October 26, 2009

Of Course Fox News is Not News!

When representatives of the Obama administration recently said that they did not regard what Fox "News" does as news, most of us reacted with some variation of, "Well, duh!" The best description of what Fox does that I've yet heard was provided by Keith Olbermann during a recent appearance on the Rachel Maddow Show. I am paraphrasing here based on my memory, but the just of it was that Fox starts with a real news story, blows some trivial detail of it way out of proportion, manufactures outrage, and then reports on the outrage as if it were a legitimate story. Olbermann is well-qualified to provide such an analysis since he essentially does the same thing on MSNBC.

Millions of people rely on Fox "News" as their primary source of information. Therefore, if anyone is going to make allegations about Fox not being a legitimate news source, they are going to need to put together a compelling case. One of the more comprehensive I've yet to find was written by Adele Stan for AlterNet, 8 Reasons Fox Is Not a News Organization. It is lengthy, but definitely worth a read for any who have not yet made up their mind about Fox.

Some have taken me to task recently for pointing out similarities between what Fox "News" does and what Keith Olbermann does on Countdown. I am not claiming that they are equally bad, and I'll be the first to admit that Olbermann generally does have more facts on his side. However, his recent statements lead me to believe that Olbermann views his program as a news show with some opinion pieces which he clearly identifies as such (i.e., his "special comment" segments). As a regular viewer of Countdown, I do not buy this for a second. Olbermann's opinion is clearly evident in virtually every minute of his show and in every story he reports.

And yet, it would be a mistake to equate what Olbermann and Maddow do with what Fox "News" does. There are many important differences. The primary one is that they provide factual news with opinion instead of presenting opinion as factual news. Yes, viewers are going to hear exactly what Olbermann thinks about each and every news story. But he is not merely making things up to manipulate his audience.

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