David R. Henderson  

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We are reminded by Mr. Young that one of Mr. Edwards's early boosters was the late Ted Kennedy, who "saw almost unlimited potential in this young, energetic, well-spoken, good-looking Southerner." In a conversation with Mr. Young, Mr. Kennedy waxed sentimental about Washington in the early 1960s: "It used to be civilized. The media was on our side. We'd get our work done by one o'clock and by two we were at the White House chasing women. We got the job done, and the reporters focused on the issues. . . . It was civilized." We now know that Mr. Edwards's idea of civilization was much the same as Kennedy's.

This is from Aram Bakshian's review in today's Wall Street Journal of Andrew Young's The Politician, the just-released book about former Senator John Edwards. Besides the revelation in the above quote about Ted Kennedy's sex life, the other striking thing is the line, "The media was [sic] on our side." So many people nowadays have lamented the Fox News Channel's lack of objectivity. Nothing wrong with that lamentation except that they tend to hark back to a faux past era when the network news was unbiased. For my take on Fox News Channel in 2005, see "Two Cheers for the Fox News Channel."

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COMMENTS (11 to date)
Loof writes:

David: took the liberty of quoting from your referenced article. You said:
“Into this world, in 1996, came the Fox News Channel. Only then did Americans begin to see consistently some different viewpoints. Fox likes to call itself "fair and balanced." Overall it is not fair and balanced; rather, Fox is the balance. Fox regulars Brit Hume, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, and some of the other players bring a strong viewpoint to every issue they cover – and it’s not a balanced viewpoint. But it is a counterweight to what we were getting. Competition is good, whether in the car market, the housing market, or the media market.”

Fox would be the balance if it were with loyal opposition in free exchange with fair competition. However, the exchange is not fair on either side, when its propaganda (hyping one’s view; degrading the opposite view); nor free, with warring encampments (middle ground is no mans land); nor loyal to journalistic profession of objectivity (when the objective is to shoot an imagined enemy). All the world was a stage to Shakespeare; and all now seems staged in America.

Jim Glass writes:

Public Policy Polling, a left-center outfit, recently found that Fox News not only is the most trusted news source but the only trusted news source -- that is, the only network with with a positive "trust" minus "don't trust" score.

trust distrust net

Fox 49 37 +12
CNN 39 41 - 2
NBC 35 44 - 9
CBS 32 46 -14
ABC 31 46 -15

Admittedly the result is polarized, with Republicans trusting Fox more than Democrats trust the others.

Most significantly though, among the independents who determine elections (they broke by 50 points (!) for Brown in Mass.) Fox is the least distrusted of news networks by a good margin.

(Independents, not having had their brains addled by partisan politics, remain smart enough not to actually trust anybody.)

trust distrust net

Fox 41 44 -3
CNN 33 45 -12
CBS 22 51 -29
NBC 22 52 -30
ABC 21 53 -32

David R. Henderson writes:

Obviously, what you propose would be better. I'm discussing the actual alternatives as they are. I think you would be more persuasive if you shot holes in the specifics of my argument, which is actually quite detailed, than by talking about how you would like the world to be.
An analogy: I would like politicians to be honest. I know they aren't. So, given that they aren't, am I better off having all of them agree and lie to us or having them call each other out.

Douglass Holmes writes:

The media are still on their side.
I'm as happy as the next guy to see Edwards humiliated for the lying brat he is, but why is it that no one in the mainstream media questions his ideas?
I don't even remember anyone on Fox questioning his ideas on how to change this country.

RL writes:

David, your analogy may not be the best. If we know ALL politicians lie, we WOULD be better off if they all agreed. That way we'd know what the lie was... :-)

Loof writes:

L thinks David is about right saying the media a generation ago had a liberal bias, especially in late 60s as apposed to early 50s when the bias appeared more conservative. And, yes, agree about a “faux past era when the network news was unbiased.” Never such a utopian point in time: but in the 50s and 60s the movement was towards unbiased reporting, iLo. There appeared to be more loyal opposition, more competition, more fairness, more objectivity in journalism. A middle ground existed at times and they didn't have a warmongering attitude.

