Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Bad journalism knows no partisan bounds

My column last week on Fox News anchor Chris Wallace’s statement that the network sees itself as a “counterweight” to more liberal media outlets spurred some interesting feedback.

The main thrust was that I had been pretty hard on Fox News but not hard enough on the “liberal” media. That would be valid if my column were taken in isolation. The truth is, though, that I’ve been much tougher on so-called liberal media in the past few years than “conservative” outlets.

Here are some snippets from the past couple of years:
“Neither MSNBC nor its commentator, Keith Olbermann, would be considered a bastion of good journalism,” I wrote last November.
In another column, I wrote this:
"Perhaps understandably, we are all too eager to accept as gospel information or stories that conform to our personal politics or values, regardless of the veracity of the source. We tend to drift toward sources that skew toward our value set. Sources that want to be seen as credible all too often insert a particular political spin to their coverage include such TV networks and web sites as MSNBC, Fox, Huffington Post, and The Drudge Report.”
Two years ago I wrote: “What Keith Olbermann, Bill O'Reilly and Nancy Grace do is entertainment, not journalism.” How’s that for cutting across the whole spectrum?

It may or not be comforting to know that I’ve reserved some of my harshest criticism for Huffington Post, a web site that clearly attempts to advance a left-wing agenda.

Last summer, I wrote:
“Arianna Huffington clearly wants to be taken seriously. She is a regular on the Sunday morning talk show circuit, writes and speaks articulately and convincingly as a liberal advocate, and clearly has worked tirelessly on developing a highly successful web site with millions of monthly visits. And yet, Huffington Post is the best example of what's so wrong with ‘news’ on the Internet.”
Journalism is journalism, and very few cable TV networks or web site practice it. When I was asked at a Rotary Club speech a few months ago where I’d recommend people go for journalism, I revealed my true bias: “Newspapers,” I said. I say it again. Newspapers – most of them, anyway – are still abiding by ethical journalism standards that most other media don’t even know exist.

Do you really want to know whether an information source can be trusted? Start by looking for its code of conduct or ethics. If you don’t find one, take the information with a good dose of skepticism. If the outlet has such a code, hold it accountable to its standards. That’s a good start toward becoming a successful consumer of information in the Age of Entertainment.


  1. And yet, Huffington Post is the best example of what's so wrong with ‘news’ on the Internet.”

    Tell me why. Maybe I'm naive, but when I read HP, I do so knowing it's a conglomeration of various people spouting their opinions on news topics. There is always news there. It sparks my interest about issues, and I do often go back to the "source" of the news story, which you note is newspapers.

    How is this bad, Rog?

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  3. Just because a site places links to journalism on its page doesn't mean it's practicing journalism. Using the occasional story for the NY Times or WaPo lends unearned credibility to HuffPo, whose original content is all over the map, except on the spot where journalism dwells.

    HuffPo's headlines are nearly always misleading and Enquire-esque, even when topping a linked story.

    The biggest issue, however, is that you're a sophisticated information consumer, so you can sift through the dross and identify legitimate news, which usually means tracking it back to its source. Very few consumers are making this sort of effort or drawing that distinction.