements about Fox News by Anita Dunn, White House Communications Director:

It’s opinion journalism masquerading as news.

OK, question #1 – If Fox News is “opinion journalism”, which organizations present factual journalism?

If Mrs. Dunn is referring to organizations that present news without the meaningless shenanigans and vitriol that often plague cable news networks, then one need look no further than the wires. Thing is, even the wires are subject to editorial bias – however implicit – on the part of their journalists.

In all honesty, I get most of my news from the wires to avoid the nonsense presented in cable news. That said, however, Fox News isn’t the only network that spews out nonsense; MSNBC isn’t any more watchable (in my opinion) than Fox is. Believe me, I tried watching MSNBC; last I saw was some debate over President Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize. After about 60 seconds of MSNBC analysts stunting criticism of the award, I had to shut it off. Reason being, I prefer watching objective debate; way too often do debates on cable news shows lose all sense of objectivity.

Mayhap such is the source of this statement from Mrs. Dunn:

…They [Fox] are boosting their audience. But that doesn’t mean we are going to sit back…

This brings me to question #2 – why worry about the ratings?

Now, Fox News continues to lead in ratings as far as the cable news market goes; mayhap the Obama Administration sees this as an increase of support for the Republican platform. However, ratings are hardly a quantifier of substance; trash reality programming, pro wrestling, and such like regularly draws millions of viewers. But why is this?

Is it because, as ridiculous as such things are, they are entertaining to watch?

(Remember, we’re talking Fox News here; for starters, think Glenn Beck and The O’Reilly Factor. They can get ridiculous, but their shows draw high ratings.)

Is it because people gravitate to sensationalism on the telly or in print media? After all, what else could explain many Americans’ interest in what this and that celebrity is wearing and who’s sleeping with who in Hollywood (or anywhere else, for that matter)? Why bother publishing gossip as news?

The answer is very simple: such things command attention; in the case of televised media, it draws ratings. This is the scourge of the yenta media. Style over substance, form over function, scandals and dirty laundry – all designed to tickle ears instead of relaying useful information.

That said, it’s time for question #3 – if Fox News is a Republican propaganda machine designed to denigrate President Obama and his policies, why give them credence by launching a campaign against them? Why legitimize Fox News as a threat when far greater threats abound? If the cats at Fox want to talk crap, let them talk crap; if it amounts to foolishness, then such will hurt Fox’s credibility.

The fact is, when you’re the President of the United States – the leader of the free world, you’re gonna be talked about – for better or worse. This is especially true for President Obama. Given all the obstacles he overcame to become President – debate over his faith, his citizenship, his patriotism, etc, I’m surprised by this anti-Fox campaign.

Furthermore, we are all imperfect beings; given that, criticism of policy or one’s stance on issues is expected. The Obama Administration needs to understand that not all criticism of its policies and proposals is destructive, neither is it all shameless smack-talk. Issues like health-care reform, the economy, and education are critical – people will speak their minds on such since it will likely affect them.

Obama and company should focus on these and other national interests, not waste time dealing with Fox. Methinks they’ll gain little from this episode – except more sensationalist stories about Obama being rattled by the media and losing focus on the real issues.

And that would be a shame.

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