08/09/04 — OPINION -- Free vs. fair

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OPINION -- Free vs. fair

By Gene Price
Published in News on August 9, 2004 1:56 PM

Some members of the U.S. Congress -- all Democrats -- recently took umbrage at what they perceive as unquestionable bias in the "Fair and Balanced" reports of Fox News. Indeed, the suggestion was that Fox was virtually an unofficial but ongoing advocate of the Republican agenda.

Do these offended politicians have a legitimate case in their claims that Fox News leans toward President George W. Bush and conservative viewpoints?

In my view, they certainly do!

Fox's Bill O'Reilly can be particularly aggressive and even offensive, slapping down liberal guests in mid-sentence even when they are trying to respond to questions he, himself, has asked.

Those Democratic members of Congress, I feel, are on solid ground when they point to Fox's bias.

But if their concern is for fairness in the media, what is their assessment of ABC, CBS, NBC -- Peter Jennings, Dan Rather and even the historic "neutrality" of the "wire" services?

Their reporters, editors and "talking head" anchors, while more subtle than O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh, sometimes can be every bit as biased as those of Fox News in their selection and presentation of the "news."

Tim Russert, however, stands apart from the crowd. With good "homework," he manages to catch liberals and conservative guests alike in traps baited by their own previous statements. He deserves the respect long accorded Walter Cronkite.

For years, Republicans, and most people of conservative persuasion, have complained about the liberal bias of the media. So members of Congress now complaining about Fox News aren't exactly plowing new ground.

But both sides need to recognize that the Constitution guarantees us a free press.

It says absolutely nothing about a fair press.

As citizens of this great country, we have the opportunity, the challenge and the responsibility to decipher the difference.

Fox News helps balance the daily dosage.