In desperate need of a respite from term-paper reading (bleakness broken by the occasional flash of sunlight) I’ve been turning to the mainstream media — which plumped me right into the lap of Bill Keller. In today’s Times Keller skewers “Fox News:”
My gripe against Fox is not that it is conservative. The channel’s pulpit-pounding pundits, with the exception of the avuncular Mike Huckabee, are too shrill for my taste, but they are not masquerading as impartial newsmen. Nor am I indignant that Fox News is the cultural home of the Republican Party and a nonstop Obama roast. Partisan journalism, while not my thing, has a long tradition. Though I do wonder if the folks at Fox appreciate that this genre is more European than American.
My complaint is that Fox pretends very hard to be something it is not, and in the process contributes to the corrosive cynicism that has polarized our public discourse.
Thus far Bill and I are on the same page (metaphorically speaking). He then goes on to make a point, once made, if memory serves, by a lamented, departed Public Editor:
I would never suggest that what is now called “the mainstream media” — the news organizations that most Americans depended on over the past century — achieved a golden mean. We have too often been condescending to those who don’t share our secular urban vantage point. We are too easily seduced by access. We can be credulous.
A welcome confession, though somewhat diluted by a self-absolving spin:
Traditional news organizations, for all their shortcomings, see it as their mission to provide — and test — the information you need to form intelligent opinions. We aim to challenge lazy assumptions. Fox panders to them.
“Challenge lazy assumptions?” As Jack Benny would say: “hmmm.”