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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

A Reminder from the President on Media Objectivity

Nestled in his interview with Rolling Stone`s Jann Wenner is an important reminder from the President of the United States about the historical context within which to properly view today´s right-wing media:

The golden age of an objective press was a pretty narrow span of time in our history. Before that, you had folks like Hearst who used their newspapers very intentionally to promote their viewpoints. I think Fox is part of that tradition — it is part of the tradition that has a very clear, undeniable point of view. It’s a point of view that I disagree with. It’s a point of view that I think is ultimately destructive for the long-term growth of a country that has a vibrant middle class and is competitive in the world.

The President could have gone on to point out that in the era of the Hearst newspaper empire, and before that, in the years stretching back to the beginning of the Republic, Americans typically dependend entirely on highly partisan media for most political information–basically, whatever newspapers happened to be available in a given locale. In cities with multiple daily newspapers, one´s political party affiliation was a major determinent of the newspaper of choice. But there was little or no pretense that there was some ´”objective” source of political information, and little choice at all outside the major cities.
For the most part, people decide to watch Fox News today for the same reasons that a New Yorker in the late nineteenth century chose to read the Times or the Tribune as opposed to the World or the Sun. As the President implied, telling Fox viewers the network isn´t exactly “fair and balanced” is largely a waste of time; ideologues view reality through an ideological prism in any event. Explaining that Fox`s point of view is wrong and destructive is a more fruitful approach than imagining there is some model of objectivity to which all news sources should conform. At least nowdays virtually all voters do have a choice of where to obtain information, and the best antidote for Fox viewers is to accidentally stray elsewhere on that cable guide and get exposed to a whole new world, and world-view.

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