One would expect from that headline that former New York Times executive editor Howell Raines would have used an opportunity to speak from the pages of The Washington Post to provide a mea culpa on his dereliction of duty for allowing the alarmingly shoddy journalist Jayson Blair to commit serial plagiarism and fiction on his front pages in the early 2000s. And one would be wrong.
One might also expect from that headline that the former New York Times executive editor Howell Raines would have used an opportunity to speak from the pages of The Washington Post to lament his former standard of American journalism's dereliction of duty on misreporting the Tea Party phenomenon. Or how The Times continues to get its clock cleaned by British newspapers on the ClimateGate scandals? Again, you'd be wrong. Two times.
Nope. Raines says the "one question" that has "tugged" at his "professional conscience" lately is this:
Why haven't America's old-school news organizations blown the whistle on Roger Ailes, chief of Fox News, for using the network to conduct a propaganda campaign against the Obama administration — a campaign without precedent in our modern political history?
That Raines — who trumpeted the MSM's dogged criticism of the Nixon administration as a highlight that he did not characterize as "a propaganda campaign" but something "well covered" — feels the burning urge to slam the only major television news outlet in this country to cover the Obama administration with a critical eye says all you need to know about the self-induced destruction of the MSM.
Does he call out Fox News citing examples of the kind of fiction that he presided over at the helm of America's "Newspaper of Record"? No. He does not. Instead he laments that Ailes allows on his network a "cadre of raucous commentators" that have "overturned standards of fairness and objectivity that have guided American print and broadcast journalists since World War II."
Hey, Howell. Those are commentators. MSNBC, CNN and even The New York Times has them, too. A former media big shot like you should know the difference between news reporting and commentary, of which Fox News has successfully achieved both if ratings are any gauge.
OK. I'm not being 100 percent fair. Raines attempts to provide a glaring example of malfesence on the part of Fox News. Pointing to Fox's coverage of the health care debate, Raines writes:
It is a matter of Fox turning reality on its head with, among other tactics, its endless repetition of its uber-lie: "The American people do not want health-care reform."
Fox repeats this as gospel.
Gee. Why would Fox do that? It's not like there are scads of polls showing that the American people wholly reject the vision of "health care reform" that Obama and the Democratic Congress are trying to shove down our throats. The "news" of "health care reform" is not consumed with the vague and historic notions of "reform" that Raines then cites for support. "News," as Raines should know, is what's happening now. And what's happening now on that front is extremely unpopular. Why, pray tell, is reporting — and in commentary shows, reflecting — the "gospel" of public opinion somehow a sin against journalism?
Seriously, the idiocy of Raines' piece is a wonder to behold, and explains why The New York Times is losing readership faster than Monkey Ben is losing hair. Stupid didn't leave the building with Raines, but is institutionalized at the paper.
Mark Steyn and Greg Gutfeld have torn Raines a couple of new ones over his diatribe. And they are worth reading for the giggles. But I'm gonna pull out some more asininity for the dozens of readers of Infinite Monkeys (which includes family). Raines writes:
Now Fox News has given the party of Lincoln a free ride with its repetition of the unexamined claim that today's Republican leadership really does want to overhaul health care -- if only the effort could conform to Mitch McConnell's ideas on portability and tort reform.
Well, that would be reform, wouldn't it? I guess reform doesn't count unless it involves government control of health care. Fair enough, if you believe that. But don't pretend that freeing the market to bring down prices by removing government restrictions is not "reform." Oh, and is there a word from Raines about MSNBC giving a "free ride" to Bush's critics for eight years? Of course not. I'll have to conclude that's because not even liberals like Raines ever took that network seriously.
It is true that, after 14 months of Fox's relentless pounding of President Obama's idea of sweeping reform, the latest Gallup poll shows opinion running 48 to 45 percent against the current legislation.
It's actually quite a bit higher than that, Mr. Raines. It's a solid majority of the American people who reject ObamaCare. But Fox staffers and Roger Ailes will be happy to know that they've risen from the status of and ignored and irrelevant joke of a network to mover of all of America's public opinion — trumping The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, and scores of lesser media outlets of all kinds spanning the country. I smell a new slogan for the Fox News Channel.
