Jacob Weisberg, editor-in-chief of the online magazine Slate, goes back to journalistic basics in his attack against Fox News. Rather than echo old assertions about the network's rightward tilt (as the White House has done), Weisberg builds his case on its editorial merits. Here he dissects the reaction of Fox News to White House criticism:
Last week, when White House communications director Anita Dunn charged the Fox News Channel with right-wing bias, Fox responded the way it always does. It denied the accusation with a straight face while proceeding to confirm it with its coverage. Take a look at Fox's own Web story on the episode...Five people are quoted in this article. Two of them work for Fox. All of them assert that administration officials are either wrong in substance or politically foolish to criticize the network. No one is cited supporting Dunn's criticisms or saying that it could make sense, morally or politically, for Obama to challenge the network's power. It's a textbook example of a biased news story.
Weisberg holds Fox News up to high standards of journalistic ethics, and laments that other news networks have taken to imitating the pro-partisan slant:
Any news organization that took its responsibilities seriously would take pains to cover presidential criticism fairly. It would regard doing so as itself a test of integrity and take pains not to load the dice in its own favor. At any other network, accusation of bias might even lead to some soul-searching and behavioral adjustment...Fox hasn't just corrupted its own coverage. Through its influence, it has made all of cable news unpleasant and unreliable.
Weisberg cuts through the noise by avoiding the airy assertions that frequently dog media debates and laying some concrete evidence on the table. It's not just a political concern, he argues, but a matter of professional ethics that "fact-checking about the president's health care proposal" is provided not by a fair-minded journalist, but by a Republican strategist: Karl Rove. Right or wrong, Weisberg makes a noteworthy case for addressing his criticism not to political operators, but to fellow journalists.