Media Bias Consumption

Editorial: Another ‘451’ lesson: As mainstream media struggles, democracy wanes

As Fond du Lac Reads! reaches its closing chapter, we stand in awe of author Ray Bradbury’s fortune-telling capabilities.

In his “Fahrenheit 451” masterwork, he envisioned a culture in which literature — and, by extension, serious journalism — are as obsolete as the democracy that once relied upon them.

We take that message seriously. The names you see at the top of this page represent the editorial board of this newspaper, and not one of us lives in a gilded ivory tower. We are quite aware of the public’s perception of what we do and how we do it, day in and day out.

Depending on whom you ask, The Reporter is either too liberal for conservatives OR too conservative for liberals; either pandering to the needs of minority communities OR not sensitive enough to the increasingly diverse face of Fond du Lac; either spending too much time focused on outlying communities OR ignoring everyone but our urban center. The paradoxes seem endless.

If I had a nickel for every time I heard this line! Media lefties love to turn criticisms against themselves into “he said/she said” affairs: who’s to say who’s right?

In short, our daily newspaper is confronting the same challenges faced by every other “traditional media” outlet in the country, if not the world — from the New York Times to the local evening broadcast. It is the bane of any news gathering organization that tries to appeal to a broad swath of the public at a time when “custom,” “niche” and “segmentation” are the new buzzwords of choice.

Indeed, the hunger for information, entertainment (and their devilish offspring “infotainment”) has never been higher.

What has changed — what Bradbury so wisely foresaw — is the way in which consumers want it presented. Objectivity, be damned:

– Those on the left end of the political spectrum can read The Progressive or Mother Jones, tune in to the BBC or Air America each night and, perhaps, read Anna Quindlen’s latest novel. Nary a right-leaning thought need ever enter their heads.

– Those on the far right can consume The Weekly Standard or The American Spectator, savor the witticisms of Rush Limbaugh, enjoy the Fox News Network and kick back with Ann Coulter’s most recent opus. Any whiff of liberalism can be scrubbed from their existence.

Calling the Fox News CHANNEL a right-wing venue actually exposes that the Reporter editorial staff does indeed have a liberal bias. For one thing, FNC’s resident “conservative” Bill O’Reilly
believes in global warming & denounced the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. For another, they employ more than a few liberals & other pundits who clearly aren’t conservative: Geraldo Rivera, Alan Colmes, Greta Van Susteren, Mort Kondracke, Mara Liasson, Nina Easton, Neal Gabler, Jane Hall…Fox Senior Judicial Analyst, Judge Andrew Napolitano, commonly offers legal interpretations unfavorable to the Right. Fox’s straight reporting does give both sides of the story, and with regular guests like Jane Fleming, Bob Beckel, Wesley Clark, Ellis Henican, Laura Schwartz, Al Sharpton, Jonathon Turley, and that Farrakhan henchthug who’s on Hannity & Colmes all the time, the Left is always amply represented.

And, for the first time in U.S. history, individuals on both sides of the socio-political spectrum can spend a lifetime without having exposure to a thought, notion, idea or position that in any way offends their sensibilities.

This, of course, is an exciting prospect from a consumer point of view. Imagine a world where niche after niche after niche is tailored specifically to our personal biases, thus freeing us from having to cope with anything that might be “disconcerting” or “off-putting.”

hit this nail on the head: “No doubt there are some who read, or watch, only things that agrees with their point of view. However, any reasonably intelligent conservative also reads the ‘other side’.” Also, most conservative commentary I’m aware of tackles the Left’s arguments head-on.

God forbid we wrestle with any issues that might make our days — how shall we put this? — less pleasant. Indeed, why sweat the future of Social Security when, oh, we can get live graveside coverage of Anna Nicole Smith’s burial?

As Ray Bradbury presciently stated in his 1953 novel: “If you don’t want a man unhappy politically, don’t give him two sides to a question to worry him: give him one. Better yet, give him none … “

As the segmenting of America continues, we fear the loss of the proverbial “town square,” that safe place where neighbors of all creeds, beliefs and stripes can converge to exchange ideas and weigh them in a civil manner. (Too many nightly news shows suggest that the “winners” of such debates aren’t those with the best arguments, but the pundits who yell the loudest).

Ah, the obligatory “Loudmouth O’Reilly” slap! Has anyone at the Reporter even sat through an entire episode of the Factor?

Simply put, “Fahrenheit 451” foresaw the death of “we, the people” when individual citizens only care about “I, the person.”

Indeed, the novel’s cautionary message rings more true today than it did more than a half century ago.

And if that doesn’t frighten you, it should.

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