Fox V. CNN: An Observational Comparison

Bias, in certain instances, may be tolerated in the format of a researched editorial on a given subject or a collection of subjects as is the case with many evening and nightly editorial segments on major news networks like Fox News and CNN. But there is a fine line between biased information presented in a fair and proper manner and that of a piece of pure synthesized propaganda.

During the July 11 airing of Fox News’ “Special Report with Brit Hume,” the political leanings of the network were demonstrated. This provided the public with a heavily republican, perhaps even “conservative” perspective on key news event. It was the way events were covered, or even the news events that weren’t covered that added to the identification of a politically motivated bias.

One of the key topics discussed was the forming of a government committee to gain control over the operations of the Public Broadcasting Service. To stack the argument for republican dominated control, the sound bytes were ordered with a republican, followed by a democratic member of the original PBS council, followed by the closing argument by a republican proponent of dissolving PBS and National Public Radio altogether.

On another topic, the investigation into the leaking of the identity of a CIA agent, Fox News covered the response by a White House press secretary. It also included footage of reporters from NBC and ABC asking questions of the press secretary. The reporters become flustered when the secretary opted not to answer any more questions about the status of the investigation, considering the secretary had answered questions on the subject at the previous conference.

When the footage cut back to Brit Hume, Hume summarized the situation by stating that the reporters practically accused the secretary of trying to disavow any knowledge and “hiding” information that the public needed to know. By identifying the networks the reporters worked for, which happened to be competing networks, and placing accusations on them as being judgmental opponents of government policy.

According to Bill O’Reilly of the “O’Reilly Factor,” this is tantamount to being enemies of the state and they should be dealt with accordingly (“Outfoxed”).

In the next phase of the Brit Hume segment, three political analysts were on the show, all of whom were republicans and noted regular Fox contributors. Jeff Birnbaum, a columnist for the Washington Post, Mort Kondracke of Roll Call and Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard were seemingly in constant agreement with Bill Hume and constantly referred to the democrats as hindering progress and causing the problems.

Rather than have real hard-line journalists and political analysts, Fox News has opted to reach out into the realm of borderline obscurity. Robert McChesney stated in “The Problem of the Media” that Fox has substituted real journalists with “celebrity pontificators” because it’s just plain cheaper and makes for a better annual profit, which would make Murdoch very happy (McChesney 79). His conservative views are presented and he makes more money at the same time.

As to the involvement of Karl Rove and his alleged leaking of the CIA agent’s name, Barnes stated, “The democrats won’t let this go.” It’s as if the democrats should just let it go and pretend that nothing happened and that the leak must’ve come from somewhere else. Surely one of President Bush’s top men wouldn’t give out national secrets so easily to prying journalists.

In a move that some more professional journalists might consider to be rather unprofessional, Hume aired a parody from the “Tonight Show with Jay Leno” in which CBS Evening News anchor Bob Schiefer was wearing a white tank top and drinking a beer. They seemed to find that Schiefer’s distaste for his position on the Evening News was rather humorous and rather newsworthy. Not only that, but they deemed it fit and proper to add to Schiefer’s public embarrassment by re-running the skit on their network.

During the same time slot, 11 p.m. Central Standard Time, on CNN the other side of the coin was almost as heavily presented. During Aaron Brown’s “NewsNight” segment, the bombings in London were actually given play, whereas Fox had not. Also, the piece focused on Bush’s reaction to the government’s stance on the situation.
Bush presented the familiar phrases such as “There’s no negotiating with terrorists” and “We have to take it to the enemy,” which is basically his way of saying that the government doesn’t plan on doing anything differently than it already has. Fox News didn’t even have this topic in the Hume segment.

But Fox’s involvement in the story might have helped further the notion that Bush really has no plan to do anything about what happened in London, because he really can’t do anything. He keeps talking about bringing the fight to “them” but he doesn’t even know where “they” are. “They” have become this faceless entity of power out there in the general public waiting for a moment of weakness to strike down the mighty giant.

