News we can choose

Old school journalist Ted Koppel lambastes both MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann and Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly, concluding with this:

The commercial success of both Fox News and MSNBC is a source of nonpartisan sadness for me. While I can appreciate the financial logic of drowning television viewers in a flood of opinions designed to confirm their own biases, the trend is not good for the republic. It is, though, the natural outcome of a growing sense of national entitlement. Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s oft-quoted observation that “everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts,” seems almost quaint in an environment that flaunts opinions as though they were facts.

And so, among the many benefits we have come to believe the founding fathers intended for us, the latest is news we can choose. Beginning, perhaps, from the reasonable perspective that absolute objectivity is unattainable, Fox News and MSNBC no longer even attempt it. They show us the world not as it is, but as partisans (and loyal viewers) at either end of the political spectrum would like it to be. This is to journalism what Bernie Madoff was to investment: He told his customers what they wanted to hear, and by the time they learned the truth, their money was gone.

via Ted Koppel: Olbermann, O’Reilly and the death of real news.

One could argue that Ted Koppel himself was not completely objective and that his pioneering night time news show tended to tilt to the left.  And yet, if it is impossible to be objective in the news business, doesn’t that mean the postmodernists are right when they say that every group has its own “truth”?

Isn’t there a danger in only hearing what we want to hear?  Maybe conservatives should listen to MSNBC and liberals should listen to Fox.  Do you have any other solutions to this syndrome?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://carolmsblog.blogspot.com/ C-Christian Soldier

    the MSM has been controlling info for 60+ years- now we have the ‘blog-is-sphere’ and FOX- and the Dark Siders do not like the competition…poor them!
    C-CS

  • http://carolmsblog.blogspot.com/ C-Christian Soldier

    the MSM has been controlling info for 60+ years- now we have the ‘blog-is-sphere’ and FOX- and the Dark Siders do not like the competition…poor them!
    C-CS

  • SKPeterson

    Referring to the Moynihan quote, the problem is not facts, but what facts are deemed to be relevant or germane to the issue. Many facts may be cited by Right and Left, but are they ALL of the facts? Is attention paid to placing all of the facts before the people (reporting), or forming and arranging the facts to tell a particular story (opinion-making). Facts may be stubborn things, but stories stubbornly sell.

    I am reminded in this regard of scientific reports and studies and how headlines and articles can be written that play up one particular aspect of the findings at the expense of the rest of the research – often spinning out a story that is at odds with the actual conclusions presented in the original research.

  • SKPeterson

    Referring to the Moynihan quote, the problem is not facts, but what facts are deemed to be relevant or germane to the issue. Many facts may be cited by Right and Left, but are they ALL of the facts? Is attention paid to placing all of the facts before the people (reporting), or forming and arranging the facts to tell a particular story (opinion-making). Facts may be stubborn things, but stories stubbornly sell.

    I am reminded in this regard of scientific reports and studies and how headlines and articles can be written that play up one particular aspect of the findings at the expense of the rest of the research – often spinning out a story that is at odds with the actual conclusions presented in the original research.

  • Kirk

    @Skpeterson

    What you’ve said is all very true and, so long as people are reporting the news, I don’t think there’s any hope of a completely unbiased and fair reading of an issue. That being said, there’s a difference between a natural bias and a shouting head pontificating opinions he doesn’t like and activities he doesn’t approve of. If journalists are interested in truth, they should at least make the attempt at objectivity. Just because a paragon can’t be reached doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be striven for.

    @C-Christian Soldier:

    Considering the Fox News controls the majority ratings share, it’s pretty safe to consider them a part of the main stream media. It seems to me that being in the MSM isn’t about what your report, but how you report it. That being, with a strong slant.

  • Kirk

    @Skpeterson

    What you’ve said is all very true and, so long as people are reporting the news, I don’t think there’s any hope of a completely unbiased and fair reading of an issue. That being said, there’s a difference between a natural bias and a shouting head pontificating opinions he doesn’t like and activities he doesn’t approve of. If journalists are interested in truth, they should at least make the attempt at objectivity. Just because a paragon can’t be reached doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be striven for.

