Naming of parts

Is Fox ‘News’ a journalism enterprise?

If you call a dog’s tail a leg, how many legs does it have? Four: calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it one.


Is a barnacle a ship? (HT: Walt Kelly)

Author: Michael O'Hare

Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training. He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at Università Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs. At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4×5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.

10 thoughts on “Naming of parts”

  1. The dog's tail line has been attributed to Abraham Lincoln. The Yale Book of Quotations says, "Reported in Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln, ed. A.T. Rice (1886). This report was made by George W. Julian in 1866."

  2. Problem is if you deny that a dog's tail is a tail, (In this case a journalism enterprise.) it's still a tail. (Journalism enterprise.) Pithy aphorisms don't help you when you're wrong.

  3. Brett, the aphorism is not intended to prove the case. The plethora of examples of Fox's bias, and the dearth of examples of its objectivity, prove the case. After Obama first said that Fox is not a news organization, Fox's own story on the matter quoted five commentators, every one of which said that Obama was wrong. See

  4. Of course Fox news is biased. If a dog's tail wags, that doesn't make it a leg. If you had to be unbiased to be a 'journalism enterprise', there'd be damned few of them in this or any country. It's not like examples of other 'journalism enterprises' being biased are hard to come by.

    Obama just doesn't like Fox because they're biased against him, rather than in his favor. That may make them an outlier, but it doesn't make them something other than a 'journalism enterprise'.

  5. Henry, that's just wrong. Five people quoted in the story, every one says that the Obama administration is making a mistake in attacking Fox, not that Obama is wrong about whether Fox is biased. The "wrong to attack" line is much the conventional view everywhere but here, Kos, and at the WH.

    And that slate story is remarkably bad. The funniest bit (unintentionally of course): "Any news organization that took its responsibilities seriously would take pains to cover presidential criticism fairly. It would regard doing so as itself a test of integrity and take pains not to load the dice in its own favor. At any other network, accusation of bias might even lead to some soul-searching and behavioral adjustment."

  6. Thomas, I read the Slate story too quickly, but the first of the five commentators mentioned does say that Obama was wrong as to substance, and the article also cites a Pew study that defends Fox as to substance.

  7. In europe during the Iraqi invassion I had two english speaking news sources: BBC and Fox News. BBC was serious, professional and informative. The Fox crew sounded like a high school chearleading squad. They cheered and whistled when buildings where bombed, grinning and laughing about the death and destruction. The show they put on was grotesquely disgusting and childish.

    I had never seen Fox News before that day and I will never watch it again other than occassional clips which I find disgusting enough. Fox News is not only not news, it is the basest form of pornography with no socially redeaming value. Fox treats important issues like the trivial antics of feuding fools on the Jerry Springer Show.

  8. There needs to be an adult table where grownups talk about serious things (matters of war and peace, the real difficulties of how to regulate the economy, preventing health care from eating the eoonomy alive) seriously. There need to be standards of conduct and discourse so that the adults can hear one another speak and can place before one another facts that must not be overlooked or neglected.

    Then there can be a kids table where Beck and Limbaugh and Hannity and O'Reilly can play catch with dinner rolls and refer to black beans as deer turds and take pieces of fruit from the kitchen pantry and hold them up to Ann Coulter's chest and say, "Hey! Woudja look at the grapefruits on her!"

    So who belongs at the adult table? Andrew Bacevich for matters of war and peace, Paul Krugman for the economy, Uwe Reinhardt for health care; at least this would be a start. Who else belongs with the big people? Any suggestions?

  9. Way back at the turn of the last century the Hearst papers were called 'yellow journalism'. Fox is their descendant. I see papers like the SF Chron as yellow journalist enterprises, too: events which put Obama in a bad light generally don't see the light of day, or see daylight only after Fox has brought them to the center, any corruption event featuring a Reep gets huge play but Mollohan and Murtha and Rangel and Dodd are minimized. The ideal of journalism as a straight search for truth and importance – maybe this is the Christian Science Monitor on a good day? And we have seen how much of a national following the Monitor has.

    I think it's valuable to have Fox nipping at Obama's heels, as it was valuable to have the Chron going after Bush. I liked Krauthammer's line, "I said some years ago that the genius of Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes was to have discovered a niche market in American broadcasting — half the American people. The reason Fox News has thrived and grown is because it offers a vibrant and honest alternative to those who could not abide yet another day of the news delivered to them beneath layer after layer of often undisguised liberalism." I think Fox is only medium honest, but so are the papers of the progressive left, and it's good that people can get both.

  10. I'd also add that only on major network has a former national committee chair of a political party in charge.

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