Howell Raines, the New York Times’ erstwhile executive editor, sounds downright alarmed in a Washington Post Op-Ed article about the lack of journalistic standards and blatant displays of “disinformation” he sees on Fox News. What’s more, he doesn’t think that “honest” journalists are doing their part (except for Barbara Walters, kind of!) to wrangle Roger Ailes’ beast of a network into line. —KA
Howell Raines in The Washington Post:
As for Fox’s campaign against the Obama administration, perhaps the only traditional network star to put Ailes on the spot, at least a little, has been his friend, the venerable Barbara Walters, who was hosting ABC’s Sunday morning talk show. More accurately, she allowed another guest, Arianna Huffington, to belabor Ailes recently about his biased coverage of Obama. Ailes countered that he should be judged as a producer of ratings rather than a journalist—audience is his only yardstick. While true as far as it goes, this hair-splitting defense purports to absolve Ailes of responsibility for creating a news department whose raison d’etre is to dictate the outcome of our nation’s political discourse.
For the first time since the yellow journalism of a century ago, the United States has a major news organization devoted to the promotion of one political party. And let no one be misled by occasional spurts of criticism of the GOP on Fox. In a bygone era of fact-based commentary typified, left to right, by my late colleagues Scotty Reston and Bill Safire, these deceptions would have been given their proper label: disinformation.
Under the pretense of correcting a Democratic bias in news reporting, Fox has accomplished something that seemed impossible before Ailes imported to the news studio the tricks he learned in Richard Nixon’s campaign think tank: He and his video ferrets have intimidated center-right and center-left journalists into suppressing conclusions—whether on health-care reform or other issues—they once would have stated as demonstrably proven by their reporting. I try not to believe that this kid-gloves handling amounts to self-censorship, but it’s hard to ignore the evidence. News Corp., with 64,000 employees worldwide, receives the tender treatment accorded a future employer.