    @C-Christian Soldier:

    Considering the Fox News controls the majority ratings share, it’s pretty safe to consider them a part of the main stream media. It seems to me that being in the MSM isn’t about what your report, but how you report it. That being, with a strong slant.

  • Louis

    My approach is to avoid shrill media, and to read a variety of sources. My own main sources of news information:

    TV: CTV & Global, and to a lesser extent, the CBC.

    Internet: The Telegraph (UK), News 24 (SA), Der Speigel (Germany), Beeld (SA), The Atlantic (US) and the CBC (Canada).

  • Louis

    My approach is to avoid shrill media, and to read a variety of sources. My own main sources of news information:

    TV: CTV & Global, and to a lesser extent, the CBC.

    Internet: The Telegraph (UK), News 24 (SA), Der Speigel (Germany), Beeld (SA), The Atlantic (US) and the CBC (Canada).

  • Louis

    And, I forgot, the BBC.

  • Louis

    And, I forgot, the BBC.

  • rlewer

    What is needed is to have a clear line between the news programs and the opinion programs. The prime time shows on Fox are clearly opinion shows. Their news programs are separate.

    Ted Koppel presented his opinions as news.

  • rlewer

    What is needed is to have a clear line between the news programs and the opinion programs. The prime time shows on Fox are clearly opinion shows. Their news programs are separate.

    Ted Koppel presented his opinions as news.

  • ericr

    I listened to ABC news this morning on the way to wrk. The main thrust of the blurb on Charlie Rangel was a retrospective on Newt Gingrich. The theme of story about the likely success of Lisa Murkowski was the dire implications for Sarah Palin. The segment concluded by telling us that 4/10th’s of the population feels that marriage is obsolete (not that, apparently, 6/10th’s feel there is some relevance to marriage.) “Mainstream” vs. “non-mainstream” media seems like a difference without a distinction when it comes to discussion of bias.

    Rather than look at what is broadcast, shouldn’t we look at what we do with the information? I like having the freedom to decide what sources of information seem helpful, to evaluate the information, to discuss it, to examine the source’s credibility, etc. I may decide to watch something because it is entertaining, on some level. If something said or broadcast is extreme in someone’s estimation, it may stimulate me to think about why I agree or don’t agree.

    The “solution”, it seems to me, is the existence of forums like this one.

  • ericr

    I listened to ABC news this morning on the way to wrk. The main thrust of the blurb on Charlie Rangel was a retrospective on Newt Gingrich. The theme of story about the likely success of Lisa Murkowski was the dire implications for Sarah Palin. The segment concluded by telling us that 4/10th’s of the population feels that marriage is obsolete (not that, apparently, 6/10th’s feel there is some relevance to marriage.) “Mainstream” vs. “non-mainstream” media seems like a difference without a distinction when it comes to discussion of bias.

    Rather than look at what is broadcast, shouldn’t we look at what we do with the information? I like having the freedom to decide what sources of information seem helpful, to evaluate the information, to discuss it, to examine the source’s credibility, etc. I may decide to watch something because it is entertaining, on some level. If something said or broadcast is extreme in someone’s estimation, it may stimulate me to think about why I agree or don’t agree.

    The “solution”, it seems to me, is the existence of forums like this one.

  • ericr

    I guess I should proofread before hitting “submit.”

  • ericr

    I guess I should proofread before hitting “submit.”

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    I tend to avoid the talking head shows on all the major news networks. The opinions of talking heads mean little to me. Let me see the bare facts, thank you, I can make up my own mind. Or course, I don’t have cable so it is easy to avoid them ;-) .

    I do, however, follow both CNN.com and FOXnews.com – I have both feeds on my iGoogle homepage, and I have USAToday on my phone. I read them all because even the “straight” news articles are heavily tilted by the reporter’s biases. As Kirk said as long as there are people writing the news it will be biased.

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    I tend to avoid the talking head shows on all the major news networks. The opinions of talking heads mean little to me. Let me see the bare facts, thank you, I can make up my own mind. Or course, I don’t have cable so it is easy to avoid them ;-) .

