[h/t Heather at VideoCafe]
This moment on This Week wasn't earthshaking. There are no snappy soundbites, no one to get your blood boiling. Yet, it was one of the most interesting topics raised on a Sunday show in a long time not only because of the content but also because it offered a glimpse into how political media looks at political media.
In the course of his interview for 60 Minutes aired Sunday, President Obama addressed the role of Fox News and conservative media on our political reality, saying "If a Republican member of Congress is not punished on Fox News or by Rush Limbaugh for working with a Democrat on a bill of common interest, then you'll see more of them doing it."
He mentioned it again at another point in the interview in the context of the balkanization of news, and political news in general. These two mentions raised a rare point of self-examination among the panel members. What I found most interesting was what Steve Inskeep from NPR had to say:
HUGHES: I think that there's a growing sense that there's a need for a media -- for media outlets and media opportunities that are not necessarily centrist, but that have different perspectives and make it easy for us to hear people that we might disagree with and actually engage on the merits, rather than just recycling old ideas.
INSKEEP: There's a specific problem, as well, in that we have all trained ourselves -- or many of us have trained ourselves to go directly past anyone's argument to their motivations, and that actually is what you hear a lot on the more partisan media networks. You don't actually hear the arguments being engaged. You don't actually hear a lot of analysis. You hear a lot people saying, "Remember, whatever he says, don't believe him. Don't trust him."
And that's a danger. That's a difficulty. We face it when we're interviewing people on NPR. Why are you talking to that person on the extreme right? Why are you talking to that person on the extreme left? We hear that from listeners. Why are you putting on this person who makes absolutely no sense? And at some point you have to get a variety of voices out there and trust people to listen carefully to them and actually listen to their arguments.
In a different era, I might actually have agreed with Inskeep on this. There's nothing dangerous about listening to other points of view and weighing their ideas against your own. Challenges to one's dearly-held principles are a good thing. But it's not possible in today's media environment.
Inskeep's idealism is admirable, but we live in the era of the Fox News phony outrage machine. As long as Fox News exists in its current form, we will continue to have balkanized media, on and offline. The only way to balance Fox is to work the refs on the other side, which MSNBC does occasionally, but not enough.
I want to ask Inskeep what price he thinks the craft of journalism has paid for having to contend with a right wing outrage machine whose sole objective is shove this country right and farther right.