Tuesday, October 20, 2009

How do you know someone isn't a journalist?

There's an uproar about the Obama Administration and Fox News lately, more about that later.

So what's the answer to the title's question? I'm waiting. Give up?

OK, if you do commercials you aren't a journalist. You have to go back to the days of Edward R. Murrow and John Cameron Swayzie to find an exception to my test, I think.

The icons of the broadcast networks back in the sixties through now didn't and don't shill for Ruths' Chris Steakhouse (Hannity), logo ties (Rush) or anything else.

Now, mind you, this isn't a binary thing. Just because you don't do ads, doesn't make you a journalist. Exhibit A: Lou Dobbs.

Another clue can be had by finding out if someone does promos for "freedom concerts," whatever it was that Beck promoted a few weeks ago, "town hall meetings" that only have participants from one point of view, and so on and so on.

Now, that said, you can be a journalist and be a pundit in your spare time, though I think you risk your credibility. See Mara Liasson, Juan Williams.

All that said, the Obama Administration is not compelling in its recent attacks against Fox News for not being a news organization. It's true that Hannity, O'Reilly, et al. are nothing more than entertaining (to some) shills for right wing positions. But, it's also true that the news shows on Fox are for the most part, straight news. (I'd love to hear what Brit Hume has to say about his colleagues at home with friends after a pop or two.)

And too, the other networks are as guilty in skewing their non-news shows. Exhibit A: Lou Dobbs (there he is again). Exhibit B: watch some of the stuff on MSNBC.

A more honest and effective attack by the Administration would be against media in general's love of talking-head yelling, masquerading as public discourse. I'd suggest it announce that it won't have representatives appear on any of the talking head shows on any network. They'll appear on the hard news shows only and respond only to temperate questions with temperate answers - no spin by either party to the interview. Oh hell, that means the Administration has no representatives to appear - it's Axelrod's, Emmanuel's and the other's job to spin, just as the Hannitys spin their views. Never mind.

UPDATE: I may have been wrong about Fox and its news shows.


dr sardonicus said...

The Administration's criticisms are somewhat justifiable because no true left-wing equivalent to FOX News exists. The other networks are bending over backwards to find Obama critics whenever they can. John McCain, the losing Presidential candidate, has probably been on the talking-head shows more than any Democrat in the past year. If MSNBC had a relationship with the Democratic Party the way Fox News does with the Republican Party, MSNBC wouldn't give Joe Scarborough three hours a day and have Pat Buchanan on daily as a paid on-air analyst.

The other media outlets are closer to centrist than liberal. Only in America does a belief that government can play a positive role in the lives of its citizens automatically make one a leftist.

Dave said...

That left wing equivalent would have been Air America I guess, had it been viable. The problem with all media is that it has to make money and Fox has a model for doing that. The other outlets follow its lead, Dobbs on CNN, Scarborough on MSNBC, something the Administration has complained about it as part of its attack on Fox.

I don't think sny media should have any relationship with any party or the government, call me naive.

Dr Jenn said...

I think the Fairness Doctrine was on the right track.