Howell Raines has a piece up in The Washington Post today that is a sad and pathetic attempt to rally the dwindling herd of media dinosaurs he surrounds himself with. Titled “Howell Raines: Why don’t honest journalists take on Roger Ailes and Fox News?” Raines laments that Fox News has successfully led the debate against the health care legislation presently being considered in Congress.
One question has tugged at my professional conscience throughout the year-long congressional debate over health-care reform, and it has nothing to do with the public option, portability or medical malpractice. It is this: Why haven’t America’s old-school news organizations blown the whistle on Roger Ailes, chief of Fox News, for using the network to conduct a propaganda campaign against the Obama administration — a campaign without precedent in our modern political history?
Through clever use of the Fox News Channel and its cadre of raucous commentators, Ailes has overturned standards of fairness and objectivity that have guided American print and broadcast journalists since World War II. Yet, many members of my profession seem to stand by in silence as Ailes tears up the rulebook that served this country well as we covered the major stories of the past three generations, from the civil rights revolution to Watergate to the Wall Street scandals. This is not a liberal-versus-conservative issue. It is a matter of Fox turning reality on its head with, among other tactics, its endless repetition of its uber-lie: “The American people do not want health-care reform.”
This is an article that requires a thorough fisking which I do not have time to do this morning but a few important points should be noted from that astounding paragraph above. First, it is disingenuous to posit that Fox promotes a message that Americans do not want health care reform. That is a lie that betrays Mr. Raines thorough ignorance of the consistent message offered by many Fox commenters, to wit, that Americans do not want ObamaCare, but they do want health care reform. The difference between ObamaCare and real health care reform has been debated on Fox for over a year.
The claim that Ailes “has overturned standards of fairness and objectivity that have guided American print and broadcast journalists since World War II.” is laughable. Ailes has overturned decades of one sided, East Coast elitist liberal opinion by offering different views from both conservatives and liberals. Fox News, O’Reilly and Hannity offer liberal viewpoints front and center in their broadcasts almost every night. This sort of diversity was never found on the alphabet networks during the Reagan and Bush 41 and 43 years, to say nothing of the liberal boosters that dominate the news and opinion pages of the New York Times and Raines’ own paper, The Washington Post.
Finally, Raines simply ignores the gross blunders committed by his side that destroyed any remaining trust that existed between old media and the today’s news consumers: does he remember Rathergate, Jason Blair and Janet Cook (just to name a few), people on his side that simply made things up? Mr. Raines, welcome to the new world of competition in media. Having grown up in a monopoly world of media dominated by a few giants it must be awfully difficult in this new competitive environment. Get a grip or move on.