Former New York Times executive editor Bill Keller used his latest Times column to rip Rupert Murdoch, Roger Ailes and Fox News, pointing to Murdoch’s troubles in Great Britain over the hacking scandal. He called Fox “the good son. It is the most reliable profit center,” for Murdoch’s media empire. But, he argued, “at least for Americans — Fox News is Murdoch’s most toxic legacy.”
“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.”
Keller also took issue with Fox News’ slogan of being “fair and balanced,” saying that he doubted that anyone at the network actually believed it and that it was really for “suckers” who believe that Fox is countering conservatives’ claims of liberal media bias.
Of course, this is all being seen through Keller’s own liberal lens, where liberal media bias doesn’t exist. He prefers to call it a “secular urban vantage point.” I’m not kidding. He accuses Fox of violating the journalistic code of parking personal biases at the door, reporting the facts and admitting to mistakes when they are made.
“But we try to live by a code, a discipline, that tells us to set aside our personal biases, to test not only facts but the way they add up, to seek out the dissenters and let them make their best case, to show our work. We write unsparing articles about public figures of every stripe — even, sometimes, about ourselves. When we screw up — and we do — we are obliged to own up to our mistakes and correct them.”
This code apparently doesn’t apply at the Times, since Keller told The Daily Beast in February that the paper would be “kind of tedious to read” if it achieved “absolute objectivity.”
And when was the last time the Times fessed up to a major mistake in the paper?
For all of Keller’s complaints about Fox, they are nothing more than a smokescreen for what is really bothering him — the fact that Fox is the undisputed leader in cable news and is expected to net a billion dollars this fiscal year while The New York Times continues to lose advertisers, print readership and money.
What Keller needs to recognize is that Fox News is here to stay and that the Left no longer controls the narrative like it did for so many years. That is only part of the problem for the Times, which continues to struggle financially while adjusting to a new media paradigm of plummeting print media circulation and the need to monetize its online product.