Fox News and objectivity: the joke’s on us

I’ll admit that I haven’t seen many of the speeches at the Obama/Biden/Clinton convention. Most of the big hitters don’t make it to the plate until after I’m asleep at 10 p.m. But I do catch a lot of the cable news shows. That’s fun these days because the cable news pundits on CNN, MSNBS and Fox have finally abandoned the notion that objectivity is the standard for news reporting. Game on.

And of all the changes taking place now that are reshaping the news media — the fact that the era of “he said/she said” journalism is all but over is huge. That’s one of the reasons for the success of The Huffington Post. You see this point-of-view journalism in virtually every blog being written now by reporters and other pundits. And you have commentators — like Lou Dobbs on CNN — who have gained big audiences and ratings by not even pretending to be fair and balanced.

Then you have Jon Stewart. He’s broadcasting The Daily Show (the primary source of news for the new wave of young voters, IMO) from the convention. And he had some thoughts about the “real” news business earlier this week, as reported by Howard Kurtz in The Washington Post article, “No Joke: Jon Stewart Takes Aim At 24-Hour Cable News Beast.”

Jon Stewart ripped the cable news networks Monday as a “brutish, slow-witted beast” and castigated Fox News in particular as “an appendage of the Republican Party.”

Wearing a gray T-shirt, khaki pants and a healthy stubble, the “Daily Show” host told reporters at a University of Denver breakfast that Fox’s “fair and balanced” slogan is an insult “to people with brains” and that only “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace “saves that network from slapping on a bumper sticker. . . . Barack Obama could cure cancer and they’d figure out a way to frame it as an economic disaster.”

Ouch. But hey. Maybe Stewart knows what he is talking about. After all, The New York Times suggested that he is the most trusted man in America.

But it is a change now working its way throughout journalism — and it doesn’t just involve Fox News. If Fox is heading right — then MSNBC is racing just as hard in the opposite direction. We will see how soon The New York Times, Washington Post, et al, get into the race. My guess is pretty soon.

And one more thing about the story involving Stewart and Fox News. Kurtz asked for a comment from the news guys and gals. Here it is — and it’s pathetic, from the standpoint of public relations and journalism.

A Fox News spokesman, who was authorized to give the network’s response to Stewart’s comments but declined to be named, replied that “Jon’s clearly out of touch,” citing a Pew Research Center study showing the network has the most balanced audience in cable news, 39 percent Republicans and 33 percent Democrats. “But being out of touch with mainstream America is nothing new to Jon, as evidenced by the crash-and-burn ratings of this year’s Oscars telecast.”

The Fox News spokesman declined to be named; and Kurtz let him/her get away with it.

And you wonder why more and more people get their news from The Daily Show.



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