'Shun Fox!' Cries Ex-NYT Editor

Like we haven't heard that before

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Update, 2:26 PM: A spokesperson from Fox News contacted the Wire to issue response to Howell. See the text below

Accusations of political bias at Fox News aren't anything new. Even the White House waged an extended battle with the cable news network (chronicled by the Wire here and here). Yet despite Fox's putative slant, journalist's from other outlets have often defended Fox News against backhanded swipes from politicians, administration officials, and other journalists. It's as though they're defending one of their own.

For ex-New York Times editor Howell Raines, the time for fraternal collegiality toward Fox is over. He wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post rhetorically asking:

Why haven't America's old-school news organizations blown the whistle on Roger Ailes, chief of Fox News, for using the network to conduct a propaganda campaign against the Obama administration -- a campaign without precedent in our modern political history?

Raines foresees nothing but trouble for the Fourth Estate if Fox New's journalistic practices are accepted through inaction in the industry. He fears journalists are allowing standards to erode, and tries to rally them to resist:

Why has our profession, through its general silence -- or only spasmodic protest -- helped Fox legitimize a style of journalism that is dishonest in its intellectual process, untrustworthy in its conclusions and biased in its gestalt? ... Why can't American journalists steeped in the traditional values of their profession be loud and candid about the fact that Murdoch does not belong to our team? His importation of the loose rules of British tabloid journalism, including blatant political alliances, started our slide to quasi-news.

Raines's call to arms was met with mixed reactions throughout the blogosphere, as liberals shout "hear! hear!" and conservatives point to his turbulent past as a cause of doubt.
  • This Is Just The Tip Of The Iceberg Gawker's Ravi Somaiya lauds Raines, pointing out that he has touched on a serious trend in contemporary journalism: the refusal to ask tough questions. Somaiya is more concerned with this failure than Fox's indiscretions:
Put simply: almost without exception, American political interviewers fawn and simper over their subjects, refuse to ask a question more than once and never call bullshit on blatant bullshit. If anchors, interviewers and White House correspondents did their job — to hold elected officials accountable, by their lapels if necessary — politicians of all stripes could not get away with distorting and outright lying, as they do now...Rove-ian veneers would simply be scraped away by the eight words 'that is not true, please answer my question'. Repeated enough on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and MSNBC they'd mean no birthers. No myths about healthcare or rumors of death panels. No paranoid lies about creeping socialism. No George W. Bush. No Sarah Palin.
  • Ignore This Man Clay Waters at NewsBusters seeks to portray Raines as  obsessive, playing a "Captain Ahab role against his sworn enemy, that two-headed white whale in charge of Fox News: news chief Roger Ailes and the network's owner, News Corp. founder Rupert Murdoch." In an article carefully dissecting Raines' history of attacks on Fox News (cross-posted on the Media Research Center's TimesWatch page, devoted to "documenting and exposing the liberal political agenda of the New York Times), Waters concludes that Raines' latest vitriol is merely a "paranoid explanation as to why he's the only one shouting in the wilderness (as if) about the evils of Fox News."

Update, 2:26 PM:

  • Oh, The Irony A spokesperson from Fox News contacted the Wire to issue this response: "We find it ironic that Howell is dispensing advice to other journalists after he nearly single-handedly destroyed the journalistic integrity of the Times."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.