&”We report, you decide.” That’s the official motto of Fox News, which bills itself as a beacon of objectivity in a land of liberal media. But it’s as much of a myth as a motto.
An independent study recently came out (referenced by Howard Kurtz in his excellent ) that finds that in covering the Iraq war last year, 73% of the stories on Fox News included the opinions of the anchors and journalists reporting them.
The study says that 29% of the stories on MSNBC and 2% of the stories on CNN included the journalists’ own views. The study was performed by the Project for Excellence in Journalism. The 617-page report provides detailed examples from each network. The report also says that CNN is “the least transparent about its sources of the three cable channels, but more likely to present multiple points of view.”
I have been watching CNN since I was a little tike. And although the network isn’t without flaw, I’ve always been impressed by the objectivity and professionalism of the anchors — and how multiple views of a complex issue are presented, with no obvious weight being given to either one. In fact, try as I might, I’ve never been able to figure out where Wolf Blitzer or Judy Woodruff or other anchors sit on an issue. And that’s fine; their job is to present news, not opinion. (Opinion was crammed into the show Crossfire, but that unfortunately turned into nothing more than a talking points shoutfest, which is why CNN has decided to cancel it.)
I also occasionally watch Fox News, and I can’t stomach it for long. There is no hint of objectivity in the network’s reporting. Even when their anchors say “we report, you decide,” you can see the corners of their lip turn up in a smirk.
On the rare occasions when Fox presents two sides of an issue, it’s usually to provide an opportunity to tear down or belittle one of the views.
Fox has its place and, quite simply, is providing politicized entertainment. But what frightens me is that so many people feel that Fox News is really the only network providing objective news — that networks such as CNN are “liberal mouthpieces.”
The only way I can explain this is that these folks have views that are promoted by Fox News, so in essence, Fox is “preaching to the choir.” And when someone tells you what you already think, you think they’re right on. So this is a perfect example of cognitive dissonance. (With cognitive dissonance, you resist new learning if it contradicts what you think you already know.)
But it’s dangerous and sad. Part of what makes a human human is the ability to think and analyze, incorporating new facts and experiences into decision making. Fox News would rather make decisions for you than let you flex your own mental muscle.