It seems appropraite to make this post now after reading Tom Vannah’s Between the Lines in this week’s Advocate, which addresses the credibility of (basically) admittedly biased “news” programs on television like those of Rachel Maddow and Sean Hannity. I have been thinking about this question for about however long The Daily Show has been on the air: is a biased source a responsible and reliable fount from which to absorb important information? While it is clear to me that Olbermann and Maddow are clearly biased, I am not disgusted by them because they do not lie and they are not incredulous and angry. In fact, they often sit by smuggly while they watch the McCain/Palin camp put thier feet in their mouths. Both have a studied eyebrow raise, a slight 10 degree turn of the head away from the camera while still maintaining eye contact, saying without saying, “They said, it not me.” They also don’t really claim to be real news, or give obvious nods to the fact that they are attempting to be entertaining first and informative second. Fox (Faux) News has the word “news” in the name of its network.
I also have come to the conclusion that the liberal biased media figures (Maddow, Olbermann, John Stewart) do some journalistic leg work, and are not just fed information by a bunch of 27-year-old guys in oxford shirts and khakis. Maddow got Obama to sit down for an interview last night only two months after her show first aired! And she didn’t just lob him softballs! Obama told her she was “cruisin’ for a bruisin!'” Obama has been on The Daily Show twice. Stewart regularly analyzes what the responsibility of the news media actually is in a gloriously meta display of his astute awareness of his show’s identity and how and why people watch it. recently, he had Campbell Brown on his show as a guest where they talked about the news media’s job. The name of Brown’s show is No Bias, No Bull. To steal imagery from Brown, the responsibility of journalists is not to give the candidates equitable coverage. It is their responsibility to tell the facts. If one candidate says it’s raining outside and the other says it isn’t, a reporter shouldn’t be concerned about giving them equal face time. She should stick her head out the window and see if it’s raining. (Even if it were that clear cut the Republican would probably say something like “well it’s not raining everywhere in America, and even though I am standing here in this spot where it is raining, I don’t feel wet because, in my mind, it’s always sunny in this great land of ours and we’re about to embark on a heat wave, a time when Americans can be proud and put away their galoshes. Jesus wore sandals, after all.”) I mean, discussions on this level aren’t even part of the equation over at Faux News.
The “is it raining” way of explaining a journalist’s job is a little comforting to me in the face of criticism of the mainstream media (which McCain/Palin accuse of having liberal bias) for being unfairly critical of the Republican candidate. Sure, there is more negative stuff about McCain in those papers. They see rain. They say, “it’s raining.” They have been careful in their endorsements, have reported the best collection of policies, made the most comprehensive character analysis, and explained their reasons with tact and due diligence. John McCain’s campaign is a joke. His camp refuses to speak with the NYT. I know the paper’s had blows to its credibility in recent times, but it’s the New York Times! He kicked Maureen Dowd off the straight talk express at 2 a.m. because, guess what, he didn’t like her particular brand of straight talk. If he’s dodging eztablished news empires now, what’s he going to do in office. He might do something crazy like try to kick Helen Thomas out of her chair. Oh, wait…
Here are some select clips for your viewing pleasure:
Maddow and Obama:
Stewart and Brown:
At least one person makes sense on Fox:
And if you haven’t seen this little genius I feel bad for you. Here, your life will be better. Please watch both: