One laudable practice at National Public Radio is reading listener reactions on the air. On Monday night's All Things Considered newscast, they noted several listeners objected to NPR media reporter David Folkenflik stating Fox offered "voracious conservatism" while MSNBC merely offered "leftward tilt." Anchor Michelle Norris relayed:
The Pew Research Center last year found that public trust in the media was at an historic low because of those perceived slants. Well, several listeners thought our story had a bit of a slant. Stan Henney of Longmont, Colorado, writes: The reporter described Fox News as voraciously conservative, and MSNBC as tilting to the left. Both are subjective, not objective descriptions. I personally think that while some Fox personalities can be aggressive, MSNBC does a lot more than just tilt.
He goes on to say: If you folks were truly objective, you might have simply said that Fox is conservative and MSNBC is liberal, a clear fact, and left it to your listeners to insert their own degree of embellishment.
Anchor Melissa Block offered another letter with that view, which suggests they received a significant amount of comment of this kind:
Allen Maranoff of Alexandria, Virginia, agrees. He writes: Stating that MSNBC has a tilt is absurd. The leftfield bombasts, including Chris Matthews, Rachel Maddow and the ever-screaming Keith Olbermann, do not have a tilt. They are committed ideologues of the worst kind.
Folkenflik's story, ironically, was discussing public distrust of the media, and how in Atlanta, they're struggling to provide consumers with more balanced news. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has tried to tone down its editorials, and then there was CNN:
FOLKENFLIK: Over at CNN, executives are also trying to maintain a non-ideological course. In its case: Between FOX News' voracious conservatism and MSNBC's leftward tilt. Vice President Richard Griffiths is a senior editor at CNN's Atlanta headquarters.
Mr. RICHARD GRIFFITHS (Vice President; Senior Editor, CNN Atlanta Headquarters): Trust is the number one thing we're thinking about. Have we done right by the viewers to dig down and ask the right questions? Have we got the various different nuances to the story?
FOLKENFLIK: Such attention to nuance may not convince viewers. While officials say they have been able to maintain six straight years of robust profits, the cable network's ratings are eroding. And considerably more Democrats than Republicans trust CNN. But Griffiths says honest reporting is more than a slogan at CNN.
Mr. GRIFFITHS: We're not going to throw that away simply for higher ratings or more viewers on the Web.
The story itself offered conservative complaints about liberal bias, as well as a bow for the Atlanta Progressive News arguing there's not enough liberal bias.
But Folkenflik does seem to have an urge to present Fox News in the negative. On Monday's Morning Edition, he discussed how Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal offered "Fox News-like rancor" in its battle with the New York Times:
In the meantime, there's been a lot of head games. Robert Thompson, the Journal's editor, has accused the Times of being unprincipled. And even slapped a picture of Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger in a collage of faces to illustrate a story about men's faces appealing to women because perhaps they were effeminate.
There's a lot of politicking going on. There's a lot of almost Fox News-like rancor there.
Folkenflik's more colorful on his Twitter account:
NYT Prez Heekin-Canedy says WSJ mind games "just another flavor" of abuse from sister co Fox News, on NPR
Abuse? In a quote that made the Web summary of the story, but wasn't on the radio, New York Times president Scott Heekin-Canedy complained:
"We've been vilified, unjustly so and often factually incorrectly, most often factually incorrectly, by Fox News," Heekin-Canedy told NPR. "This is just another flavor of that, I'd say."
Heekin-Canedy might also find it unfair to find himself described as a Naderite. But it fits.