When it comes to getting the news, we live in an incredible time. Americans in the 1800s had to rely solely on what stories came down the telegraph wire. Or fast forward to the 1960s, when three news networks reported the same events in the same way. Today, we are overwhelmed by options: satellite radio, hundreds of TV channels, millions of blogs and entire books that can be sent to an iPad in seconds.
To quote Spider-Man, with great power comes great responsibility. We in the conservative movement have unfortunately given one network the power to begin every conversation, to set the tone and essentially draft the agenda on what matters to us.
I respect the media empire Fox News Channel (FNC) has become. Roger Ailes, president of FNC since its start in 1996, says his guiding values are “God, country, family.” No wonder his network appeals to hard-working, everyday Americans.
However, it’s a dangerous thing to end your news-gathering at one media source.
After seven months on Capitol Hill, I see the love-hate relationship Congress has with Fox News—even a strongly conservative office like the one I served as an intern. The network is helping more than anyone to rally the right together. But to what end?
Fox News, like most TV networks, depends on revenue from advertisers to exist. Advertisers pay more if your audience is larger. Which means that, apart from any noble goal of truth-telling, FNC producers care most about increasing their audience. As Roger Ailes said recently on ABC News: “I’m not in politics, I’m in ratings.”
And Fox has figured out better than any other news/entertainment operation how to bring in more viewers: create an emotional connection with TV hosts, tell stories with clear-cut heroes and villains (when reality has more gray), always keep the drama high.
Bigger issues are also at stake. Every dialogue with your liberal friends (I hope you have many) is an opportunity to give new insight. Since they get news from the mainstream media, that’s your “in.”
For instance: if I started discussing President Obama’s connections to Mao, my Democrat friends would tune me out. But if I engage them with respect, talking up the stories they follow—mentioning relevant facts they perhaps missed—they’ll listen.
“It’s easier for me to watch Fox News,” a busy working mom recently told me. “At least they don’t have a liberal bias.” No need to abandon FNC entirely; even the New York Times assigned a reporter to watch Fox so the paper would not miss stories like why Van Jones resigned.
One thing we can all do is change the channel more often to hear what other credible voices are saying. Some places you can start:
C-SPAN. It’s boring at first, I admit. But after a few dozen hours watching Congress in-session, you’ll begin to recognize Congressional leaders and how they discuss current events. I’d say at least 20% of current legislators are standing for conservative values; C-SPAN is the #1 source for getting to know them firsthand.
Morning Joe. A former Republican Congressman, Joe Scarborough hosts a casual panel of liberals and conservatives every weekday morning on MSNBC. Morning Joe provides a different sort of “fair and balanced”—where the right isn’t always guaranteed to win the debate. That’s a good thing.
NPR. Without question NPR leans to the left. (Of the infamous exchange between Terry Gross and Bill O’Reilly, an NPR spokesman said: “…the interview only served to confirm the belief, held by some, in NPR’s liberal media bias.”) But no one does radio news better than NPR. No one.
The Wall Street Journal (wsj.com). With its accurate reporting and “big tent” of conservative opinion, WSJ has recently become the most-read newspaper in the nation. Be wary, though, of a corporate bent that can get out-of-hand; in late 2008, the paper was flush with pro-bailout editorials and not a single opposing viewpoint.
The Hill (thehill.com). Congressional staff read The Hill everyday, in print or e-newsletters. Despite a left-leaning perspective, it’s a valuable source for news on Congressional legislation, election fundraising and political stories that matter.
WORLD Magazine (worldmag.com). Some faith-based voices subtly assert that their worldview perfectly matches that of God Himself. Talk about dangerous. Thankfully, the journalists at WORLD Magazine cover politics, culture and international news with professionalism – recognizing the Bible is neither Democrat nor Republican.
So how do I make time for all this media and still get on with life? The secret is podcasting. All the media sources listed above have an audio or video podcast – a program you can download for free onto your computer or portable device. Learn more about how to enjoy podcasts at www.apple.com/itunes/podcasts.
A few other programs not to miss if you get into podcasting:
Cato Daily Podcast (cato.org). For advocates of limited government, there is no more reliable or thorough source than The Cato Institute.
Sunday talk shows (search iTunes). It’s like watching presidential debates, only better. Each of these shows—Face the Nation, Meet the Press, etc.—feature guests from both left and right every Sunday morning. Thanks to podcasting, you can subscribe online and enjoy the shows after whatever weekend worship service you attend.
Like a soldier leaving his safe foxhole, enter the battle of ideas. Have you found other news media with solid reporting and centrist analysis? Share them below.