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The influence of Fox News

Fox News chief Roger Ailes

Fox News chief Roger Ailes

Howell Raines, the former NYT executive editor, asserts that the reason why so many journalists not only don’t excoriate Fox News, but actually alter their own stories to conform to the Fox News model, is that they fear offending a potential employer:

Under the pretense of correcting a Democratic bias in news reporting, Fox has accomplished something that seemed impossible before Ailes imported to the news studio the tricks he learned in Richard Nixon’s campaign think tank: He and his video ferrets have intimidated center-right and center-left journalists into suppressing conclusions — whether on health-care reform or other issues — they once would have stated as demonstrably proven by their reporting. I try not to believe that this kid-gloves handling amounts to self-censorship, but it’s hard to ignore the evidence. News Corp., with 64,000 employees worldwide, receives the tender treatment accorded a future employer.

I’m not a journalist, and I don’t know whether Raines is right or not about what motivates journalists.  But knowing what I know about people generally, I’d say this argument is plausible.  Normal people usually aren’t willing to sacrifice their entire careers to defend a principle, especially when that principle looks like it’s not capable of being defended successfully.

However bad Fox News is; however much that organization has departed from traditional journalistic standards, the fact is that Fox is attracting an audience at the expense of other outlets that offer more genuine news.  People just like us are choosing to watch Fox News.  Maybe we’re in it for the entertainment and not for the news, but the consequence of our continued patronage of Fox may be that real journalists try to make whatever they do look like Fox News.  In other words, that they stop doing journalism.

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