A theoretical experiment in good journalistic practices

Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

Assume, for a moment, that you are a cable news executive. You are responsible for maintaining a certain standard of journalistic credibility on your airwaves and, as such, insist upon a clear line separating practices like reportage and commentary from issues advocacy and politicking.

But now you're faced with a problem -- one of your more popular prime-time personalities is seeking to expand beyond the media sphere and enter the world of political activism. It's a thorny issue, given that this personality's program is almost exclusively devoted to commentary, and it would be very easy for this person to give the impression that he is using his media perch to promote his own brand of politics. What do you do? Do you make no changes, trust that your newly political host will police himself, and hope against hope that your network doesn't come off looking like paid political programming? Do you insist that this personality retool his program to minimize the incidences of perceived politicking? Do you issue an ultimatum, forcing him to choose between being a politician and a cable news host?

Well, if you're Fox News and that politically inclined host is Glenn Beck, you do nothing. Fox News has thus far shown no interest in policing Glenn Beck's behavior, no matter how outrageous. They readily admit that their opinion bloc of programming is devoted to Republican-boosting, progressive-bashing conservatism (and their news programming isn't much different). And they already have a host whose political ambitions are nakedly obvious -- former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. The failed candidate for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination graduated to his spot on Fox News' weekend lineup before the campaign season had ended, and has already used the show to collect e-mail addresses for his political action committee. In the last year he's made two trips to Iowa, site of the first Republican caucus of the 2012 primary.

So don't expect anything different from Beck or Fox News. It's just part of the network's natural progression from untrustworthy news outlet to untrustworthy political outfit.

Fox News Channel
Glenn Beck
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