Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Tallyho! Jack Shafer Goes on a Foxhunt

Slate's Jack Shafer cites a book by David Foster Wallace about talk radio to attack news values at Fox in general, specifically ripping the flesh of Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity.
Although Wallace doesn't make the link directly, it's obvious that Fox News Channel and its imitators have incorporated many of talk radio's basic lessons into their architecture.

Wallace could be writing about Bill O'Reilly or Sean Hannity when he explains that KFI's Ziegler "is not a journalist—he is an entertainer. Or maybe it's better to say that he is part of a peculiar, modern, and very popular type of news industry, one that manages to enjoy the authority and influence of journalism without the stodgy constraints of fairness, objectivity, and responsibility that make trying to tell the truth such a drag for everyone involved." These radio and cable entertainers do precisely what they damn Mainstream Media reporters for doing: They "interpret, analyze, and explain" news inside their narrow political context.
But wait a minute. Why does a comparison of Fox's news values with the other broadcast networks contrast ABC's, NBC's, and CBS's nightly news broadcasts against featured commentators on Fox? Is this a fair and balanced comparison? Why not compare Hannity and Colmes to the old Point-Counterpoint, or question Clintonite George Stephanopolous' presence on ABC's Sunday morning news show?

And as far as news shows lacking "fairness, objectivity, and responsibility", why, this isn't really anything new. Long before Memogate, Dan Rather threw that away in 1989 when he broadcast The Wall Within. Of course, the big difference is that anyone who tunes in to O'Reilly or Hannity knows that they're getting commentary. Rather (among many other MSMers) pretends otherwise.

Update: Jack Shafer emailed to point out that he cited an article, and not a book. The Dread Pundit Bluto regrets the error and any confusion it may have caused.