About a week ago, Jon Stewart (of The Daily Show on Comedy Central) & Bernie Goldberg (author and Fox News contributor on The O’Reilly Factor) got into an verbal dispute that lasted about 3 days. Essentially, John Stewart told Bernie Goldberg (and the rest of Fox News) to “Go F*ck Yourselves,” presumably for being racist, biased, or white. Bernie Goldber fired back on The O’Reilly Factor, saying that Jon Stewart isn’t edgy just because he can drop the “F-bomb,” and because he doesn’t make fun of liberals, only conservatives. Jon Stewart then basically reiterated his “Go F*ck Yourselves” message, complete with a gospel choir. He said that Goldberg had no right to complain about Jon Stewart not being fair and balanced, when that’s Fox’s own tagline and they don’t follow it.
I don’t know if Bernie Goldberg ever answered Jon Stewart, because I got distracted by my rage at Comedy Central over Southpark’s Episode 201. But, the verbal sparring got me thinking about Fox’s role in the media, and I’ve come to the following conclusion. Is Fox really fair & balanced? No, not really – undoubtedly, they lean to the right. But I don’t think you can read the “Fair & balanced” slogan as “Fox is a fair and balanced news network that presents the news with no bias whatsoever.” If you read it instead as “Fox presents a conservative viewpoint as a counterbalance to the bastions of liberal journalism like MSNBC & the New York Times, thereby making the media as a whole more fair and balanced,” the slogan makes sense.
I don’t think it’s outlandish or inaccurate to say that all of the media in the United States is biased, and that most of it is biased in favor of the political Left. There are some news magazines like The National Review & the Weekly Standard that are conservative, there is Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, & there is talk radio – those are essentially the only conservative media outlets. Most major newspapers, TV news stations, and even publicly-funded NPR are all left-leaning in their presentation of current affairs. Probably the closest thing to a completely unbiased news network that we have is CNN. James Poniewozik (who I think should be nominated for the “Most Awesome Last Name in Journalism” Award) did an article in the May 3, 2010 issue of Time Magazine on CNN’s neutrality and the increasingly-partisan media, but even CNN is a little left-leaning. I suppose my point to all this is that Jon Stewart was right, partially – Fox is not fair and balanced. But, they are doing their best to make the world of American journalism fairly balanced, on average.