WashPost's John F. Harris: 'Old Media' Are Kings of 'Rhetorical Restraint'

Washington Post political editor John F. Harris, yes, the one who thinks criticizing any Clinton policy today is an annoying "distraction," did the weekly Live Talk at Newsweek's website last week, and after the usual hum of liberal questions, he grew snippy at a conservative one:

Anonymous: "There is no liberal equivalent of the Fox News Channel, or Rush Limbaugh, or the Drudge Report." My question to you is what do you think CNN, The New York Times, Washington Post, etc., are--conservative mouthpieces? What makes them any better than Fox?

John F. Harris: This perception is widespread. I can understand it. But even those who think the news organizations you name are liberally biased, can not really argue that they are equivalent. There are professional standards of evidence, balance, and rhetorical restraint in Old Media that simply do not exist in New Media.

This isn't true, even on paper. First, I wouldn't count Fox News Channel as "new media," any more then you would call CNN "new media." Sometimes, people lump all "new media" into one ideological loaf of bread.  Fox has a liberal equivalent in both CNN and MSNBC. On radio, Rush Limbaugh has a liberal equivalent in Ed Schultz or Al Franken (for the moment). On the Web, Drudge has a liberal equivalent..well, is Drudge reliably, programatically conservative? I'm note sure what is Drudge-equivalent. The big difference isn't equivalence, but popularity.

But certainly, let's hope Harris is not trying to charge that Fox News Channel has less "rhetorical restraint" than the Olbermann "Special Comment" rants. Let's hope Harris isn't trying to charge that it takes "professional standards of evidence" for his paper to print up unsubstantiated rumors that Sen. George Allen used the N-word at college in the early '70s.  Let's hope Harris isn't trying to charge his newspaper is balanced with those 92 articles on "Macaca," and then having none of that sensitivity for Michael Steele in Maryland.

Washington Post Newsweek
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