Seriously, I keep saying I can go on and on and on with Raines' ridiculousness, but I really can. Please bear with me, and I hope you enjoy the take-down. But this is pretty rich, even for a member of the liberal elite like Raines:
My great fear, however, is that some journalists of my generation who once prided themselves on blowing whistles and afflicting the comfortable have also been intimidated by Fox's financial power and expanding audience, as well as Ailes's proven willingness to dismantle the reputation of anyone who crosses him. (Remember his ridiculing of one early anchor, Paula Zahn, as inferior to a "dead raccoon" in ratings potential when she dared defect to CNN?) It's as if we have surrendered the sword of verifiable reportage and bought the idea that only "elites" are interested in information free of partisan poppycock.
Wow. Lots to unpack here. Isn't questioning the Obama/Dem cram-down of health care reform against the will of the American people the definition of "afflicting the comfortable"? And the idea that Paula Zahn's career was ruined by a snarky comment by Roger Ailes is laughable. Ratings rules the TV news and comment game. I always thought Zahn was a bad fit for Fox, and that they went for a "name" when they were past the need for that if the personality was a bad fit. But is it really Ailes' fault that Zahn failed upon defecting to CNN because of a contract dispute and is now relegated to the cable ghetto of the Investigation Discovery Channel? She's worked for ABC, CBS, CNN and Fox News. Her trouble finding work befitting her pedigree are her own. It should be noted that Roger Ailes hired niche talent Greta Van Susteren away from CNN and made her into a cable news superstar. And Greta, I believe, took the slot Fox was priming for Zahn.
Why has our profession, through its general silence — or only spasmodic protest — helped Fox legitimize a style of journalism that is dishonest in its intellectual process, untrustworthy in its conclusions and biased in its gestalt?
Let's put aside Raines' cheap shots at Fox's "style of journalism," which (1) Raines is in no position to criticize for supposed "dishonesty," and (2) the market has embraced — though Raines thinks the market, we TV news consumers, are not as smart as his failed ass to reject. Has the MSM really been "silent" in its criticism of Fox News? Please. It has been relentlessly assaulted by the liberal elite MSM gatekeepers. Hell, Keith Olbermann has made his career charging the Fox News windmill from the perch of his ostrich.
Raines continues to rail against any conservative who dares to purchase an American media outlet, taking a paragraph to rip the eeeeevvvvvilllll Rupert Murdoch, who saved The New York Post from oblivion.
Ed Koch once told me he could not have been elected mayor of New York without the boosterism of the New York Post.
Hey! Wait a minute! Isn't the preserving the political career of a liberal Democrat what the MSM is supposed to do? You keep throwing me curve balls, Howell. Koch shows up not infrequently on Fox News, so I supposed he's out of the liberal MSM club. Someone should send him a condolence card.
More Raines ...
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 This Week, 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.
OK. First off. If you're calling the polemicist Arianna Huffington a "traditional network star," I demand that status be given to Ann Coulter. Also, Raines' critique would have more weight if he decried his paper's once-high circulation and the traditional networks' once-dominant ratings as a "hair-splitting" check in the negative ledger. But, of course, people were shackled to his way of thinking and dictating "the outcome of our nation's political discourse" ... once upon a time. That monopoly is gone, to Raines' chagrin.
I've gone on long enough. Even I can't take it anymore — Raines' characterization of the one-year-employee Glenn Beck as the network's "whole personality" (can we have said that of The New York Times with Jayson Blair?), and his list of like-minded lefty MSM elites who have slammed Fox News (just a few paragraphs after claiming no one important enough is rough enough on Fox), etc.
Raines ends his pants-wetting rant with this:
[Fox's] news operation can, in fact, be called many things, but reporters of my generation, with memories and keyboards, dare not call it journalism.
That's why, Mr. Raines, people of this more enlightened generation — who can consume news and opinion at their will on cable TV and the Internet — increasingly reject your condescending brand of "news."