Fox Branding Dinged Badly
by Matt Stoller, Fri Mar 16, 2007 at 01:40:02 PM EDT
Even though financial analysts are rather non-plussed by the Fox News debate debacle, something deep is going on. Ron Brownstein of the LA Times has an important column on some of the deeper trends here.
Last week's decision by Nevada Democrats, under pressure from liberal activists, to drop Fox as the co-sponsor of a party presidential debate has the virtue of crystallizing the questions about the network's nature and its unique role in the modern media ecosystem.
Fox cloaks itself in the mantle of objectivity with the nudge-nudge insistence that it--and it alone--provides "fair and balanced" coverage of the news. Then it advances its financial and ideological interests by promoting lurid accusations from conservatives against Democrats, accusations that are routinely debunked later by the mainstream media. Many Fox reporters are fair. But overall the network--through its language, its news decisions and its hosts--generally functions more like a cog in the Republican message machine than as a conventional news organization that attempts to abide, however imperfectly, by the traditional standards of (yes) fairness and balance.
I imagine that many journalists don't like to be associated with Fox News because it's not journalism, and bristle at the notion that Fox News is associated with the borg known as 'media'. Brownstein's column shows that this debate within journalism is happening.
What's also interesting is that a lot of Democratic establishment types get it as well.
That argument struck a much more powerful chord than the Nevada Democrats expected, not only with the compulsive petition-signers online, but also with pillars of the Democratic political establishment. Many Democratic professionals believe that Fox will continue to provide an uncritical platform for almost any charge the right can dredge (Drudge?) up against the 2008 Democratic contenders.
Mark Mellman, the pollster for Kerry in 2004, passionately supported the decision to cancel the debate. "Everything Fox does is directed toward aiding and abetting the Republican Party, and it uses its newsgathering organization more or less as a cover for that," he said.
A senior advisor to one of the 2008 Democratic contenders was equally emphatic. "I think the more they can be de-legitimized the better," the advisor said. "They are in business to promote the Republican Party and to hurt the Democratic Party, and they have every right to do that, but to the extent that their pretense of objectivity can be challenged, it should be."
Brownstein also notes that the CBC Institute is going to announce debates with Fox News next week. He's a very good reporter, but remember that the Nevada Democratic Party also announced that there would be a Fox News debate before backtracking after the organizing started.
I'm really intrigued. The highest levels of the Democratic Party at least partially get that Fox News is in business to elect Republicans. I think we have a decent shot at persuading the CBC Institute not to validate Fox News, though we won't have nearly as much leverage unless there are internal allies who come out publicly (as happened with Mike Zahara in Nevada).
It's a fascinating time to observe the debates within the press and the Democratic Party.