Liberals may think they've found their Bernard Goldberg, the former CBS News correspondent who is making himself a good living, writing books about what he perceived as bias at CBS.
He is Charlie Reina, who, until last April, worked as a writer and producer of two shows at the Fox News Channel. The shows he produced were mine, "After Hours," and "Fox News Watch," on which I appear as a panelist.
Last week, Reina, a self-professed liberal, did a "Goldberg" when he posted a memo to Romenesko on the Poynter media Web site, alleging that higher-ups at Fox compose a daily memo to the staff, ordering them to slant news coverage to the right.
The Reina memo will be the left's smoking gun, "proving" what they have always believed - that Fox is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Bush administration and that it deliberately colors the news (to borrow from a popular media critique book) to suit its own biases.
If the "mainstream media" understood why Fox, in just seven years, has risen so quickly to eclipse once-dominant CNN among cable channels, Fox would never have been born.
In 1996, at the Republican National Convention in San Diego, I met with CBS News President Andrew Heyward. I told him that the networks had ignored a major demographic (conservatives) and that the first network to pay attention to them would reap a ratings bonanza. I said conservatives believed their views were rarely acknowledged, and when they were, they were usually stereotyped or twisted in ways that were inaccurate and offensive. If he would hire someone with views like mine, I said, he would attract conservatives and boost ratings. He listened politely but did nothing.
I delivered similar speeches to other network presidents with the same results.
Along came Fox, and the disaffected became loyal viewers. Only Fox treats patriotism as something other than a sickness. Only Fox thinks America is a better country than its critics say. Only Fox thinks capitalism is good and not something for which an apology is necessary. Only Fox sees the world in tones other than moral equivalency.
The Reina memo says Fox executives suggest story angles. That isn't necessarily bad, because reporters, editors and producers must be reminded that Fox News is often the "other side," giving perspective ignored by the other networks. Fox employs many liberals, whose numbers probably are greater than the number of conservatives employed by CNN and the other networks. A liberal producer of one of Fox' top-rated shows told me last week that at another network where she worked, no memo from management on story coverage was necessary "because we all thought alike."
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