Media and the War: Who's Fair, Who Reports What We Want?

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 12:56 AM

Many of the people I talk to on a day-to-day basis are conservative Evangelical Christians. Being one myself, I guess that shouldn't be a suprise. For instance, I read several fine blogs you can find in my blog roll (see right column, if your on the main journal or article pages) and I'm in the ChristianSource Free Software and Linux Users Group on the computer, not to mention real world contact with people. Nine out of ten conservatives agree: CNN is biased and one should flip over to Fox News. So, I decided to analyze CNN's coverage and, in brief, my thoughts on Fox News coverage of the war too.

Now, I'm not saying I spent countless hours scribbling notes or anything like that, but I was interested in seeing media bias in the war and if, as one friend put it a short time ago, CNN really stands for the “Communist News Network.” First, save Fox News' Geraldo Rivera and NBC's Peter Arnett, I think the media deserves a round of applause for war coverage. Overall, I haven't seen anything that screams “unfair” from any network (I do wonder how the press come up with the stupid questions they ask at press conferences and the “almost ads” for the upcoming “shock and awe” were annoying, but, I degress…). Good job, guys!

After reading a piece like this, I must say I wonder whether other conservatives are watching a different CNN than I am, however. Now, I should say, I'm not normally an avid TV news (or TV) watcher, so this is based mostly on war coverage, but I just haven't seen anything that bad and certainly not anything completely left wing biased.

Just as I write this, there was a fellow named Michael Medved on CNN seemingly defending the president (I'm only half listening). I looked at his web site, and guess what, he has been a guest host behind the golden EIB microphone when Rush Limbaugh is away! Yeah, that's right, a dittohead was being interviewed by Aaron Brown on primetime CNN. Not bad, I say.

In fact, I've found that while maybe most of the interviewed people weren't head-over-heals in support of the war, most of the people behind the anchor desk seem to be pro-war or at least pro-troops-and-government. Mr. Brown, for example, almost got into a verbal brawl on CNN with an Al-Jazeera correspondent after the said network aired the video showing the bodies of the Americans a few weeks ago.

Brown, who seems to be a thoughtful kind of anchor, has also spent most of the last three weeks opposite former NATO Supreme Commander and American Gen. Wesley Clark, who seems to support the Pentagon on virtually everything that has happened thus far. While Brown has maintained some sense of a journalist's goal for asking pointed questions to both those he agrees and disagrees with, I've yet to seem him seem to attack much that has happened.

The afternoon/evening anchor for the coverage, Wolf Blitzer (who normally has 4 p.m. CT show), also has been seemingly pro-war from what I've seen. I believe it was actually Blitzer who today referred to Iraq's minister of information as the “minister of disinformation.” Hehehe. Good one, Wolf. I hardly think that comes from an Iraqi sympathizer.

Then, there is Larry King. King, of course, is the anchor of the network's flagship program, and thus ought to say something about the network's position. During the war, he has almost always had several pro-war people on each night. For example, Kuwait's ambassador to the United States has appeared numerous times, as have many many generals. King's nightly guest for the war, Colonel David “Hack” Hackworth has also proved a supporter of the action, making many statements suggesting it would be a simple and very good military campaign that will be effective (in much more brash terms, such as “wham, bam, bomb say-dam”). In fact, Hack's almost “glee” at the campaign caused some callers to call in and complain that he wasn't taking the war seriously enough (the colonel chalks it up to his Irish heritage).

King also did something really interesting before the war: he did an entire show on Evangelical Christian and Christian opinion of the plan! He brought on three conservative Christians (Max Lucado, Dr. Bob Jones, and a head of a seminary) and then placed two liberal Christians opposite them. In other words, not only was King interested in Christian opinion, by default, he gave the Evangelical side an edge simply by the fact that almost each interviewee got equal time.

