When news organizations cross the line of advocacy
This Fox and Friends video has stirred up a hornets nest of controversy. It makes no pretense of being "fair and balanced" in its critique of the Obama administration and this has Democrats calling "foul":
There have been many on our side who have shrugged their shoulders and said, "So what? Ever watch MSNBC's coverage of Romney?"
This is absolutely true. And don't we criticize coverage like that? Right again. It's hypocrisy to criticize biased coverage from a news organization that crosses the line between informing the viewer and advocacy and stay silent - or even support a network that purports to be "fair and balanced" but offers a naked hit piece on a political opponent.
Note that F&F isn't just playing a campaign ad or a YouTube spot from an outside political action committee. Nor does this come from the production company of one of its opinion-program hosts. The video starts with "Fox and Friends Presents" on the screen, making this an explicit argument from the news channel itself.
Should a news organization produce and publish attack ads like this? I know the initial response will be that other news organizations offer biased perspectives and hagiographies of Obama that go well beyond a single video ... and that response is entirely valid. However, we usually criticize that kind of behavior with other news organizations, too. If anyone wanted to look for evidence that the overall Fox News organization intends to campaign against Obama rather than cover the campaign, this video would be difficult to refute as evidence for that claim.
Of course, that doesn't mean that outside groups and the Romney campaign shouldn't consider producing something like this on their own. It makes a pretty powerful argument against another four years of Barack Obama, but that shouldn't be the job of news-reporting organizations, even when we like the message.
TV Newser reports that the video was "created by an associate producer and was not authorized at the senior executive level of the network." I would hope not. And I would guess that associate producer's days at the network are numbered.
This is not a question of us playing by the rules while the other guys do whatever they want. It's a simple question of what's right and what's wrong. And regardless of whether you think what's in the video is true or not, a news organization has no business making what amounts to a free campaign commercial for the candidate they support.
When MSNBC or CNN airs a biased hit piece, righty blogs all across the spectrum dissect it and criticize the networks for their dishonesty. This is how to fight bias in the media - not by creating a counter-biased hit piece as Fox did with the above video.
For a network that prides itself on being "fair and balanced," Fox just jumped the shark.