Just Don’t Call It ‘Journalism’
It’s a sad symbol of the state of contemporary American journalism that the White House communications office is doing more to maintain the honor of the profession than are many journalists. But that’s just what’s happening in the contretemps over Fox News. Interim White House communications director Anita Dunn has explained to the press that the White House plans to treat Fox “the way we would treat an opponent…. As they are undertaking a war against Barack Obama and the White House, we don’t need to pretend that this is the way that legitimate news organizations behave.”
But many in Washington prefer to pretend. Howard Kurtz, whose talent for clueless conventional thinking is exceeded only by his ability to juggle his myriad conflicts of interest, thinks Obama’s reaction to Fox is no different from JFK’s complaints about the Herald Tribune, LBJ’s unhappiness with the New York Times and various (and endless) Republican attacks on the media, so he finds it “no surprise that the Obama White House isn’t happy with its coverage and is battling back.” Baltimore Sun critic David Zurawik professes to hear “echoes of Nixon-Agnew” in the Obama White House and then accuses the administration of failing to “respect press freedom.” The Times‘s David Carr concludes, “So far, the only winner in this latest dispute seems to be Fox News. Ratings are up 20 percent this year, and the network basked for a week in the antagonism of a sitting president.”
What all these critics fail to address is that the administration’s argument is right on the merits. Fox’s pretense of being an actual news network is hardly more convincing than, say, Milton Berle in a bra and garters posing as a woman. By refusing to acknowledge Fox’s open and avowed partisanship, its MSM defenders are not only flacking for Ailes & Co.; they’re diminishing the work of honest journalists who try to play fair. Ask yourself:
§ Would a genuine news network reproduce a Republican press release, replete with typos?
§ Would a genuine news network run, over a five-day period, twenty-two excerpts from healthcare forums in which every single speaker was opposed?
§ Would a genuine news network allow a producer to cheerlead, off camera, anti-Obama protesters?
§ Would a genuine news network take out full-page ads to complain of insufficient coverage of antigovernment protest marches it had promoted?