Whatever Fox News May Be, It Is Not a News Channel

I have spent more than half a century trying to report and edit “the news,” so I should be able to recognize news media by now. And I can tell you that the Fox cable channel is not a legitimate member of the news media.

foxI won’t go into the kind of analysis that Rachel Maddow engaged in on MSNBC last night. That’s just not necessary. Most normally intelligent people can tell real news from tabloid journalism. You don’t need a manual for that.

When you stand in line waiting to pay for your groceries, you probably glance at those “newspapers” on the rack next to the cashier. And you know without being told that they are not legitimate news media. You know, for example, that a two-headed Martian did not really father a baby in Oshkosh. And you take with more than a grain of salt the lurid “exposes” about celebrities and other public figures.

Fox News is just as unreliable and sometimes even more extreme.

I am not talking only of the relentless personal assaults on President Barack Obama and various individuals in his administration. Regrettable as that is, it’s still not unknown in “political reporting.” It’s the one area of reporting in which I consistently found that bias was not only tolerated but even encouraged.

But Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and other Fox News “personalities” indulge in even more despicable tactics, often resorting to deliberate misrepresentation – and outright fabrication – to fuel their crusades and whip up their audiences.

When I was in the newspaper game, anyone who sunk to that level of journalism became a pariah in legitimate media circles. For example, the National Enquirer paid good money, but you worked there at your peril; once tainted by that brush, you could never get a real newspaper job again.

Nobody would expect the White House to invite representatives of the supermarket tabloids to attend press conferences and interview government officials. So why are legitimate journalists in a huff over the Obama Administration’s decision to shut out Fox News?

I can understand Tucker Carlson complaining that Obama is “bullying” Fox News, and claiming that the White House and liberals are trying “to use government power to muzzle opinions they don’t agree with.” Tucker Carlson is nobody’s idea of a legitimate journalist. But what on earth prompted ABC News’ Jake Tapper to get all huffy when White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Fox was “not a news organization”? Tapper pompously protested that “it’s escaped none of our notice that the White House has decided in the last few weeks to declare one of our sister organizations ‘not a news organization’ and to tell the rest of us not to treat them like a news organization.” He asked Gibbs to “explain why it’s appropriate.”

Come on, Jake! You know Fox News is not ABC’s “sister organization.” If you don’t, you need to go back to journalism school for a refresher course in newsroom ethics.

And I am mystified by the legitimate TV channels’ threat to boycott interviews with Kenneth Feinberg, the Treasury Department’s special master for compensation, unless Fox was also invited. What about the rest of the tabloid-trash industry, guys? Shouldn’t the National Enquirer and The Globe have been included?