I’ve watched Fox News from December of 1998 until the present. Initially, it was an oasis. A place where conservative views were not only accepted, but prominent. I once saw Rush Limbaugh guest on a late-night TV-show. He was on a panel with three-or-four liberals, and the host was Ron Reagan Jr. This was considered “balance”, 20-years-ago. (He also had that unfortunate incident on Pat Sajak’s show, but I digress). I can’t help but be reminded of those days when I see one liberal, two conservatives and Megyn Kelly argue over White Santa.
If all of Fox News was like Special Report with (preferably) Brit Hume, it would be fabulous. Straight news, a bit of a rightward tilt. No problem. On one of my first viewings, there was a story about abortion. Supreme Court ruling, perhaps. What was great was that they had nice, reasonable people representing both sides. All prior news-viewings, on other networks, seemed to follow an unfortunate pattern: The pro-choice person was attractive, reasonable, and well-spoken. The pro-life person was, speaking rather generally, a batty old lady carrying a sign and bleating about the pre-born children. This is what people like to overlook about bias: It’s not always in what they say, but what they show. If you’re showing a dotty old lady, or a guy who bears an unfortunate resemblance to David Koresh, we get the message. I think about this pretty much any time I see Alan Colmes.
I remember when Fox News Watch was hosted by Eric Burns, and did actual media criticism, of a type that was applauded by no less than Keith Olbermann. That was before Burns took (or was given) his leave, was eventually replaced by Jon Scott, and the show morphed into “Why is/isn’t the ‘mainstream media’ covering what we think they should/shouldn’t, and at just the right frequency?” (meaning, why doesn’t the entire media have Fox’s News priorities, God help us). The entire network morphed into that, sometime in the years since Burns’ departure and Hume’s repositioning (and would someone please explain what “mainstream media” is, when you’re “The most powerful name in news”? ‘Mainstream media’ would seem to indicate that Fox is a scrappy little storefront operation, getting by with nothing but a camcorder, a pair of rabbit-ears and a dream.)
“Fair and balanced” was once assumed to mean an objective network, steering more-or-less down the middle. Many of their “straight news anchors” like to use the quote as though that’s still what it means. Roger Ailes himself seems to tell a different story. In this and other sources, he presents Fox as “balancing” all the other networks, which is an infinitely more slippery prospect than actually being “balanced”. “We are the balance” is not and will never be the same as “We are balanced”. Certainly not when you consistently caricature what other networks do.
A good friend once said that “Years past, FNC provided a well-balanced diet of quality news coverage. Today it serves mostly conservative-flavoured syrup, and I don’t like sweets.” I liked the idea of a network that respected my views, but didn’t pander to them. Fox News has, for me, long-since passed that point