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.)