It’s news when a man bites a dog …

… and when Mickey Kaus and I agree about something. But he’s right when he says Fox News isn’t a news organization.

… and when Mickey Kaus and I agree about something.  But for once Mickey’s contrarianism has led him to notice the obvious fact that journalists who know better are trying to deny:  Fox News, under the leadership of Roger Ailes, isn’t a news organization, if a news organization is an outfit devoted to conveying news rather than merely serving a specific partisan and ideological interest even when that means suppressing truth and presenting untruth.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

25 thoughts on “It’s news when a man bites a dog …”

  1. Ok, then, there aren't a lot of "news organizations" out there. Or, of course, the criteria here isn't "bias", it's "bias I don't like", which I rather suspect.

  2. Brett, if you read the article to which Mark links, you'd see that Kaus does not deny that organizations such as the NY Times and MSNBC are also biased. But they are still different from Fox. Kaus writes, "I think Fox is also not neutral (which, again, doesn't bother me) but it's also not independent (which does). … It's because it's run by Roger Ailes. I have zero faith that Ailes is independent of the Republican party or, specifically, those Republicans who have occupied the White House recently–the Bushes. As I said, I think if Karl Rove called Ailes in 2003 and said 'We don't want so much coverage of X' it's extremely likely that X would not be covered on Fox."

    Actually, I don't think that it matters much whether Fox takes orders from the Republican Party or is merely motivated in its work by a desire to help the Republican Party. In other words, Fox's lack of independence constitutes a lack of intellectual integrity, and one does not have to take orders to lack intellectual integrity. Even among opinion journalists, who are paid to argue for their biases, some have intellectual integrity and some do not. William Kristol is like Fox in that, unlike independent columnists, he does not write what he believes. He writes what he thinks will help his cause, whether it be promoting Sarah Palin or some other evil.

  3. I did read it, his distinction is without difference: Who cares if a journalist is taking direction from a party, or independently biased in it's favor? Functionally it's the same.

    As you say, "Actually, I don’t think that it matters much whether Fox (The NYT) takes orders from the Republican (Democratic )Party or is merely motivated in its work by a desire to help the Republican (Democratic) Party."

    Frankly, I'm not much impressed with Fox, and don't watch them. But being lousy journalists is different from not being journalists. Denying that Fox is a journalistic organization is rather transparently an excuse for excluding media outlets that aren't in the tank for Obama from access. Which is why some in the journalistic community aren't buying it, they don't want to establish a precedent which will bite them when the next Republican administration comes to power.

  4. The difference that I was trying to draw was whether or not an organization has intellectual integrity. They all have their biases, but some try to be objective whereas others do not but say that they do.

  5. Sorry, Henry, I've had too many interactions with real world journalists to believe that intellectual integrity is all that common in the breed. Try getting a non-Fox "journalistic enterprise" to issue a correction on a factual error that supports it's editorial stance, some time.

  6. Brett, other networks aren't run by Republican political operatives. Other news networks aren't founded with the express purpose of pushing a specific political ideology. Reporters in other news networks aren't told in advance what positions to take on their stories. All editors and reporters are biased in one way or another, but there's a difference between Fox and (say) the Wall Street Journal. The first is conservative news, the second a newspaper run by conservatives, and the difference is crucial, just as a paper run by the Vatican would be different from a newspaper full of Catholic reporters.

  7. I agree that makes them different. It just doesn't make them something other than a 'journalistic enterprise', unless you're going to claim that 'journalistic enterprises' were peculiar to a few decades during the 20th century. Fox is the face of journalism as it existed during most of the nation's history, and as it's probably going to exist for most of it.

    And I really don't think that's the distinction driving the Obama administration's attempt to delegitimize Fox, so they can exclude them from press conferences. They'd be no happier with a conservative 'journalistic enterprise' that had no link to the GOP, it's the fact that Fox isn't in the tank for them that's the real sticking point.

  8. "Who cares if a journalist is taking direction from a party, or independently biased in it’s favor? Functionally it’s the same."