The movement is opposite now: more bias and downright prejudice on both sides – and the warring camps get further apart, no man’s land grows, while the predator attacks from on high are more frequent with a lot of collateral damage is to the people: who increasingly only want to hear one side and are deaf to the other side.

A “balance” presupposes a balancer like a weigh scale that can gauge the two sides in opposition. You can’t balance a heap of oranges with the similar size pile of pears, when there is no balancer between them – and if you love pears and hate oranges, it shapes your view of what is heaped up in detail. The problem with the political analogy in “calling each other out” is the lying involved. People have been increasing hearing what they want to hear – and the opposition increasingly seen as lying brats, even when telling the truth as they sincerely see it.

The question L immediately asked after reading Jim's post about the Public Policy Poll: how many people watch alternate views? In researching the source the question wasn’t asked, though the President of Public Policy Polling, Dean Debnam, said: “A generation ago you would have expected Americans to place their trust in the most neutral and unbiased conveyor of news. But the media landscape has really changed and now they’re turning more toward the outlets that tell them what they want to hear.”

David R. Henderson writes:

Loof says,
"Never such a utopian point in time: but in the 50s and 60s the movement was towards unbiased reporting, iLo. There appeared to be more loyal opposition, more competition, more fairness, more objectivity in journalism. A middle ground existed at times and they didn't have a warmongering attitude."
I think you're right that what you say "appeared." The MSM in the 1950s and 1960s were much more subtle and professional sounding. That made their bias all the more dangerous. And they did a lot of war-mongering. See if you can find sometime a segment from Walter Cronkite in a bomber circa 1965 or 1966 whooping with delight as the U.S. government burned up the Vietnamese countryside.

Nick writes:

Loof and possibly David Henderson appear to be confusing journalism with editorializing. Bill O, Hannity and so on engage in editorializing or political punditry. This is not journalism. There is essentially little to no journalism to be found in cable news. It is almost all reporting (anchors reading AP feeds) or editorializing.

Dezakin writes:

I'm sorry, but this blatent political signaling has what to do with economics? I get that you're a proud member of an ideological tribe, but this post entirely devoid of anything but subjective views provides little illumination into economics, bias or the importance of bias of news organizations.

Basically engaging in a tautologous cheer session does nothing for me except show a decided lack of critical thinking skills and a simplicity of ideological alignment that does nothing for helping come to any decision on any policy goal.

David R. Henderson writes:

Did you actually read the piece I linked to on Fox News? There was a fair amount of economics in there. But Dezakin, there's a very simple solution: if you don't find it relevant, don't read it. Not reading it takes less time than it took to write your comment.

Dezakin writes:

Which link? If you're referring to the Cheers for Fox News 2005 story, there isn't any economics discussions in there. Oh sure there's ideological assertions about tax rates, and if you think that's discussion of economics all fine and well then but it doesn't convince me. Perhaps if you wanted to write a piece on the impact of Fox News on the economy on how it influenced votes on economic policy I might be interested. Where did they stand on the Medicare drug giveaway? How much influence did their editorializing have on any such votes or elections where votes on such issues would have mattered? This would have been something that seriously directly impacted the economy and economic policy going forward if Fox News actually played a part in influencing such a vote.

Look, are you actually trying to say anything besides Fox News good? My point is I learn far more from Kling and Kaplan's posts (at least the ones where Kaplan isn't talking about his favorite comic book) even where I disagree than in posts that are reflective of an opinion of a controversial highly editorial 'news' organization. If you think political polarization is good in a news organization, that's fine and well, but it certainly doesn't actually contribute to any illumination on good economic policy no matter what ideological stripe you're a member of.

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