There are three major news networks these days — CNN, MSN, and Fox News. It depends on who you talk to whether these are liberal-bias, conservative-bias, or middle of the road. And plenty of people will sneer at the Fox News motto of “fair and balanced.”
In the run up to the 2008 election, the highly popular governor of Alaska was the vice-presidential candidate. I’m not going to rehash that campaign. Water under the bridge. But I would note that the news media all reported extensively on Sarah Palin and on Alaska. It was this coverage that ended my long belief that CNN was a middle of the road network that offered the most honest coverage.
Alaska is a subject I can claim some expertise in, so of course, when I heard things that made no sense with what I knew, I researched it. It’s what I do, right? There was the story that Sarah cut the state Department of Education budget by 30%. That seemed unlikely since there wasn’t a huge furor over it in Alaska at the time. Remember, I live in Alaska. It should have been front-page news here. So I fact-checked it. It was easy to do. A lot of Alaska’s public records are on line and most of the newspapers had covered it, but they hadn’t covered it as “Sarah Palin destroys education” but “As Sarah Palin maintains fiscal sanity during record oil revenues” .
In 2007, oil prices were booming and the State of Alaska was benefiting from that. The Legislature, in a organism of ecstasy at $90 a barrel oil, had submitted a budget that increased the Education budget by 30% and Sarah, calculating on a budget set for $65 a barrel had red-lined the increase and held spending at previous levels. Sarah did not cut the budget. She just refused to let them increase it.
NOTE: This turned out to be incredibly prescient. Parnell allowed the budget to increase with the price of a barrel of oil. Now the price of oil is $50 a barrel and our state budget is set for $110 a barrel. Alaska is running a deficit. Unlike other states, we have savings accounts to cover us while we bring spending under control. We have those savings accounts (in excess of the Permanent Fund) because Sarah held the line on spending when we were rolling in revenue. Had Sarah remained our governor we probably wouldn’t be going through this crisis now.
There were several other claims about Alaska by CNN during that campaign that were easily fact-checked and turned out not to be true. I went so far as to forward two of them with links to the actual information to the CNN reporter (Solidad O”Brien as I recall) and received a canned reply. After about my third fact-finding foray, I decided — for the first time — to give Fox News a chance. I’d always heard that they were entertainment based and fake conservative. I’d seen some interactions between Alan Combs and Tucker Carlson years before that I hadn’t been impressed with. But I knew one thing. I knew that CNN was getting facts that were readily available to anyone with a standard search engine wrong and that meant I needed a new broadcast news network.
I was leery, so I googled anything that sounded fishy to me for quite some time and, for the most part, Fox’s news coverage is fair and balanced. Now, I’m not talking about their editorial policy. I’m talking about their news coverage. You don’t have to believe me. Here’s a study by an international outfit that looked into it.
But here’s the thing — I’m not at all sure we should be getting all of our news from a single cable channel or even several. And I’ll explain why in my next post.