Fox News isn't fair and balanced on the economy either
May 31st 2009 2:00PM
Updated Dec 4th 2009 11:08AM
While the name will not mean much to most investors, the late Berkeley Professor Aaron Wildavksy, a pioneer in public policy scholarship, offered wise advice to colleagues on how to stay in touch with current events and the national economic conversation. "Whenever I want to find out what my liberal friends are thinking, I turn on the radio and listen to NPR," Wildavsky would say.
Well, to paraphrase Wildavsky, whenever one wants to find out what conservatives are thinking, simply click on Fox News.
Fox News: Economic conservatism served daily
Contrarians might argue that MSNBC (GE) or CNN (TWX) have an equal, and opposite, economic and political bias. That may or may not be true, but let's focus on the question of whether Fox News has a conservative bias. Based on the evidence gathered by this researcher, the conclusion is incontrovertible: Fox News has a strong conservative bias when it comes to the economy.
Granted, the above conclusion may be viewed by some as axiomatic, but it's brought up in this space because Fox News simultaneously states that its news coverage is 'fair and balanced.'
Fair and balanced? What mental gymnastics have the network's executives and related decision makers undertaken to forward that dubious assertion? Here's one extremely creative form of reasoning (or rationalization) they've perhaps internalized: 'In order to be fair, we have to balance MSNBC's left-of-center bias with our right-of-center bias.'
The view from here argues it's hard for someone to randomly sample a week or two of Fox News' coverage and conclude that the network does not favor conservatives and the Republican Party. At times the network rivals a disc jockey's automatic song list that recycles the same dance tracks each week. Is the Dow down? 'The stock market has lost 500 points since President Obama took office. Fox News investigates the Obama administration policies that have led to the decline.' Is the Dow up? Then shift to criticizing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California. 'Speaker Pelosi is being criticized for saying she was mislead by the CIA, Fox News has the latest, so stay tuned.'
Further, labor unions and other Democratic constituencies seem to elicit more criticism during news coverage than Republican constituencies. Perhaps this is just my perceptual lens, but Fox News is often quick to point out that as union membership in a sector or field increases, wages paid to labor also increase, in most instances.
However, conversely Fox News rarely explores dimensions of the free market economy that don't support the conservative viewpoint or policies. For example, to the best of my knowledge, Fox News has never been able to reconcile how real, median wages can fall in the United States and how U.S. corporate revenue and earnings can also simultaneously rise, all accompanied by robust, sustainable U.S. economic growth. Perhaps this inquirer has missed a news report or two on Fox News on the subject, so if any reader can locate a Fox story reconciling the above, or other stories supporting liberal economic policies or liberal Democrats etc., send me a link or a comment.
Until then, taking a page out of the great Wildavsky's playbook, I'll continue to tune in to Fox News to find out what my conservative friends are thinking.
Financial Editor Joseph Lazzaro is based in New York.