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First, there was the “objective” mainstream media news, allegedly news stories told straight down the middle. Then, there were alternative media on talk radio and cable, making it seem as if perhaps the mainstream media skewed to the left. Then, farther left web sites like DailyKos sprung-up, redefining the skew of mainstream media as center-left establishment. All in all, it looked like we were headed for a fragmentation of news sites on the web — a multitude of voices competing in a freewheeling marketplace of ideas. But, we haven’t really seen it yet, as the big online newspaper mastheads and the AP stick with their same, less and less plausible story — that they more or less provide “objective” news.
Perhaps we are now beginning to see the beginning of this partisan news that seemed inevitable. The Huffington Post admits to skewing toward the Hollywood left, and they have plans to expand to special city additions. Now Andrew Breitbart, longtime Drudge henchman, is launching BigHollywood, a website for the L.A. non-left. Will these entertainment-oriented web sites launch the partisan web sites of the future? If the major newspaper brands won’t do it, it would have to start someplace else. So, maybe so.
In the last few decades, network TV news programs have insisted they were providing news that was “objective,” and went to great pains to avoid revealing their anchors’ personal political views. But last night, CBS News anchor Katie Couric stood before the National Press Club and starkly proclaimed that President Bush lied about the reasons the U.S. went to war with Iraq — not made a mistake or a questionable judgment, but lied — placing herself publicly, firmly, and fringe-ishly on the left, well outside the American mainstream.
If a network anchor had made such a statement in the past, it might have been considered a mistake or an embarrassment. But in the current news environment, it cannot be ruled out that this was a deliberate strategy on the part of CBS management. Their news program is performing miserably under Couric’s stewardship, clearly unable to compete against the other two networks. CBS must be noticing that in the more competitive news market of cable TV, the public prefers news with a partisan spin, as Fox’s audience skews toward conservative viewers and CNN skews toward liberal ones. Perhaps CBS also recognizes that the objective news model is still relatively young and unproven (only the last 80 years of human history), is almost entirely an American phenomenon, and is now failing among an increasingly skeptical public.
In the future of news, the Internet will provide us with multitudes of news outlets representing multitudes of worldviews from far left to far right. Is it possible that Couric’s remarks were not a gaffe, but a bold and deliberate CBS move out of a hole and into the future? It’s either that, or no one at CBS even cares about Couric or news anymore.