Paul Greenberg

That's why, when it comes to coloring the news, NPR's more muted approach is so much more effective than Fox's blatant biases, and why the New York Times' most effective editorials appear in the guise of news stories. (Its actual editorials tend to be as dull and unconvincing as they are predictable.)

The most effective partisans throw in an isolated criticism of their own side now and then in order to give the appearance, if only appearance, of fairness. They're really being about as fair as the notorious Fairness Doctrine, which succeeded in gagging broadcasters for decades, reserving the airwaves for respectably liberal opinions.

See the virtual monopoly someone like Walter Cronkite enjoyed for years before cable was unleashed and competing ideas given a chance to be heard.

There are few opinions that can't be attractively packaged and tied with a ribbon of authority by being called News Analysis. At least Fox and MSNBC do not disguise their biases, unlike news outlets like CNN and MSM (Main Stream Media) in general. Their oh-so-objective tone tends to obscure their highly subjective approach to the news.

Maybe those in charge of such networks are so deluded they think they have no prejudices. That's the most effective kind of partisanship -- when partisans can convince themselves they're not.

The Wall Street Journal may have become the most respected paper in the country because it keeps its news and editorial departments so separate that readers may not realize that, if its news coverage has a bias, it's to the left -- in striking contrast to its own editorial positions. Now that's integrity.

The least a partisan can do is admit he is one. It would be a nice change if now and then some prominent partisan would deliver an appeal for civility that isn't really just one more attack ad. Throwing in an occasional Clinton clause -- "I'm not trying to draw total parallels" -- does not fairness make.

Understand, I'm not trying to draw total parallels between Bill Clinton and the kind of smooth operators who use a high-minded appeal to pursue a low end. I'm just saying we should be aware of the possibility. (There. See how it works?)


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.