Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Moore's Ax Falls on a Derelict Media Too

Moore's Ax Falls on a Derelict Media Too: "In the end, he isn't likely to affect the presidential race. But 'Fahrenheit 9/11' may have an altogether different effect: a change in the practice and the values of journalism. What Moore and the film have done is take dead aim on one of the most sacred of journalistic shibboleths: the idea that journalists are supposed to be fair and balanced. This isn't just a function of Moore having a point of view to push; there have always been provocateurs. Rather it is a function of the film revealing the harm that balance has done to our public discourse and the distortions it has promoted.

The words 'fair and balanced' have been largely discredited in recent years because of the Fox News Channel, which uses them to mean not that Fox takes an objective, evenhanded approach to the news but that the cable channel is redressing the purported liberal bias of the mainstream news media, balancing them. But Fox aside, the idea of 'fair and balanced' is still a mainstay of most journalistic practice, at least in theory. Reporters are not supposed to take sides. For every pro on one side of the scale there must be a con on the other. If the 9/11 commission declares that there is absolutely no credible evidence of any collaborative relationship between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, the press must also prominently post Vice President Dick Cheney's view that there was a relationship, whether he provides evidence or not. If the preponderance of scientific opinion says global warming threatens the environment, the press must still interview the handful of scientists who dismiss it. That's just the way it is."

Neal Gabler, a senior fellow at the Norman Lear Center at USC's Annenberg School for Communication, is author of "Life the Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality."


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