Blurring line between entertainment and news concerning
âIt took me about a year to start hating the 9/11 victimsâ families … Iâm so sick of them because theyâre always complaining.â
Youâd think making a statement like this would be enough to get anybody fired.
But Glenn Beck, who said this on his radio show in 2005 (in the context of comparing 9/11 victims to the Katrina victims being shown on TV), somehow managed to avoid such a fate.
In fact, Beck remained so popular, he was given a self titled show on Fox News in 2009.
But last Wednesday, Fox News announced Glenn Beck would be ending this year, though the network will continue to partner with Beckâs production company to produce other programming.
Some claim Fox is cutting the show after a severe drop in ratings.
But Beck still averages 1.9 million viewers daily and the network has been consistently among the top-rated cable news networks for years.
And the highly complimentary language in Foxâs statement about the split doesnât seem to indicate a problem with his politics.
But still, itâs possible Beck finally got too out-there for a network that says it is committed to objective journalism.
Or maybe Beck, who has expressed interest in having his own cable channel, is leaving to pursue other options.
Itâs all conjecture at this point. Perhaps the more interesting question is why he was there in the first place. What roles do Beck and his theatrical antics fill on a news network?
Beckâs incendiary statement warranted only reserved statements from Fox News executives, saying Beck does not reflect the opinion of the network (and a statement from Rupert Murdoch, CEO of Foxâs parent company, saying Beck was right). Beck then remained on air for the next two years.
Beckâs show is opinion. And with its chalkboard diagrams and puppet shows, itâs also entertainment. At least, thatâs what Fox News purports.
In his interview on The Daily Show, Fox News anchor Bret Baier explained there is a difference between the networkâs opinion shows and news shows, and said, âWe respect the viewersâ ability to discern the difference between the two.â
But thereâs something a little dangerous about Fox Newsâ blending of news and opinion, and journalism and entertainment.
Glenn Beck might be an opinion show, but the Fox News logo and their slogan âFair and Balanced,â still reside on screen while Beck compares seemingly any and all liberal politicians to Hitler.
That name and logo give some sort of legitimacy to his outrageous rants, even if Beck himself says he is only offering his opinion.
Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show, might be seen as a liberal counterpart to Beck in that they both blend news and entertainment (though to very different ends).
But a crucial difference in their practices is that Stewart is a comedian hosting a comedy show on a comedy network.
Stewart might have an equally obvious bias, but he critiques figures on both ends of the political spectrum for comedyâs sake.
The vague title of âopinion showâ does little to dispel the idea that news invariably associated with a 24-hour news network. Viewers turn to Fox News expecting news, expecting to learn about current events and politics.
Even if Beckâs show isnât viewed as unbiased journalism, that doesnât mean his opinions donât seriously affect real peopleâs political views.
With the complex debates raging in Washington today, from health care to budget deficits to wars being fought on three fronts, it is absolutely crucial we have an intelligent and objectively informed public.
But with todayâs blurred line between news and entertainment, such a result becomes less and less likely.
Fox Newsâ decision to split with Beck could be an important first step in re-establishing the news network as a source of truly âFair and Balancedâ news.
Beck is entertaining. Just donât call him news.
Cara Dickason is a senior majoring in English and cinema-critical studies. Her column, âCine File,â runs Tuesdays.