A fox in the henhouse

By WND Staff

In a way, you can’t blame the liberals. For about 40 years, from 1950 to 1990, just about all of the nation’s important media, print and electronic, sang from the same page of the political hymnbook: the liberal page, of course. All were in the effective control of journalists who could be depended on to peddle the liberal line, and to make sure that conservative views, if reported at all, were depicted as crackpot if not downright vicious. The editorial page (though not the news pages) of the Wall Street Journal, under the late Bob Bartley, was an exception that merely served to prove the rule.

Around 1990, however, various rifts began to appear within the lute. For some reason the liberals couldn’t fathom, talk radio was turning into a popular venue for conservative spokesmen, led by Rush Limbaugh. (It never occurred to the liberals that talk radio was providing a forum for views they had always excluded from the media they controlled, but which millions of Americans longed to hear.) Still, radio could be dismissed as the medium of the Great Unwashed. It was only when conservative opinions began showing up in the world of television that the liberals became genuinely alarmed.

It has been a slow process. The major networks (ABC, NBC and CBS) haven’t changed their tune at all, but the cable news networks have been quietly stealing hundreds of thousands of their viewers. Fortunately, from the liberal standpoint, CNN (the earliest and, for a long time, the biggest of the cable challengers) showed no sign of wanting to upset the liberal applecart. But several years ago, Rupert Murdoch launched the Fox News Channel, and put Roger Ailes, a veteran TV news producer with dangerously conservative opinions, in charge of it.

Not only did cable news in general continue to eat into the Big Three’s viewership, but Fox News proceeded to overtake and leave in its dust all of its cable competitors, including CNN. According to the latest figures available to me, Fox News has a nightly audience of 1.3 million viewers, compared with 715,000 for CNN, 312,000 for MSNBC, and even less for the rest of its cable competition.

That, you can be sure, has been enough to set off alarms all over liberaldom. The attacks on Fox (for its supposed conservative bias) have bordered on the hysterical, even though its 1.3 million viewers would not seem a great threat (yet) to the nightly audiences of NBC (8.9 million), ABC (8.2 million), or CBS (6.5 million). But the liberals, for all their alleged “tolerance,” clearly don’t intend to allow any conservative interlopers whatsoever into the royal enclosure of TV news. If they have their way, you will take what they give you and like it.

Not, by the way, that Fox News is all that conservative. It describes its news coverage as “fair and balanced,” and rightly so. It has both liberal and conservative commentators, interviews spokesmen for every serious point of view, and reports both sides of every controversy. But it insists on reporting facts that the liberal media are doing their best to keep the American public ignorant of, and that of course warrants the death penalty.

To hear the liberals howl, it is the conservatives who now dominate the American media. But listen to how Evan Thomas, the assistant managing editor of Newsweek, and surely one of the greatest knee-jerk liberals of our time, assessed the power of the liberal media in an unguarded moment on “Inside Washington” on July 10:

Let’s talk a little media bias here. The media, I think, want Kerry to win. And I think they’re going to portray Kerry and Edwards – I’m talking about the establishment media, not Fox – but they’re going to portray Kerry and Edwards as being young and dynamic and optimistic and all. There’s going to be this glow about them that some – is going to be worth, collectively, the two of them, that’s going to be worth maybe 15 points.