    If by "the same" Brett means "totally different," then he has a point: Being biased means being predisposed to act, but not bound to act, according to biases; whereas "taking directions" just means acting according to those directions.

    Functionally, this cashes out as the difference between, say, CNN and FOX.

  9. People. People. You're missing the point: It's not about bias. It's about truth and lies. Fox lies. Keith and Rachel are biased, but they don't lie. Or if they report something, and find out it is not true, they correct. That is the huge, gigantic difference.

  10. Look, why do we care if a news organization is taking somebody's directions? Presumably, it's because that somebody is biased. You're not going to care if they're taking direction from somebody determined to be objective. (More realistically, from somebody determined to spin everything to the advantage of the Democratic party…)

    Taking somebody else's direction just puts the bias at a remove, it doesn't fundamentally alter the effects of bias. Indeed, why take somebody's direction? Likely because you share their biases.

    You're just groping for an excuse to treat Fox as fundamentally different from other biased news organizations, when the only relevant difference is who their bias benefits.

  11. Look, why do we care if a news organization is taking somebody’s directions? Presumably, it’s because that somebody is biased. You’re not going to care if they’re taking direction from somebody determined to be objective.

    Yes I would, because it's not the "bias." It's that it undermines the whole point of reporting, to conduct an investigation to determine the truth. A conservative reporter, doing actual journalism and determining for himself what he thinks happened, is very different from a "journalist" repeating talking points from the Ministry of Truth.

  12. It's a mistake to focus on a news source's professional opinionators. What separates Fox from, say, the WSJ is that both have crazy opinion sections, full of lies, but the WSJ's news is honest.

  13. Brett: I have some sympathy for the idea that the only significant difference between the bias of Fox and the biases of the NYT, ABC, WSJ, etc., are matters of direction, and Kaus's distinction between "neutrality" and "independence" is just hair-splitting. But if we're going to go that far down the po-mo rabbit hole, we come to a place that neither Fox nor the other mainstream networks really want to be.

    In the case of Fox: their motto, last I heard, was "fair and balanced", not "all the news the Republican Party considers fit to print".

    In the case of the other mainstream news sources: this erases not only the distinction between Fox and ABC, but also the distinction between Fox and any diarist on Daily Kos, and people in other networks who defend Fox's legitimacy would have no grounds to object if the Obama Administration yanked the White House press credentials of Fox reporters and gave their seats to a few Kossacks.

    PS: Remember when moral relativism and disdain for the mere idea of objective reality were considered, by conservatives, to be among the principal sins of liberalism? Good times….

  14. "we come to a place that neither Fox nor the other mainstream networks really want to be."

    Are already. And, yeah, it's a silly motto. What's Rush's motto? "I AM the balance!", I believe. A cruddy balance, sure, but better than none.

  15. "Look, why do we care if a news organization is taking somebody’s directions?"

    Because if you are merely "taking directions," you cannot at the same time be exercising your own independent journalistic judgment.

  16. Mr. Reinhardt,

    I hope that when you assemble your complaint for Volokh you will be sure to include the deleted comments verbatim, so their substantiveness, civility, and reason can be fairly assessed.

  17. "“Look, why do we care if a news organization is taking somebody’s directions?”

    Because if you are merely “taking directions,” you cannot at the same time be exercising your own independent journalistic judgment."

    That's quite true. And the typesetter at an old-time newspaper wasn't exercising independent journalistic judgment, either, but did that mean no judgment was in play? "Taking directions" just pushes the judgment out one remove. If journalistic enterprise "A" is party "R"'s sock puppet, and journalistic enterprise "B" is independently in the tank for party "D", I submit there's no meaningful difference in the nature of the output. Bias is the relevant measure, not independence. If you spike stories that would hurt the party you're aligned with, why should the readers care whether you do it because they told you to, or you independently decided to spike them?

    A difference which makes no difference IS no difference. Obama isn't concerned with independence, he's concerned with the fact that Fox is willing to run stories that make him look bad. Yes, ideally they ought to be willing to do that out of independent editorial judgment, but Obama doesn't care why they do it, just that they do.

