Monday, January 3, 2011

The Flood to Fox

In the most recent announcement of a mainstream network anchor going over to the dark side, John Roberts of CNN has announced that he is now switching to the Fox News Channel as a senior national correspondent. This comes months after Juan Williams, formerly of NPR, switched to the conservative news network himself, though amidst a well-publicized scandal that invoked the nation's free speech hotheads.

The recent flood of premier journalists flocking to Fox may be due to several factors. One theory is that Fox is trying to balance its reporting to be more in line with the middle of America, that cutaway majority that has no self-proclaimed political affiliation and is so prized by both parties as a clutch group in elections. Based on this theory, the idea is for Fox to present as more appealing, thus bringing more swing voters into a media system that becomes, while more diluted conservatively, also more subtle in its message.

Another theory, and the one that I personally adhere to more, is that these journalists have been attempting to break into the conservative field of media with their own outspoken opinions, such as in the case of Williams. Fox picks up on these guys and offers them promoted positions in the Fox News empire so as to solidify their own credentials as a "fair and balanced" news source, while maintaining their conservative views, and simultaneously presenting a view that they are diversifying with these new hires.

In my mind, this second theory is more likely because it more accurately reflects the flow of media becoming more conservative over time, particularly in the last two years. The amount of disinformation and outright falsehood that is promoted throughout the echo chamber has become decidedly right-wing, meaning that journalists from all news sources have had to move farther right or be marginalized by the rest of the media. CNN is a fantastic example of this. Years ago, it was considered a middle-America, non-partisan news source that reflected no political ideology over any other. As Fox news and other conservative media began to gain momentum, CNN was largely attacked by them for being left-wing and having a liberal bias (their bias was created because they were to the left of the conservative media, even though they were centrist). In answer to these accusations, CNN began its shift to the right, thereby trying to appease the conservative media and quiet them. The same goes for most other major news organizations, but the result was that Fox has moved further to the right to maintain their distance so that it can continue to rant about the liberal bias and push popular media even further to the right. This second theory of conservative anchors and contributors being swallowed up by Fox more accurately represents a result from this phenomenon.
Of course, this has been years in the making, and will take just as many if not more years to unravel. It's like any knot: it takes a lot more time, thought, patience, and energy to untie than it did to get the knot in the first place. The same holds true for the economy, but that's a different subject. The point is, we as people must demand balance in our media, even when we find it lacking completely. The only place I consistently hear unbiased news is on NPR, but that has recently come under attack in Congress and has been threatened with a hefty slash in federal funding (never mind the federal subsidies that are granted to other, privately owned media).

It is likely that, as time goes on, we will see a greater shift in the number of reporters, premier journalists, and talking heads that are absorbed into Fox because they become conservative enough. Pretty soon, Fox will be the only organization with any legitimate journalists at all, and will have one more credential to tote in its war on journalism.

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