2/12/15

My disdain for the media in general and for reporters in particular is well known. I believe that, in general, the level of professionalism in news reporting is well below zero. On the whole, reporters are ignorant, lazy, and most importantly heavily biased. All their protestations that they keep their political preference to themselves are absolutely rubbish. No other way to describe it. Hollow. This is true in particular of the three main broadcast networks’ news departments, CNN, The New York Times, and few others.

The UK media—BBC, Financial Times, and The Economist—are just a tinge better because the reporters there are not ignorant and not lazy, but they are so heavily biased as to make it a distinction without a difference.

Surprisingly, I count MSNBC as one of the exceptions to the rule. Not because they are unbiased; their bias is extraordinary, but they are up-front about it. They will admit to representing a left of center view and, as such, they are not really “news” media as such, but opinion media. Their anchors are generally intelligent and professional . . . and biased, so heavily biased.

Fox News, contrary to its reputation as the most biased outlet, is actually the LEAST biased. Their reporters are not less ignorant but, because they are significantly less biased, the actual news they deliver is better.

The only one outlet that I believe is highly intelligent, reasonably objective, and right on most issues is the The Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

Given the above, the storm surrounding Brian Williams’ embellishment of the truth to make himself more important comes as no surprise to me. It is heavily covered by his colleagues in the media with at least a hint of schadenfreude. So, I will only add few comments:

  • The suggestion that he “conflated” the facts is so ridiculous as to be laughable. Trust me, if your helicopter is hit by an RPG you do NOT forget that. I was in a passenger plane that was hit by lightning in 1993, well short of an RPG; you do NOT forget such things and you certainly do not confuse them.
  • The phenomenon of news anchors putting themselves in the center of events and trying to make the news about themselves as opposed to just reporting it is a big part of why he felt the need to make himself grander. With Anderson Cooper travelling to anywhere in the world if someone sneezes too hard and then continuing to give us wall-to-wall nonstop saturation coverage until it becomes sickening, with CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta performing—according to CNN—brain surgery on a child in Haiti after the earthquake (and of course saving his life under the lights of the TV cameras . . . all according to CNN), when any minor reporter reporting from the ground becomes a hero according to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer because they are in danger for their lives, etc.—no wonder that Williams tried to make himself a hero too.
  • For the last few weeks, NBC has been running a promo spot on PPV programs to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Brian Williams taking over their news program (of course, that was pulled after the scandal erupted). That promo sounded like an ode to the Epic Brian Williams; as though he is saving the world. It was in black and white with dramatic music and clearly tried to leave the viewer with the impression that Williams has saved the world on more than one occasion. It left the impression that he was equal to at least, say, Churchill in his contribution to world affairs. It was simply sickening.

Having said all that, the Brian Williams affair pales in significance in the annals of journalistic integrity and standards (lack thereof) compared to the story of Ron Fournier of the National Journal. Mr. Fournier is a relatively new recruit to Fox News panels and I have seen him appearing from time to time over the last six months or so. He typifies the malaise that I described above; ignorant and lazy. On top of this, he is obnoxious and stupid. I guess you get the point that I do not like him. The article published in the WSJ yesterday by no less than the respected Judge Laurence Silberman of the DC Federal Court of appeal, is shocking and worse—much worse—than the Brian Williams story.

The article accuses Mr. Fournier (with proof) of lying on air and suggests that it is slanderous. According to the article, after being confronted with these lies by the judge, pre-article, Fournier, rather than cut his losses, insisted that he was right—stupid, as I said.

It is this type of journalistic lying and twisting of the facts that makes reporting today so unreliable and so contemptible. This is MUCH worse than the Brian Williams story.

I hope that Fox will get the hint and eliminate him from the list of commentators. As to Brian Williams, I do not care. If he will be replaced, it will be the same type of person—biased, lazy, and seeking to become the news. To some extent, a repentant man is better than a fresh new face that will be as bad as the old Williams.