Thursday, February 14, 2002

AS I SAID when I took the conservatives' side in the Sept. 11 brouhaha over Peter Jennings's anti-Bush comments, I don't watch enough TV news to worry too much about which networks are biased which way, if at all. But as with Jennings's striking lapse of objectivity on that day, snippets of coverage can be enlightening.

So now I'll score one for the liberals. I happened to be watching the Fox News Channel while on the treadmill at the gym the other day, and a blond woman (someone who, if employed by any other network, would have been christened an "anchor-bimbo" by Rush Limbaugh) promised a "fair and balanced" report on the flag controversy at the Olympics. After a few commercials, she was back with two men who indeed had opposing points of view on the International Olympic Committee's right to tell the hosts in Salt Lake City what they could and couldn't do with their flag.

This anchorwoman began her "We report, you decide" interview of these men with a question to which she added a postscript along the lines of "I think that's wrong. How about you?"

They decide, you listen!

Now, I understand how the underdog mentality can color one's perception of reality, and even of right and wrong. If handguns had been as readily available to schoolkids when I was in junior high school as they are now, I'd be in prison and the first idiot who chose to punch me in the hallway would be in a coffin. But I have a hard time believing that the conservatives are as stupid as they sound when they point to Fox News or The Washington Times as islands of fairness in a sea of liberal bias. The media's liberals have their problems, as Jennings illustrated, but there's a big difference between news organizations that try to be fair but fail at times and those that exist primarily as ideological organs.

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