Now, the article I linked to earlier accuses CNN of focusing too much on the few countries in Europe that do not support us. I'd imagine than means France and Germany. That's for good reason: many (most?) Americans actually care what our historic allies think. It really isn't nearly as interesting if Liechtenstein decides to support us as it is if France is complaining about our actions. I may be off-base, but I think it does matter that our allies don't agree with us — I'm not saying we should change our path, but I don't think hurling insults at them is the key to unbiased coverage either.

Fox News, supposedly, is suppose to be the place where “they report and you decide.” When I got the opportunity to get cable, I was quite anxious to see this great news source. I haven't watched it all that much, but a few hours of Fox gave me a very bad taste. For example, the fellow that was reporting on Friday (IIRC) reported that Saddam International Airport was 100% under American control. CNN reported that there was still fighting going on… and surprise, surprise, the next morning some fighting was still going on. Admittedly, CNN wasn't giving as much of a “pro-war” stance, but isn't the truth better than showing a certain stance? The Fox News anchor, looking for another pro-campaign comment while talking with an embed later that evening tried to suggest that Iraqi civilians with their hands up and a white flag (while crossing a bridge) didn't just have their hands up in surrender, but because they were celebrating the arrival of Americans! This was so clearly incorrect that the embed actually disagreed with the anchor!

Bernard Goldberg, in his book Bias, says almost the same thing. He has become known for his bold attack on the liberal media. But, as an “old fashioned liberal,” Goldberg notes that doesn't mean he wants a conservatively biased news source, like many who rail against the media wouldn't mind. He wants unbiased news. News reporters should greet both sides with skepticism, not just the side we don't like.

And in that way, I think CNN has done a good job. Watching CNN, I have gotten the impression that most Americans support the war (true), that there are good reasons to do it (true), that there have been some problems (true), and that there is a very vocal minority against it (true). And, for those who think the name minority gives the people committing civil disobedience too much credit, guess what Aaron Brown just referred to them as? “The fringe [of America].”

So, good job CNN. Thanks for doing a very decent job.

[Note: I don't mean this rant/editorial to offend anyone on my side of the aisle who thinks I may be a modern day Benedict Arnold of conservatives, I had originally planned to write it in a less antagonistic fashion, but it just came out this way. I should also note that I do have a bone to pick with Fox News because they have recently threatened legal action against an Evangelical Christian (and ex-gay) who runs a group aimed at helping people escape homosexuality because the said Christian made a tape of the harsh attacks Bill O'Reilly fired toward him in an interview, but to the best of my ability, I did not hold that against Fox News in my consideration of it here.]

Tags: Politics

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3 comments posted so far.

RE: Media and the War: Who's Fair, Who Reports What We Want?

Well I am a Fox fan and I don’t think their coverage stacks up with other networks, Fox is too sensational. They stay on a live image forever, just hoping that something will happen and their anchors just prattle on and on, with no real information, and certainly new.

My favorite channel with war coverage has been a bit of a surprise to me. When I watch, and it is not often, I turn to CNBC first. They don’t clog the screen with as many graphics as everyone else, they have other news on the news ticker on the bottom, and their anchors know how to handle themselve. My second pic is MSNBC.

Posted by Christopher - Apr 08, 2003 | 6:50 PM- Location: MO

RE: Media and the War: Who's Fair, Who Reports What We Want?

Thanks for the tips Christopher. I haven’t had the chance to try out MSNBC yet. I agree, from my short experience with it, that CNBC does have a nice simple “layout.” :-)

Posted by Timothy R. Butler - Apr 09, 2003 | 12:02 AM- Location: MO

RE: Media and the War: Who's Fair, Who Reports What We Want?

I myself am also a Fox Fan, but not as much during the war. I have watched MSNBC, CNBC, FOXNEWS, CNN, and I have even viewed a few of the British news casts just to see the different takes on the war and I really spend most of my time on MSNBC for war coverage. I think there is a fair amount of unity within the news stations at this point, but before the war I stayed with FOXNEWS more. Not to mention I like many of the shows that FOXNEWS has like Hannity and Colmes.

Posted by Pressed - Apr 09, 2003 | 1:20 AM- Location: MO

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