Friday, July 8, 2011

A Matter of Perspective

Fox News and Media Matters have been engaging in a war of words for the past few months. It started when Media Matters announced it was engaging in a "war against Fox News" to make them a more responsible source of information, according to them. Fox News has fired back, suggesting Media Matters lose its non-profit status because it has engaged in partisan activity, which is against current law.

Although it might be easy to assume which side I'm taking on this, let me clarify a couple of points. First, Fox News isn't exactly a source of good journalism. As a j-school graduate, I can tell when news and opinion get mixed, and Fox News does a lot of that. When it does straight news, it's solid. However, when opinion shows like "The O'Reilly Factor" and "Hannity" dominate the network's daily programming, it's blurring a line between news and opinion, one that I cannot condone. As to whether Fox News is biased, I have no doubt that it is. Having said that, I do think they're conscious of media bias and, for the most part, strive to eliminate it from their news programming. If Media Matters is truly interested in making Fox News stronger, I say bravo!

However, I don't think Media Matters is serious in its claim because it doesn't exactly hold itself to the standards to which it holds conservative media. What Media Matters often does is take a statement out of context, whip out a quick PR release bashing it, and let others run with the story as though it were true. A good case in point is an incident involving Glenn Beck. According to Media Matters, Beck called the victims of Hurricane Katrina "scumbags," which he did. However, there was an important qualifying statement that put Beck's comment into perspective. I know because I was listening to Beck that day and heard the entire comment where Beck admonished those who were looting and committing acts of violence as "scumbags." Yet, if you paid attention only to the Media Matters version of events, you wouldn't get that context. (And didn't the Left get upset at Andrew Breitbart for allegedly taking Shirley Sherrod out of context?)

The problem I have with Media Matters is the same problem I have with Fox News: being an honest dealer with information. Both entities stretch the truth, just in varying degrees. However, even a slight stretch of the truth from a media outlet can become the perceived truth if enough people believe it and don't bother looking for the truth. Having Media Matters call out Fox News for dishonesty is funny on one level, but necessary on another. We should be holding both Fox News and Media Matters to the same consistent standard: tell the truth.

Until either one can accomplish that on a consistent basis, let them try to knock each other out.

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