    I do, however, follow both CNN.com and FOXnews.com – I have both feeds on my iGoogle homepage, and I have USAToday on my phone. I read them all because even the “straight” news articles are heavily tilted by the reporter’s biases. As Kirk said as long as there are people writing the news it will be biased.

  • S Bauer

    Ted Koppel has to widen the focus of his lens. Fox and MSNBC are only the most blatant expressions of a broadcast journalism that, even when it tries to be balanced, is satisfied with reporting how the subjects of their reporting are spinning the facts rather than getting their hands dirty by digging into the facts themselves. Olbermann and O’Reilly are just “cutting out the middle man.”

  • S Bauer

    Ted Koppel has to widen the focus of his lens. Fox and MSNBC are only the most blatant expressions of a broadcast journalism that, even when it tries to be balanced, is satisfied with reporting how the subjects of their reporting are spinning the facts rather than getting their hands dirty by digging into the facts themselves. Olbermann and O’Reilly are just “cutting out the middle man.”

  • DonS

    Bias in media is more than just about how you report a particular story. The real slant comes in which stories you deem worthy to report in your one-half hour newscast. We know now (though certainly it was no secret at the time) that “Uncle Walter” was on the far left fringe of political thought — he admitted that later after he retired. So, when he said “that’s the way it is” in his stentorian tone at the close of every newscast, to at least some extent it was actually just the way he, his writers, and his editors wished to present “it” as being.

    MSM had a substantial monopoly on the news industry for a very long time. That was not a good thing. Ted Koppel longs for those days again because newsmen like to control the dissemination of news and portray it the way they want it portrayed. The fact is that we are better off knowing the biases of those presenting the news, and having a variety of outlets, having various biases, to choose from. As individuals, I think it is a poor idea to simply choose to tune into Fox or MSNBC 24-7. You should look at the world from a variety of perspectives, and understand the slant of each purveyor of news.

    And be grateful that we now have a choice.

  • DonS

    Bias in media is more than just about how you report a particular story. The real slant comes in which stories you deem worthy to report in your one-half hour newscast. We know now (though certainly it was no secret at the time) that “Uncle Walter” was on the far left fringe of political thought — he admitted that later after he retired. So, when he said “that’s the way it is” in his stentorian tone at the close of every newscast, to at least some extent it was actually just the way he, his writers, and his editors wished to present “it” as being.

    MSM had a substantial monopoly on the news industry for a very long time. That was not a good thing. Ted Koppel longs for those days again because newsmen like to control the dissemination of news and portray it the way they want it portrayed. The fact is that we are better off knowing the biases of those presenting the news, and having a variety of outlets, having various biases, to choose from. As individuals, I think it is a poor idea to simply choose to tune into Fox or MSNBC 24-7. You should look at the world from a variety of perspectives, and understand the slant of each purveyor of news.

    And be grateful that we now have a choice.

  • Don

    There has been and always will be bias in reporting and commentators are paid to give their opinions. American’s understand this and know when they are being sold something.

    The danger lies in the belief that the media IS the message.

  • Don

    There has been and always will be bias in reporting and commentators are paid to give their opinions. American’s understand this and know when they are being sold something.

    The danger lies in the belief that the media IS the message.

  • DonS

    Bob @ 13: You can read his 1997 book and numerous interviews. You can also listen to this 1988 speech at the People for the American Way (far left fringe political organization) banquet: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eybGwtjW3ro

    Cronkite’s far left politics are not in dispute, by people on either side of the aisle. He was proud of them.

  • DonS

    Bob @ 13: You can read his 1997 book and numerous interviews. You can also listen to this 1988 speech at the People for the American Way (far left fringe political organization) banquet: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eybGwtjW3ro

    Cronkite’s far left politics are not in dispute, by people on either side of the aisle. He was proud of them.

