Stu Bykofsky: Olbermann fair? O'Reilly balanced? What we found
By Stu Bykofsky
Philadelphia Daily News
Daily News Columnist
BEFORE THE Democrats got battered in Tuesday's election, I decided to check out one of their favorite pincushions - the Fox News Channel's "fair and balanced" motto.
"Fair" can be subjective. "Balanced," less so. Airing contrary points of view is one element of being fair.
Last week, Monday through Friday, I recorded the flagship shows that lead Fox's and MSNBC's prime-time lineups: "The O'Reilly Factor" on right-leaning Fox, and "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" on left-leaning MSNBC. Rush Limbaugh calls it PMSNBC, while Olbermann refers to his competition as "Fix News" or "Faux News." These star-driven vehicles represent their networks.
To some extent, each outlet is a partisan noise machine with a narrow view of the landscape. The other cable news outlets are either not nakedly partisan or too small to be considered.
It is total war between MSNBC and Fox.
A week after MSNBC launched promotional commercials for itself, ending in the slogan, "Lean forward," Fox responded with a promo saying it, and America, "Moves forward."
The methodology: I scored each guest politically as either "left" or "right." Those defying classification were "neutral."
Here are the totals for the week:
"The O'Reilly Factor" welcomed 20 guests from the right, 11 from the left and seven who were neutral. Left and neutral voices combined almost equaled those from the right.
"Countdown with Keith Olbermann" had 20 guests from the left, two neutral and not a single voice from the right. Zero voices of dissent.
So, if you never want to hear anyone challenge liberal views, lock in on Olbermann. While progressives disdain Fox's claim of being "fair and balanced," "The O'Reilly Factor" does present opposing views. O'Reilly will cut them off in midsentence, true, but he even does that to people who agree with him. (Shock therapy might help.) Olbermann seems unable to even listen to anything other than progressive orthodoxy.
If the tea party wants a "theocracy for white males," as he said, Olbermann could be an imam. He offered a paltry four women among his 22 talking heads, 18 percent. (Wasn't Joy Behar available?) Only two African Americans got face time.
O'Reilly had three African Americans and scattered 18 women among his 38 guests, for 47 percent. (Don't expect NOW to give him an award.) O'Reilly had three Hispanic-surnamed guests; Olbermann had two.
When it comes to their sources of news, too many Americans live in "silos," protected from contrary views. We'd do better, learn a bit more, by listening to some opposing ideas.
You get that from Fox's O'Reilly, not MSNBC's Olbermann.