Beware of partisan media - Too many journalists are cheerleading for a favorite candidate

Commentary by Bill O'Reilly
New York Daily News


A few weeks ago, I opined that partisan journalism was getting out of control in America and that ideological fanaticism was badly damaging journalistic standards because in some cases facts were being altered to fit the agendas of certain reporters and commentators. Now comes more disturbing news about the news.

According to an article in The New York Times Magazine, a nonpublicized meeting was held here in New York early last December attended by John Kerry and a number of liberal-leaning journalists, including CNN's Jeff Greenfield, Newsweek's Jonathan Alter, Richard Cohen, whose column appears in this newspaper, and Frank Rich of the aforementioned New York Times.

Now, this powwow might have been just an innocent "get to know you" soiree, but there are hints it might have been quite something else. One of the attendees, Jim Kelly, the managing editor of Time magazine, was quoted as saying that Kerry was asked a number of times about his vote on Iraq, and, according to Kelly, "by the third go-round the answer was getting shorter and more relevant."

The "third go-round"? That sounds like coaching to me, but I could be wrong. Maybe the Massachusetts senator simply wasn't making himself clear.

What I'm not wrong about is that more than a few so-called journalists have turned into activists - people who are dedicating themselves to getting a certain party or person elected and are using their positions in the media to do it.

There is nothing wrong with news organizations endorsing a candidate or a columnist writing about his or her political preferences.

But actively participating in political campaigns by coaching candidates and strategizing with them is absolutely against every journalistic standard, and it is happening - usually under the radar.

Kerry invited me to his Nantucket home a couple of years ago, and I went over to chat with the senator and meet his wife. Nice time. We both have deep New England roots, and that's what we talked about. I stayed away from politics, and so did he. Nothing wrong with a journalist getting a personal look at a senator.

But let's face it, with the rise of entertainers like Rush Limbaugh and other radio talk-show people who openly root for the Republicans, those on the left feel they are at a disadvantage.

Thus we now have that vacuum being filled by some opinion journalists who never met a left-wing cause they didn't espouse. Again, fanatical news analysts are allowed, even though they're boring. But crossing the line into actively helping a political campaign cannot be tolerated by any news operation.

The exposure of the liberal journalists who met with Kerry received scant attention from the media. Can you imagine if executives from the Fox News Channel, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Times had gathered at Camp David for a little slap and tickle with President Bush? And nobody was told about it? And The New York Times found out about it?


So, you as a news consumer should know American journalism is becoming increasingly partisan, and ideologues on both the right and the left have infiltrated the news business at very high levels.

But remember this: Passionate news analysis is one thing, but abusing the public trust is quite something else.

Originally published on March 29, 2004

Long Island native Bill O'Reilly joined the Fox News Channel as the anchor/host of "The O'Reilly Factor" in 1996. Now the most-watched program on cable news, it has caused the powerful in America to duck for cover as the rigidly enforced "No Spin Zone" deals with the nation's most-important issues in a straightforward and provocative manner. Both of O'Reilly's nonfiction books, "The O'Reilly Factor" and "The No Spin Zone," were No. 1 on The New York Times bestseller list. His novel "Those Who Trespass" has been optioned for the screen.



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