This Week in Conservative Media
NEWSWEEK just ran two stories this week about Fox News, one by Andrew Romano on Glenn Beck “The Unified Theory of Glenn Beck” and one by me, “Have Republicans Been Out-Foxed?” John Hart, spokesman for Sen. Tom Coburn, who was highlighted in the "Outfoxed" story, pointed out that it’s not just Fox that is on the senator’s radar, but all “agenda-driven” news including, as a counterweight to Fox, CNN. “The senator’s point was to just not trust one outlet’s perspective on things—CNN has an agenda and Fox has an agenda (and he is sympathetic to that agenda),” says Hart, who later adds that Coburn’s point is not to malign Fox, or CNN or anyone else, but to encourage people to broaden the scope of where they get their news. (During Coburn’s original town-hall discussion, he did address CNN, saying, “Don’t just watch Fox News or CNN. Watch them both.”)
Bruce Bartlett, also included in the piece, blogged about the story on Capital Games and Gains with a piece titled “Fox News and MSNBC: Not the Competitors They Should Be.” In it, Bartlett focuses on the failure of liberals to counter what airs on Fox. “I just want to be clear about one thing. I don't think there is anything wrong with Fox being an overtly conservative/Republican news outlet. I think the cult of 'objectivity' that has governed journalism in the modern era is impossible to achieve and makes for boring newspapers, magazines and broadcast news programming. It's a key reason why these traditional news sources are dying.”
He credits Fox for positioning itself in the center of what was, previously, a media with a deeper liberal bias than Bartlett sees these days. The problem, he argues, is that when the media moved to the center, Fox moved far to the right and still won’t admit it. “I just wish Fox would stop pretending that it isn't a mouthpiece for the Republican Party and come out of the closet, so to speak.” In the meantime, there is no solid left-leaning outlet that seems capable of competing with Fox. Bartlett suggests that “Comcast, which now owns NBC, should spin it [MSNBC] off and give it the freedom to become the anti-Fox. I think it would be much more successful than it is now.” In the meantime, Glenn Beck is leading the ratings and setting the baseline for professionalism. As Bartlett told NEWSWEEK: “Bill O'Reilly might look like a clown compared to a traditional news anchor," says Bartlett, "but compared to Glenn Beck he looks like Edward R. Murrow."
Romano’s piece on Glenn Beck discusses why both conservatives and liberals are drawn to Beck. “The reason we pay attention to Beck is that he both comforts and flatters his audience; he makes them feel good, and good about themselves. And by "them" I mean the two groups that obsess over Beck the most: tea partiers and liberals,” writes Romano. The other group that obsesses over Beck, writes Romano? The mainstream media. “It's not just that he generates drama and conflict. The current narrative—reasonable Democrats vs. unreasonable conservatives—requires exactly the sort of drama and conflict he generates. There's a reason that Obama highlighted Beck's "troublesome" "vitriol" in a recent interview, and there's a reason that every media outlet in the country reported on it.” We can’t seem to get enough of the man. His viewership—up 50 percent from last year—proves it.