Home > media, politics > Who’s Really Fair and Balanced?

Who’s Really Fair and Balanced?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010, 23:00 EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

I don’t generally watch cable news networks, the big three of which are CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News. Most of their programming is commentary and analysis rather than news, and besides, I find it easier to keep up with news online, where I have instant access to a virtually unlimited selection of sources.

So last night, instead of tuning in to CNN, Fox News, or MSNBC, I watched WCVB-TV channel 5 in Boston, which has a good news department that, as a local station, would presumably better coverage. (Channel 5 also happens to be the station where Senator-elect Scott Brown’s wife, Gail Huff, works as a reporter. You would not have known that from watching channel 5, however, until the election was finally called in favor of Brown at about 9:15. Apparently the station had some kind of black-out on mentioning the association. They didn’t even allow Huff to campaign with or for her husband.) Anyway, they came on air at 8:00 when the polls closed and proceded to to do the fine job I expected from them. They carried live reports and interviews from both candidates’ post-election soirees (including showing a snippet of the Doug Flutie Band, with Mr. Dropkick himself on the drums, who kept the faithful entertained while they awaited the results), discussed the campaign in-studio with Democratic and Republican strategists, reported frequently on the changing ballot count, and finally showed the speeches, Martha Coakley’s concession first, followed by Brown’s victory speech. They carried both speeches from beginning to end, as naturally they would.

That wasn’t necessarily true of the national coverage, though. I wouldn’t expect national new outlets to provide the same amount of coverage as a local station, even for a race like this one that had national implications. It would be understandable if, for example, they decided not to show the concession speech, or to show only part of it. But Johnny Dollar reports that while MSNBC carried the concession speech in full and CNN carried almost all of it, both networks showed less than half of the winner’s speech. The only cable news network that carried the complete speeches of both candidates was Fox News.

I hear a lot of whining from the right about how biased in favor of liberals MSNBC is (and CNN, to a lesser extent) and from the left about how biased Fox News is. Much of those criticisms are probably a result of people’s confusion between news reporting/coverage and commentary/analysis. In this case, however, Fox appears to come out on top. CNN and MSNBC might have a valid excuse for cutting off Brown if Coakley had been the winner. But what reputable news organization chooses to show more of the loser than the candidate whose victory made the election all the more newsworthy?

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Categories: media, politics
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