In his interview with me about South Park Conservatives, Brian Anderson said:
Where the Right does still come up short in the news media is in its resources to report. The elite media have the power to send out squadrons of reporters to investigate, say, Tom Delay but not Kofi Annan and UN corruption, and that can still shape the public’s perception of what’s newsworthy, still can provide a narrative to the flux of events and issues.
That’s why Fox News has been so influential–and so despised and feared by many liberals. As the conservative media critic Tim Graham put it to me, Fox arrived as a major professional news organization with the capacity to define the news as something other than what the elite consensus says it is. So the Swift Boat Veterans’ charges deserved investigation; so Richard Clarke’s conflicting views on the Bush administration’s approach to fighting terror were relevant to assessing his credibility; so the troubles with our efforts in Iraq needed to be balanced against the real successes. Before Fox, nothing like this existed.
In the Washington Post, William Raspberry backhandedly confirms Anderson’s take:
The in-your-face right-wing partisanship that marks Fox News Channel’s news broadcasts is having two dangerous effects.
The first is that the popularity of the approach — Fox is clobbering its direct competition (CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, etc.) — leads other cable broadcasters to mimic it, which in turn debases the quality of the news available to that segment of the TV audience.
The second, far more dangerous, effect is that it threatens to destroy public confidence in all news.
The latter, I admit, is more fear than prediction, but let me tell you what produces that fear. Fox News Channel — though the people who run the operation are at great pains to insist otherwise — is deliberately partisan.
Orrin Judd amends Raspberry’s last sentence:
He means openly, not deliberately. People trust Fox more precisely because it announces its biases–like thinking America should prevail in the war or that Palestinian bombers are terrorists–than they do the MSM outlets that pretend they’re nonpartisan, lying either to themselves, to us, or both.
As Jonah Goldberg wrote last May:
Fox News offers a lesson here. I know the network’s detractors think it’s a right-wing propaganda factory. And, I certainly agree that much of Fox’s programming is conservative (though liberals’ sudden concern with ideologically loaded coverage is ironic). But at least one of the things that has made Fox News successful isn’t that it’s right-wing, it is that it’s populist.
This is an important distinction. From the beginning, Fox anchors weren’t ashamed to wear American flags on their lapels. They aren’t afraid to refer to American troops as “our brave fighting men and women” or some such. They aren’t terrified that they will lose their objectivity merit badges if they sound like they hope America wins.
If Fox goes overboard sometimes, it’s only compared to a new standard Ernie Pyle wouldn’t recognize.
Of course, especially after last year’s election coverage, and after 9/11, Raspberry must be one of the few newsmen left who hasn’t gotten the memo that it’s OK for journalists to admit that everyone’s biased in one way or another.
Update: Betsy Newmark also has some thoughts:
How could [Raspberry] be so dense as not to recognize that FNC is succeeding because there already was that perception among many, many people. Those same people, who distrust the Times and Post, also read blogs. They would be doing so, even without Fox. The distrust existed before Fox came along, before Rush came along. Now, those people who are conservative and don