  18. Words meaning things, being "in the tank" for something is by definition inconsistent with the compound concept of exercising (1) independent (2) journalistic (3) judgment. I'll leave constructing a test sentence as an exercise for the reader.

    Of course, if CNN actually were "independently in the tank" for a political party in forma FOX News, there might be some interesting discussion about functional equivalence to talk about; but it isn't, and there's not.

  19. If Fox were actually a Republican sock puppet, you'd have to wonder why they're promoting Doug Hoffman.

  20. look out Brett,

    Post comments like your last one and they may be deleted as mine, FRED's and perhaps, some others hav been.

    Of course, people who are actually HONEST and who have INTEGRITY would NOT Delete posts which disagree with them.

  21. In reply to W. TERRA

    This very knowledgeable and much more experienced than most my age are much less those younger than I, 74 year old Agnostic Atheist Activist replies:

    (The "Agnostic Atheist Activist" bit is so others know I am not some religious robot who follows the Republican right around like some puppy dog. And FYI, I have known Eugene V. since 1983 when we worked together.)

    Well Gee Wiz, Golly Gosh Darn & Dang, Mr. Terra,

    JUST exactly am I supposed to do that when what I posted was deleted?

    Was I supposed to have some magic crystal ball which told me ahead of time I should save what I posted because Mark Kleiman "et al" can not take blunt truth and honesty?

    (I wonder if poor FRED who only said something to the effect of: "Neil, all of Oduma's lies make me sick" knew his post would be deleted? most probably not.)

    OR that he is such a Kool Aid Drinking OBOT, my posting information which PROVED most of MSM's are bisased and the MANY DOCUMENTED LIES ODUMA has told would be deleted?

    Of course, were I an OBOT I would have known it as they seem to think they know Everything. When I read what most Liberals say, they remind of a Ronald Reagan (you know the guy who mostly won the Cold War) quote which went something like this:

    "It is not our Liberal friends do not know anything, the problem is so much of what they know is wrong."

    You see Mr Terra, the FACTS are as people can NOT disprove what I say (they can't disprove provable facts) they either delete my comments and/or verbally attack me and/or both.

    Last, Mr Terra and FYI

    Ronald Reagan WAS, a "Liberal" as were many, to most, of those who are now "Conservatives" Only as he aged and gained in both experience and knowledge (wisdom) he left the childish dream world of how some (Liberals) think the world should be. He discovered he lived in the real world and thus, became a Conservative.

  22. Brett said:

    "A difference which makes no difference IS no difference. Obama isn't concerned with independence, he's concerned with the fact that Fox is willing to run stories that make him look bad. Yes, ideally they ought to be willing to do that out of independent editorial judgment, but Obama doesn't care why they do it, just that they do."

    The reason Oduma is NOT mad at ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, and NBC is because they do NOT TELL THE TRUTH about Oduma's LIES, his low life friends, etc., etc. or WE Tea Partiers!

  23. IF you want to know some TRUTH on ODUMA, watch the special Fox News report on him Sunday night

    and 6 PM Pacific time. And I am sure it will be rebroadcast a few hours later as well.

    Oduma's 160 IQ PROVES what I came up with while considering his many documented lies, his poor judgement skills as demonstrated by the low life scum he has freely chosen to include among his GOOD friends (Felons, a White and America hating racist preacher, TERRORISTS) and by all the tax cheats he chose for cabinet posts PROVE his lack of integrity.

    "A persons IQ is like a man's penis in that it is NOT how much you have, rather it IS how effectively you use it."

    So yes, Oduma may have a high IQ, and yet his A.Q. is in the gutter!

    FYI A.Q. is 'Ability Quotient' which is a test of a persons ability to effectively use the IQ they have.

    (And while I only have a 'gifted level' IQ, I was tested by Dr. Charles Hearn of Santa Monica, Ca. to have NEARLY DOUBLE the national average in A.Q.)

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