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Obama Takes Another Swipe at 'Destructive' Fox News

12:40 PM, Sep 28, 2010 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
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It's about as predictable as Alan Grayson airing a hateful, dishonest ad caricaturing conservatives, but alas, it's news because the president said it. The headline at CNN gets right down to the nub of Obama's criticism in a way that's a bit more explicit and creepy than coverage of his past comments:

Obama: Fox News 'destructive' to America

That's probably because Obama's being a bit more explicit and creepy than in the past. The whole quote, from a Rolling Stone interview, with the joking assurance that he is indeed in favor of a free press, even if he doesn't like one network. Thanks, Mr. President:

"Look, as president, I swore to uphold the Constitution, and part of that Constitution is a free press," Obama laughed, in response to a question from Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner about whether or not Fox News was "a good institution for America and for democracy."

"We've got a tradition in this country of a press that oftentimes is opinionated. The golden age of an objective press was a pretty narrow span of time in our history. Before that, you had folks like Hearst who used their newspapers very intentionally to promote their viewpoints," Mr. Obama said. "I think Fox is part of that tradition -- it is part of the tradition that has a very clear, undeniable point of view."

This quote comes out one day after a poll rating Fox News rated by far the most influential and popular cable news network with likely voters. In a Politico/George Washington University poll, 42 percent said they watched Fox, 30 percent watched CNN, and a paltry 12 percent watched MSNBC. Finger on the pulse of the public, this guy.

The "golden age of objective journalism" involved getting one's news from one of three network newscasts and usually a monopoly local paper, once daily. Media diversification and new technology have created an environment in which those with opinions and positions—from pro-Obama bloggers to Glenn Beck— can report and relay stories they care about. Consumers are able to pick commentators and reporters they trust from a vast array of outlets, often customizing their news flow via Twitter and RSS readers. This is not a tragedy.

One can make the argument that consumers' tendency in this new environment to pick only news outlets that reinforce their viewpoints might be a problem, but that's not the argument Obama makes. It is only a problem, in his eyes, because those with a viewpoint he disagrees with are the ones consumers have picked to trust.

In the Politico/GWU poll, likely voters listed five media personalities having the most positive impact on the national political conversation. They were Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Jon Stewart.

Bill O’Reilly was rated as having, by far, the greatest positive impact, with 49 percent of respondents rating him positively, and 32 percent negatively.

Glenn Beck was the second most-positively rated personality, with 38 percent of respondents saying he had a positive impact, and 32 percent saying he had a negative impact.

Radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh was the third-most-positively ranked, with 36 percent saying he has a positive impact on the discourse, but his negatives far outweighed his positives, with 52 percent saying he has a negative impact.

Likely voters— those most in-tune to the news and likely to affect electoral change— like their news with a view, and the view they like is center-right to outright conservative. Jon Stewart is the only left-leaning commentator in the bunch, and though he's certainly liberal, I'm not sure it serves the liberal cause that he's their one representaive on this list. His first loyalty is to comedy rather than ideology or practical election influence, as illustrated by the rather empty performance art of the "March to Restore Sanity." The right-leaning make-up of this group is likely a reflection of the right turn the general electorate has been making since 2008.It's an electoral and PR reality that's not going away just because Obama complains about it. But if he was looking for a way to make himself look out of touch, there's no better way than rhetorically aligning himself with the 12 percent of proud Americans who watch MSNBC. 

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