Fox lowers standards for journalism

There’s war in the air again. Yes, it appears that Obama is the trigger-happiest president since … well, since Bush.Not only is he contemplating further escalating the war in Afghanistan, he’s taken the battle to a domestic foe — Fox News — and the fighting has been heated.White House staffers have fired numerous quasi-insults at Rupert Murdoch’s news behemoth, going as far as questioning their journalistic credentials. Fox seems all too ready to revel in the fight. It’s now become clear that the Bush years were a period of relative quiet for the once-fledgling organization. With Obama in the White House, Fox News has unleashed a full-scale assault on him, his party and anything he does while he’s awake.How bad is it? In a stunning reversal of fortune, Bill O’Reilly has assumed the unlikely role of Fox News’s sane person — that’s how bad.Taking everything into account, this war of words is hardly surprising.Now, whatever you say about Fox, you have to admit they’re doing something right.  Their ratings are higher then CNN’s and MSNBC’s put together.  Who would have thought there was such a market for sensationalism and fearmongering?In any case, they’re clearly a major force in news and arguably the force in cable news.But for all their tough talk and pride in their own success, they still jump at any opportunity to claim victimization.When the Obama administration made the claim that Fox wasn’t a real news network, Fox contributor Charles Krauthammer responded, “It is one thing for the government, the administration, to attack opponents, institutions, media. It is another to go out and try and delegitimize them and destroy them.”Maybe it’s just me, but conservatives who accuse their counterparts — African Americans, feminists, etc. — of unfairly playing the victim card should have a backbone when the president is a little mean to them.I think it’s clear that I have little to no respect for Fox News. That said, there are some genuinely important issues at work in this back-and-forth between Fox and the Obama Administration.Foremost is the place of neutrality in the news. It’s quite clear that Fox ditched the neutrality shtick a while ago.  Here’s the question: does that matter?Historically speaking, neutral political coverage wasn’t the exception, it was the rule. It was only in the 20th century that neutrality became the gold standard of good political journalism. From the advent of political coverage, media outlets were predominantly partisan.   Though Fox is the most blatant,  they’re not the only one.In fact, the real issue now  is which is more detrimental: blatant partisanship or stealthy partisanship?Very few people would argue that MSNBC, CNN or any of the major national newspapers are void of partisanship. They’re not.So, even in the less overtly opinionated networks, the biases remain there, stealthily influencing people’s perception of the news. So what’s more pernicious, subtle or obvious bias?  Personally, I’m a strong believer in neutrality. I’ve found much more quality coverage in outlets that make an effort to address both sides. At the end of the day, there’s one enduring and uncomfortable truth. Fox News isn’t going anywhere. Obama isn’t going anywhere. It looks like we’ve got another quagmire on our hands.