March 17, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 87  

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“Fair and balanced?” Not likely

What the Shuk?
Mark Polishuk

Opinions Editor

People like to discuss their jobs, so it’s no surprise journalists like writing about journalism. I guess the next logical step as a journalist is writing a column about journalists writing about journalism — but now I’m so confused I need a nap and possibly a hot toddy.

In any case, Jayson Blair is currently getting his 15 minutes of fame. Blair is a former New York Times journalist fired last summer after it was revealed he plagiarized and even outright fabricated some of his news stories.

In the way that a good investigative reporter is called a “real Carl Bernstein,” a good sports writer is called “a regular Red Smith” or a flying reporter is called a “new Clark Kent,” Blair’s name has become synonymous with lying. Blair claims he was driven to plagiarism by the pressure he felt as a black man trying to prove his worth in a high-profile role at a major newspaper.

I’m sure if you asked other black journalists, they’d agree with Blair... no, wait, they’d call him a disgrace to the profession and a disgrace as an African-American for trying to hide behind his ethnicity.

No legitimate news organization could be expected to give Blair’s wafer-thin excuse any credibility, and none have — except the Fox News Channel. Bill O’Reilly, host of the super-conservative O’Reilly Factor, used Blair’s appearance on his program to bash the Times, which is not surprising considering the Times’ reputation as a “liberal” newspaper. Blair was more than happy to comply, since he’s currently promoting a book about his life — no word on whether Chapters will stock it in the fiction or non-fiction section.

This is just the latest shot across the bow of the S.S. McLuhan: the medium is truly bigger than the message. The debate over which media outlets are and aren’t biased (even The Gazette is sometimes accused of this) obscures the central fact that NO media outlet should be biased. If you’re Fox News and you openly flaunt your conservative ties in order to provide “fair and balanced” journalism against the so-called liberal media, then you’re automatically robbing yourself of any journalistic credibility. Countering an alleged bias with a very definite bias is like claiming everyone hates birds singing, and then releasing your own remixed version of chirping under the name DJ Worm Eatah.

I’m not just picking on conservatives. The proposed “Liberal Radio Network” featuring shows hosted by Janeane Garofalo and Al Franken will no doubt be just as partial. Geez, they could at least change their name so their political bias isn’t hanging out in the open.

Picking an ideological side and pushing your news to promote those values is a slap in the face to freedom of speech and insults those thousands of journalists who try to do their jobs properly and present all sides of an issue. Different writers will naturally have different viewpoints, but one opinion should not be favoured over the other just because of who is signing the cheques. Any news outlet that yields this bias is no better than Jayson Blair.



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