Loony Lefties and Raving Righties
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Bill Barth
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     According to President Obama’s White House communications director, Anita Dunn, Fox News is filled with “opinion masquerading as journalism.”
     Well, yes.
     Isn’t that obvious?
     By the way, it’s not just Fox News. It’s the 24-hour cable news industry’s prevailing business model.
     I’m a conservative Midwestern guy, as anyone who reads this site with regularity already knows. But I couldn’t agree more with Ms. Dunn. Most of the programming, particularly in prime time, is pure unadulterated ideological propaganda.
     The only differences are measured in matters of degree. Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck are far-out, drink-the-Kool-Aid wackos, who see everyone except right-wingers as the enemy. Bill O’Reilly and Greta Van Susteren are conservatives who clearly show their leanings, but give the other side a reasonably fair shake.
     Now, does that justify the posting on the White House blog which read, “Fox Lies!”
     Not unless a subsequent blog is planned which says, “MSNBC Lies!”
     That network is as over-the-top liberal as Fox is over-the-top conservative.
     Keith Olbermann a paragon of fairness?
     Rachel Maddow a get-both-sides journalist?
     Oh, please.
     Every cable news network has some hosts and programs that play if fairly straight. Shep Smith is solid on Fox. John King is a darn good journalist on CNN. Mika Brzezinski does a professional job on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. Look hard and you’ll see their political stripes, but these folks are more concerned about the news than promoting ideology.
     My beef, as a longtime print journalist, is pretty simple. The intrusiveness and star-making capabilities of the boob tube reward excess and outrageous provocations. The louder one gets, the bigger the audience. Good business, maybe. But it diminishes the debate, muddles the facts and, in the end, sullies the reputations of the legions of non-ideological, fact-driven real journalists who toil on behalf of democratic principles each and every day, from coast to coast.
     I have known boatloads of professional reporters and editors in my long career. For most of them, the only agenda is the story in front of them. They’re not driven to make the world safe for Loony Lefties or Raving Righties. It’s all about pursuit of the truth.
     And that’s what we are giving up, as we divide into Fox tribes or MSNBC clans. We’re not listening to news. We’re stuck in an echo chamber, reinforcing our own personal prejudices.
     Some may find this surprising but, as a conservative, when I do tune in to cable news I tend to watch MSNBC. Why? Because I already know what’s driving the Righties’ bus. I want to be challenged by arguments on the other side, because the truth usually is somewhere between the extremes.
     Then I look up newspaper stories, newsmagazine articles and fact-based Web posts for a more rounded approximation of the truth. In our ideologically overwhelmed media environment, just-the-facts reporting is becoming scarcer by the day.
     We’re being show-bizzed out of the role each free citizen should be assuming, that of an American exercising the crucial right to find out the truth and make up his own mind.