Thursday, July 24, 2008

Giving the Devil his Due

One of the theses of the documentary Outfoxed was that Fox News set off a race to the bottom in television journalism because no one would counter-program against Fox, so instead all of the media outlets just emulated them.

I think this helps explain why the media was AWOL during the Bush administration's rush to war in Iraq and failed to ask serious questions.

But MSNBC's Keith Olbermann has been taking on Fox News and Bill O'Reilly and counter-programming against them as the New Yorker's Peter J. Boyer reports.

When “Countdown” was still new, in 2004, Rick Kaplan, then the president of MSNBC, told Olbermann that he wanted the program to be the cable network’s “newscast of record.” Largely owing to the license that Olbermann took in his on-air duelling with O’Reilly, it has become more like a nightly political insult-comedy routine. Olbermann’s Fox-bashing struck a chord with a core audience deeply sympathetic to the view that the conservative-leaning Fox News (“Fox Noise,” Olbermann calls it) has degraded journalism “in the same sense that George Bush lowered and made even more disreputable the Presidency of the United States.”....

Olbermann’s success, like O’Reilly’s, is evidence of viewer cocooning—the inclination to seek out programming that reinforces one’s own firmly held political views. “People want to identify,” Griffin says. “They want the shortcut. ‘Wow, that guy’s smart. I get him.’ In this crazy world of so much information, you look for places where you identify, or you see where you fit into the spectrum, because you get all this information all day long.”|One Angry Man: Is Keith Olbermann changing TV news? - New Yorker|
While I often agree with Oblermann, he's a bit heavy-handed for my tastes.

But I do think it's good that someone in the mainstream media (MSM) is willing to take on Fox News and mock them for their obvious faults and not imitate (and amplify) Fox's worst tendencies.

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