This is what happened on September 11, 2001 when, as Bernard Goldberg stated in Bias, “. . . when a band of religious lunatics declared war on the United States of America to punish us for not wanting to dwell in the fourteenth century, where they currently reside, and, of course, to show the world that their intense hatred of Israel – and of Israel’s friends – knows no bounds.” (Goldberg 202).

It is typical to try and make terrorism about envy by a poor nation toward a wealthy one and a religious crusade as well. After all, we never did anything to hurt anyone else on this planet at any other time.
So rather than make judgments about what the president said, Brown instead moved onto another subject, such as the government switching its focus from airplanes to mass transit services. As a guest, Brown had on Heritage Foundation member James Carafano. For those not in the know, Heritage Foundation is a typically conservative organization.

Unlike Hume who had on people whom he agreed with at every statement, Brown often questioned Carafano’s statements. He also made an obvious presentation that he disagreed with Carafano’s perspective on whether the government would switch its focus from airplanes to mass transit or simply throw more money at both.

While both the Brown and Hume pieces were interlaced with editorial commentary between each news event, Brown was the only one who dared to have on a guest whose answers weren’t exactly what he or his producers had been expecting. While the answers weren’t necessarily republican they weren’t in compliance with Brown’s vision, which wouldn’t happen on Fox News. If guest says something counter to the news script, they just get their microphone cut off.

Both the Hume and Brown segments addressed the status of damage after Hurricane Dennis. The Fox segment focused on how the National Guard was handing out ice and water to people in need. Apparently not all of our National Guard troops are overseas. The CNN segment decided to take a more personal approach to Hurricane Dennis by doing a profile and ride-along with a sheriff in Pensacola, Florida, known as Hurricane Ron.

They also decided to see how a family, which was still recovering from Hurricane Ivan, was fairing after Dennis left the area. One could argue that Fox News opted to show National Guard troops to try and promote the idea that the government wasn’t just working abroad, but that it also had a keen focus on the homeland as well.

Both the Hume and Brown segments were editorials on the key news events of the day, using footage and factual (even if it’s skewed) to supplement their editorials. The problem with this is that neither CNN nor Fox News opted to indicate to the public that many of the conclusions presented were opinions of the personalities, whether they were based on facts presented or on their personal biases along party lines.

It’s difficult for the public to tell the difference between a regular newscast and an editorial piece because both networks use the same graphics and style of editing for both newscasts and editorial pieces. Although factual information is used, it can be edited in such a manner as to ignore or leave out critical information that could present a different perspective. “Fair and balanced” has NO place on Fox News and yet they choose to associate themselves with this motto and have for some time. Once again “fair and balanced” is in the eye of the beholder.

To a much greater degree than newspapers, television news programs/networks cover key news content that they feel they can work with to either provide something informative and entertaining, or promoting the political or moral ideal they wish to convey. Fox chose not to include Bush’s statements on London in its night broadcast because Rupert Murdoch in love with Bush and may or may not want to have his children.

Whether this last statement holds any water or not (probably not), Fox instead opted to run a piece on how Condoleezza Rice met with several Asian ambassadors, including one from North Korea on coming to some sort of agreement over their nuclear arms. Rice and the administration were portrayed as proponents of world peace with an ever-smiling Rice to help send the message home.

While Brown’s segment on CNN was still an editorial, it did allow for viewpoints other than that of its host, which is something Fox doesn’t allow. Doing this doesn’t follow with the script and it runs the risk of a producer getting fired for allowing someone not integrated into the party lines to go spouting off on a worldwide broadcast.

Even though both were editorials and thereby rooted in fact and opinion, the CNN piece did more to promote the fundamentals of democracy than the Fox News one did. By allowing opposing views to be expressed, CNN did its part to be much more “fair and balanced” than Fox, who allowed the broadcast to deviate none from Murdoch’s grand vision of extreme personal and corporate bias, which is only perpetuated by works of propaganda cleverly disguised as news programs.

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