Scattered thoughts on the Obama Administration’s battle with the cable news network:
1) I haven’t watched enough cable news to judge whether Fox News is definitively different from CNN and MSNBC. But I have watched enough of all three networks to say that all cable news is definitively inferior to news produced by newspapers, magazines, news radio, and wire services. If you’re mostly relying on cable news for your information you’re getting a blinkered view of reality.
2) Say for the sake of argument that Fox News is “different.” If I had to bet, I’d put my money on that proposition, though again I haven’t watched all the networks enough to make that pronouncement definitively. Even so, I am uncomfortable with the White House being the one that decides who gets access. Conversations about which news organizations are legitimate strike me as worthwhile. But the POTUS shouldn’t be driving those conversations.
3) Fox News defenders are trying to draw a distinction between its commentators like Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, and Sean Hannity, and its news programming. They say that while the former may be “biased” the latter is just like other cable news networks. But the complaint against Mr. O’Reilly, Mr. Beck and Mr. Hannity isn’t merely that they are furthering an ideological agenda — it is that they are doing so by uttering falsehoods. It’s fine to say that a commentator should be free to offer his opinion, but that isn’t license to mislead the audience, or to be intellectually dishonest. Calling oneself an opinionated commentator shouldn’t be the same as saying, “There is no standard to which I am accountable.”
4) Probably the Obama versus Fox News battle is going to help both parties at everyone else’s expense.