  • DonS

    Bob @ 15: Um, OK. Well, you’ve got that right. He definitely doesn’t agree with me….. Let’s see, only 20% of Americans self-identify as “liberal”, so, automatically he was in the left-most 20% of the population. Since he was proudly liberal, and gave a rah-rah speech promoting a bold brand of liberalism at a PFAW banquet, which itself is a proudly liberal organization, it’s probably reasonable to assume that he was on the left half of that 20% sliver of the American populace. So, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to identify him as far left fringe, but, whatever.

    Let’s just call him liberal, for the sake of Bob. Surely you don’t object to that, since he himself identified as liberal.

    Let me modify my statement @ 11 to address your concerns, and to show you what a sporting fellow I am:

    “We know now (though certainly it was no secret at the time) that “Uncle Walter” was a proud political liberal — he admitted that later after he retired. So, when he said “that’s the way it is” in his stentorian tone at the close of every newscast, to at least some extent it was actually just the way he, his writers, and his editors wished to present “it” as being.”

    Feel better Bob? Want to deal with the merits of my comment now?

  • DonS

    Bob @ 15: Um, OK. Well, you’ve got that right. He definitely doesn’t agree with me….. Let’s see, only 20% of Americans self-identify as “liberal”, so, automatically he was in the left-most 20% of the population. Since he was proudly liberal, and gave a rah-rah speech promoting a bold brand of liberalism at a PFAW banquet, which itself is a proudly liberal organization, it’s probably reasonable to assume that he was on the left half of that 20% sliver of the American populace. So, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to identify him as far left fringe, but, whatever.

    Let’s just call him liberal, for the sake of Bob. Surely you don’t object to that, since he himself identified as liberal.

    Let me modify my statement @ 11 to address your concerns, and to show you what a sporting fellow I am:

    “We know now (though certainly it was no secret at the time) that “Uncle Walter” was a proud political liberal — he admitted that later after he retired. So, when he said “that’s the way it is” in his stentorian tone at the close of every newscast, to at least some extent it was actually just the way he, his writers, and his editors wished to present “it” as being.”

    Feel better Bob? Want to deal with the merits of my comment now?

  • Carl Vehse

    The Media Research Center has a whole collection of Uncle Walter’s leftist quotes at “Walter Cronkite: Liberal Media Icon.” Here’s one example of former SeeBS Clymer Cronkite at a November People for the American Way banquet, quoted in the December 5, 1988 Newsweek.

    “I know liberalism isn’t dead in this country. It simply has, temporarily we hope, lost its voice….We know that unilateral action in Grenada and Tripoli was wrong. We know that ‘Star Wars’ means uncontrollable escalation of the arms race. We know that the real threat to democracy is the half of the nation in poverty. We know that no one should tell a woman she has to bear an unwanted child….Gawd Almighty, we’ve got to shout these truths in which we believe from the housetops. Like that scene in the movie ‘Network,’ we’ve got to throw open our windows and shout these truths to the streets and the heavens. “

  • Carl Vehse

    The Media Research Center has a whole collection of Uncle Walter’s leftist quotes at “Walter Cronkite: Liberal Media Icon.” Here’s one example of former SeeBS Clymer Cronkite at a November People for the American Way banquet, quoted in the December 5, 1988 Newsweek.

    “I know liberalism isn’t dead in this country. It simply has, temporarily we hope, lost its voice….We know that unilateral action in Grenada and Tripoli was wrong. We know that ‘Star Wars’ means uncontrollable escalation of the arms race. We know that the real threat to democracy is the half of the nation in poverty. We know that no one should tell a woman she has to bear an unwanted child….Gawd Almighty, we’ve got to shout these truths in which we believe from the housetops. Like that scene in the movie ‘Network,’ we’ve got to throw open our windows and shout these truths to the streets and the heavens. “

  • DonS

    Carl, that’s the same banquet speech I cited, and I provided Bob with the YouTube link to the actual speech. Bob didn’t think that was sufficiently liberal, or that such radicalism was a problem for an “objective” journalist, apparently.

  • DonS

    Carl, that’s the same banquet speech I cited, and I provided Bob with the YouTube link to the actual speech. Bob didn’t think that was sufficiently liberal, or that such radicalism was a problem for an “objective” journalist, apparently.


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