Thursday, May 24, 2012


The View from Here
      Hall of Fame and legendary radio news man Fred Heckman was my news director as I was breaking into a major metropolitan news scene.
      "If Democrats and Republicans are both bitching about you, if liberals think you're a conservative and conservatives think you're a liberal then you're doing a good job. We are an equal opportunity offender."
       Long before Fred's advice I'd read the wisdom of the
old "Sage of Baltimore" H.L. Mencken.  The journalist, editor, essayist said the role of a journalist was to "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable."
       Those formed my creedo in all of my years in journalism.
       I took delight in the story that university research finds that Fox News viewers are the least well informed.
           Delight, I say, because Fox introduced deliberately staking out a political/philosophical position as a foundational rationale to their approach to news coverage.
       Now some will argue "the liberal media bias" already existed and that Fox News was at least honest about where they were coming from.  You might recall however they made their mantra "Fair and Balanced."  In all honesty they were neither, but it was a brilliant positioning and marketing strategy developed by Roger Ailes.  It immediately created the perception the other media was not fair or balanced.  
      Ailes started developing his idea when he was a partisan employee of Richard Nixon, the President with an enemies list, less than a harmonious relationship with the media, trouble with the truth and that little think called Watergate. Yes, that's when Ailes first started babbling about creating a network with a point of view.
      My gripe is not so much with the politics as with the idea 
of creating a "my side vs. your side" approach to news.
Back to the admonition of my old mentor.  Doing it right has everyone angry at you.  Conservatives, Republicans and right wingers probably find little to be upset with about Fox.  But
perhaps now they should be.  By adopting a "perspective" and hewing to a "party line" you destroy your claim to credibility
and damage the overall process.  I'm not ignoring MSNBC.
They have responded by taking a liberal perspective. 
      Maybe in this age of satellite, cable, Internet and broadcast offerings there is room for networks who are lackeys for an ideology or point of view.  Maybe, but they should not call themselves news or journalistic enterprises.
      Bravo to the academics who are willing to test, measure and survey issues like quality of information, knowledge and such.  Of course I can hear a few Fox viewers saying "well what do you expect from liberal academia?"
     Roger Ailes is like putting draino in a wine bottle and calling it a well aged vintage. This report is a bit like a consumer taste test.  Truth is just that.
How's that for a change of pace?
See you down the trail.


  1. Is that where all the rules came from? I wondered.
    We have your change of pace and we have a change of style for News types. The rules are not the same. I met Roger Ailes in the Indiana StateHouse while you and I were working for Fred Heckman. Ailes had that evil eye then and later arranging Republican Events in Indianapolis. Fred told us in the WIBC newsroom to "go out there and kill." I did, but the smell got too bad. And I was gone. The rules remained. -=w=-

    This just in: WiSHtv former GM Bob McConell has died. He was another firm rule holder and great.

  2. Tom, I'm with you philosophically and"morally" (ie, what journalism "should be"). It's what Thomas Jefferson wanted way back in the early days of our experiment in democracy, although he warned that the people/voters needed to stay informed, meaning actually read the newspapers and pamphlets. But even Jefferson knew that there would be bias in journalism. And there has been ever since that time, Hearst being merely one example. The so-called "liberal bias" in journalism comes from the era of the 1950s, 60s and 70s when a few great journalists were trying to be unbiased (and thus got labeled liberal by the far right).

    So, it seems to me that we might accept the right-wing bias of Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, and the Rush Limbaugh, etc. sect, we need to build a viable---meaning powerful---liberal/progressive media. Instead, we have a virtual l/p vacuum, with the marginal exceptions of MSNBC, The New York Times (arguably), and whatever has replaced Air America on radio (1340 in SLO County). Why haven't wealthy Democrats gotten together to form a far-reaching liberal/progressive media? If Jefferson were to come alive for a visit, I believe that would be his first question. USA Today is struggling. They should buy it out and use its existing structure. Hell, back in Texas of the 1880s farmers organized in populist movements against the banks and capitalists (called "The Alliance") and sent around "lecturers" to inform the farmers in their small towns. (Of course, that was before radio and TV, so folks would go out of their houses, hitch up the buggy or walk to the meetin' hall to get themselves informed.

    One national newspaper (daily), one national TV/Cable/Satellite outlet, and a viable national radio network would do more to wake up the left and inform the middle-class right than a billion dollars in here-and-gone TV ads. If roughly half the country leans Democratic or Independent, that's a hell of an audience who'll buy the product.

    Seems simple to me. Why isn't it done?