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October 12, 2004

Which Net Will Be the First to Jump Ugly?

And by jump ugly, I mean jump liberal. Full-out liberal. Not this passive-aggressive blatant-yet-plausibly-deniable soft left-liberalism that infects all the networks.

Some time ago I speculated that Dan Rather's incredibly irresponsible use of "unimpeachable source" and all-around-crank Bill Burkett might signal that he had made a decision-- maybe he wasn't conscious of it, but inside, somewhere, he had made it. The decision was that in an age of declining major-media audience and a proliferation of alternative media, perhaps the same staid model of network news -- soft yet blatant left-liberal tilting -- wasn't the future.

Perhaps FoxNews was the future. Perhaps FoxNews' brand of opinionated, punchy, partisan reportage was the right model for the future. (Note that when I say "partisan," I maintain that FoxNews is less biased to the right than any of the nets are biased to the left. But they are, of course, Republican leaning; let's not jerk ourselves around about that. They seem especially so when compared to the very liberal "objective news reportage" we've come to expect from our overpaid newsdopes, but yes, they do tilt right.)

Jim Pinkerton had a similar take on the Halperin memo on Fox News Watch. (That link, by the way, is to Poedhertz's take on the memo; I'm just linking that so everyone knows what I'm talking about.)

Perhaps Halperin too had decided to take the dishonest "objective" gloves off, and try to remake ABCNews into a more transparently left-leaning news organization.

The interesting thing is this: If this is, in fact, where network news is headed, only one network can, from a purely business standpoint, chase after the left-wing audience. For years, the nets have all been chasing the same declining audience with their liberal coverage; as others have pointed out, from a purely business standpoint, it never made sense for all three to do so. It made more sense for at least one network to attempt a more conservative take, again, just from the standpoint of market-share and revenue.

It is a sign of how damn left-leaning reporters and editors and producers are that all of them have refused steadfastly to even flirt with such take. They're choosing to have less audience and less revenue than is possible, because the cost of doing so -- actually giving conservative leaning stories a fair hearing -- is such anathema to them on a personal level.

So, CBSNews, ahem, "fell" for transparent forgeries and became at least an unwitting accomplice in a fraud on the American public, six weeks from an election. Clearly CBSNews has made its first move.

And now ABC's Mark Halperin has made his move.

Why? Because if this is where it's all headed, no one wants to be the last network to try this. Because the last network to try to jump liberal will find that market oversaturated, and might be forced to -- horror of horrors! -- attempt to capture the conservative audience by tilting a little to the right (or just to the middle).

NBCNews is generally the most widely-watched newscast. So, at this point, I don't think they'd even have to contemplate such a move. They're winning with their ostensibly-centrist-but-undeniably-liberal coverage. They can maintain that posture. Too bad, because the NBC entertainment network has, I think, the most liberal leaning audience, and they've been the most aggressive in airing shows that appeal to urban liberals. The fit between NBC entertainment and liberal newscasting would be almost perfect, but, alas, Tom Brokaw is doing too well right now to make such a commitment.

So the fight is between CBSNews and ABCNews. Both desperately would like to be more liberal than they've allowed themselves to be so far; neither wants to be stuck with that troglodytic, hateful, gay-hatin' racist audience known as "40% of America."

CBSNews is actually behind in this race, by the way, oddly enough. By being so irresponsible and partisan, they've actually increased the chances that, once Dan Rather is canned, the network will try for a more fair and balanced anchor. (Does Brit Hume have a provision in his FoxNews contract allowing him to bail if offered a network show, by the way?) Plus, CBS entertainment's audience is famously older and more conservative; they're the ones offering the closest thing to conservative-themed entertainment. CBS executives are always getting whip-sawed by their more conservative audience when they attempt to air liberal hatchet jobs like The Reagans.

Leaving a big opening for Mark Halperin. Nice work, Mark. I don't mind that you're inclining in this direction; I just wish you would be more honest about where you stand at the moment. Once you transform ABCNews into America's Liberal News Leader, I'll have no real complaint about how you coverage the news, at least from the standpoint of honest disclosure of partisan bias.

Another Take: Not really the point I'm making, but here's another column on the Halperin memo.


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posted by Ace at 02:29 PM

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