In a recent Reuters Group PLC, The British Broadcasting Corporation and Media Center survey, Fox News was voted the most trusted news network in America. This revelation instantly made me delve into the infinite ocean of information that is cyberspace to decipher whether or not this was actually a legitimate claim. Much to my disappointment, I discovered that, indeed, it was true.
Yet, with its explosive minefield of hyperbolic sensationalized rhetoric, Fox News is far from trustworthy as I see it. It is an open espousal of right-wing politics, which threatens accuracy, credibility and historical understandings of current events. Loaded to the teeth with personal commentary, all notions of impartiality are eradicated. Fox News routinely seeks refuge in the vulnerable realm of opinion, rather than attempting to ascertain the unbiased factual evidence needed for viewers to formulate a cohesive and independent understanding on materializing events. It insults the viewer by presuming that they are incapable of comprehending the news without assistance.
In 2003, two leading media bosses admitted that the American broadcasting media has systematically distorted some of the news regarding the war in Iraq by functioning unashamedly as a mouthpiece for the Pentagon and the Bush Administration. In response to this confession, former BBC Director General Greg Dyke proclaimed that “the BBC cannot afford to mix patriotism with journalism”. This, he said, was happening in the United States, and threatened to undermine all remnants of credibility there.
In “The ‘Bias’ War in the American Media Misses the Point,” celebrated political commentator Mary Mostert posited the idea that the media’s manipulation of facts and emphasis on spinning information to compliment a desired point of view has made it impossible to decipher facts. The desire to report opinions has added ambiguity to the notion of accuracy, which might indicate why Americans also emerged out of the British survey as being the people most critical of the news media and its ability to report all sides of the story. Mostert attributed this growing erroneousness to the “inability of the current crop of journalists to accurately understand what the news is in the fast changing and volatile world we live in.” However, this hardly seems an efficient explanation in a world greatly enhanced by the capabilities of modern technology and information systems.
A more appropriate explanation might be to say that the media system is as such because it is inextricably intertwined with serving the desires of politicians, government officials, corporations, advertising companies and other wealthy and powerful individuals who have the ability to formulate the news and influence what is transmitted to the public. The National Broadcasting Company, for instance, is owned by one of the biggest arms manufacturers in the world, General Electric, which invariably influences their news output, leading them to endorse military endeavors, if not overtly, then by leaving out certain material which might criticize the defense industry.
In addition, the networks seem to increasingly distort the boundaries between ‘serious’ news and entertainment news, such as the all-consuming nature of popular culture in America today. Updates on the contestants’ progress on Pop Idol can be found among the mainstream political headlines as well as the announcement that Angelina Jolie is to have a child. Additionally, Larry King’s demeanor indicates that he is a ‘serious’ hard-line journalist, but his interviews seem more concerned with people in the entertainment industry. Juxtaposing these two arenas and presenting them as one and the same is a precarious endeavor when considering America’s growing infatuation with the notion of celebrity culture. In weaving these two oppositional worlds together, we place entertainment and idle-minded amusement on a level with matters requiring serious contemplation and assessment.
If Fox News is truly the most trusted network in America it is only so because it constructs mechanisms to convince the public of its validity. Slogans such as “The network America trusts,” “We report, you decide” and finally my personal favorite, “Fox News — Fair and balanced” all have the effect of conveying honesty, integrity and authority to the viewer. That Fox News is the most trusted, however, does not infer that it is the most trustworthy, and so I can only hope that Americans continue to be the people who are most critical of the news as they seek to assimilate information from a variety of different sources, rather than assuming one as Gospel.
Laura Holt is a senior English major.