Friday, October 22, 2010

Speech Impediment: Addendum

One quick thing I wanted to add about the whole Juan Williams debacle. As expected, the second Williams got the axe from NPR, Fox jumped at the opportunity to publicly piss all over its radio nemesis by opening its arms and its wallet to Williams and offering him an extension on his contract worth a cool two million. What this essentially adds up to is something I've written about before: the fragmenting of the media based solely on political affiliation. In other words, say something the liberals will suck up like Soma, you've got yourself a sweet gig on MSNBC or NPR; throw a little red meat to the conservative crowd -- welcome to your new home at Fox. In the end, the one who suffers from this kind of homogenization is you.

"Across the Great Divide" (Originally Published, 9.10.09)

Well, here's the least surprising media-centric news item ever: John Stossel is leaving ABC for Fox News Channel.

For the uninitiated, Stossel is a multi-Emmy-winning investigative reporter with an amusing Harry Reems moustache. He calls himself a libertarian -- a designation which these days, unfortunately, is almost exclusively the property of the right -- and has spent the past several years doing his best to debunk manmade global climate change, bolster the notion of the wonders of unfettered greed and the ultimate good of the free market, and assail anyone who complains about the current health care model. His slot on 20/20 has been little more than his own personal Hyde Park-style soapbox ever since his conversion from serious journalist to silly dogmatic populist.

Stossel's been a regular guest on Fox for some time now; he generally appears as an analyst (which at Fox is code for someone who has even less obligation to the truth than the correspondents in the general assignment pool). Given his tendency to egomaniacally showboat, his departure probably isn't much of a loss to ABC. But it does underscore in no uncertain terms just where the business of journalism is heading: Hume, Beck, now Stossel -- they all skew hard to the right and they've all wound up at Fox. At this point, Fox is the bright light on the porch that attracts all the insects. The problem is that what we're witnessing is the homogenization of the news media. It was admittedly inevitable. With so many choices out there, narrowcasting was always the future. But the fewer dissenting opinions at each outlet -- with Fox essentially saying, "If you're a conservative, this is where you belong" -- the viewers, readers, and people simply looking for a well-balanced vision of the world will suffer.

Then again, the battle lines are so clearly drawn these days, with people believing only what they want to believe and refusing to hear any evidence to the contrary, that it probably doesn't make any difference anyway. For God's sake, last night a congressman stood up and shouted that the president is a liar (a lie itself, at least insofar as what that congressman was protesting at the time). The damage is done, and we may never reach a point again where this country's various political factions listen to each other without prejudice, let alone treat each other with respect.

The people who like what Stossel has to say are already waiting for him at Fox.

Welcome home, John.

(By the way, one more thing worth adding: Williams is dead-on when he says that NPR CEO Vivian Schiller's insinuation that he needs to discuss his supposed issues with Muslims with "his psychiatrist" was way below the belt and entirely uncalled-for. That, incidentally, is what I was referring to when I said last night that NPR made a spectacle out of canning Williams.)


Anon said...

Chez, you win an internet cookie for the soma reference.

CNNfan said...

Two million? Offer Sanchez millions too!

paleotectonics said...

Sorry Chez, gotta say this. I am far more terrified of f'ing Christians than I am of Muslims. The small handful of Muslim terrorists want us dead. Fine. The overwhelming population of sub-moronic left-behindends want you to live - as a mindless, unquestioning, and most importantly, tithing zombie. I'll take beheading, or happily take the culture that invented algebra, before I'll submit to some sky-fairy believing Rambo Jesus fan.

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree with you on this one, Chez. When I heard Juan Williams was gone from NPR, I harkened back to the days almost a decade ago when he left (was ousted from) Talk of the Nation. Williams has never been particularly provocative, sharp, or even good. When he announced his new title of “senior national correspondent” years ago, I thought immediately that he was given the title “senior” just to appease an inflated ego. Kinda like we once gave five receptionists the title “senior secretary” just so they could *feel* like they were important when they went to dinner parties and improve their sucky attitudes at work. There were no juniors to their seniors.
My gut tells me that NPR was just waiting for an excuse to get rid of Williams and this was the closest they’ve been able to get in 10 years. Williams working for Fox was him thumbing his nose at NPR, not displaying diversity or anything else. It was a paycheck and he knew his days with NPR were numbered.
To contrast it with your experience at CNN, I don’t think this debacle is about politicization or left- or right-leaning journalism. It’s just about a mediocre correspondent doing a mediocre job and deserving to get canned.
Of course, mediocrity does have a home at Fox, though I'm not taking bets on how long Williams will be at Fox.

Chez said...

It's all relative, Paleo. You watch out for Muslims when you're on a plane; you watch out for Christians when you're at an abortion clinic.

I kid, of course.

Anonymous said...

Setting up NPR or MSNBC as a liberal counterpart to Fox is a false equivalency of epic proportions. I'm disappointed to see it on this site. Neither of the former two remotely acts as the propaganda arm of a political party or movement, and both employ and/or give substantial air time to non-liberals, although NPR has one less as of today.

Anonymous said...

NPR, from a management point of view, completely mishandled this. Remember this is the same organization that told its employees that they can't go to the Jon Stewart Rally because it would give the appearance of partisanship. Williams should have been brought in and offered a choice: Work for NPR and stop the additional appearances on Fox or resign. The choice would be his. Instead, he's ousted for arguably dumb remarks but in a way that makes it appear he's being punished for having an opinion.

Chez said...

Settle down, Beavis. My point wasn't that the two sides were equivalent in their spouting of partisan rhetoric -- only that someone who takes a left-of-center stance has a better chance of finding a comfortable environment at MS or NPR. And besides, I'm pretty sure my point was made that Fox, above all others, is aligning itself as the singular voice of one specific political point-of-view in the republished Stossel piece.

Bluegoose said...

I can't agree with your argument that the left equals the right. Fox has no equivalent to the Scarborough show, and they are always far more slanted to the right than other outlets are to the left. And having Alan Colmes on for a few minutes a week doesn't balance things out, either. You're oversimplifying here.

Chez said...

Yes, because that's exactly what I said -- that the left and right are 100% the same.

You're new around here, aren't you?

CNNfan said...

The most important point first: No offense intended to anyone who may have taken offense concerning this Williams flap.

THE FACTOR is (often reported to be) the highest rated cable news program in the world. So why, in the world, would Bill O'Reilly let that format be changed?

Ref said...

Chez, I have a high regard for your ideas, but you did set up something of a false equivalency here. There is no mass media outlet that does for the American left (I'm talking about the real left, not mushy liberalism) what Fox does for the red-meat right. That said, Williams is an ass but this was really mishandled by NPR (Nice Polite Republicans to those of us on the left.) They should have just openly acknowledged what a right wing suck-up he's been for years and left it at that.

kanye said...

Forget about the real left, Ref. There's no mass media outlet that does for the majority what Fox does for the right.

btw-Juan Williams did deserve to be fired; if for no other reason than violating Child Labor Laws.

Who else besides a terrified six-year-old is still scared of The Boogie Man?

He's a 54-year-old man with a degree in philosophy and a 30-year history as a professional journalist, who draws a paycheck by promulgating irrational fears on an already frightened public under the guise of expertise and authority.

Of course he should have been canned, right along with all the rest of 'em.

Sheriff Bart said...

If we've learned one thing from this it's this: Jews don't run NPR.