Monday, November 15, 2010


Koppel’s ‘Nonpartisan Sadness’

“The commercial success of both Fox News and MSNBC is a source of nonpartisan sadness for me. While I can appreciate the financial logic of drowning television viewers in a flood of opinions designed to confirm their own biases, the trend is not good for the republic. It is, though, the natural outcome of a growing sense of national entitlement. Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s oft-quoted observation that ‘everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts,’ seems almost quaint in an environment that flaunts opinions as though they were facts.

“And so, among the many benefits we have come to believe the founding fathers intended for us, the latest is news we can choose. Beginning, perhaps, from the reasonable perspective that absolute objectivity is unattainable, Fox News and MSNBC no longer even attempt it. They show us the world not as it is, but as partisans (and loyal viewers) at either end of the political spectrum would like it to be.”
—Ted Koppel, veteran newsman and columnist,
Olbermann, O’Reilly and the Death of Real News,
The Washington Post, Nov. 14, 2010.

(Koppel was managing editor of ABC’s “Nightline” from 1980 to 2005,
and is a contributing analyst for “BBC World News America.”)
Cartoon: Pat Bagley, The Salt Lake Tribune

Editorial Comment: Facts? We don’t need no stinkin’ facts!

PeezPix: Water Lily—Thoughts of warmer days...


  1. And there, my good professor, is the demise of our cherished Republic in a nutshell. Without an objective, passionately committed and intellectually competent FREE and unfettered press, the terrorists in both parties win. Thankfully neither you nor I will be upright at the bitter end, but possibly our kids and definitely our grand kids will and that saddens me greatly.


  2. I've pretty much given up on both networks because all I hear is opinions.

    Romina Nedakovic

  3. On Nov 15, 2010, at 8:38 AM, Bud Brewer wrote:

    On the Olbermann/Hannity issue, I frankly think Faux News got it right. These guys don’t even pretend to be journalists, so why should they be prohibited from participating in the system? If we stop celebrity/host/talkers, we might as well extend that to all “public influencers,” no? My problem is the same as Koppel’s … these people are presenting opinion as fact, and THAT’S JUST WRONG. The very first discussion I was ever to have on an academic level had to do with the difference between fact and opinion. And there’s even a problem with “fact.” Consider the courtroom dynamic of dueling expert witnesses, both of whom are paid for their “opinion” which is presented as “fact” because of their alleged expertise. The slope just gets slipperier and slipperier … (is that even a word?)


  4. Indeed, Bud, everyone should participate in the system, and must if the marketplace of ideas is to have any validity as a free market. The confusion between evidence and the spouting of some guy at the bar is the problem—as if someone forgot to install distinct sections for the varied products in the marketplace. Complainers once criticized the New York Times for including pieces marked "Analysis" in the news section. Now, of course, few notice or care about the distinction. If you hear it and can repeat it in the media echo chamber, it's new—and news—and damn the quibblers over fact and truth.

    As perhaps doesn't surprise you, we academics not only note but try to teach that distinction. In our case here it's in a required media literacy class called "Media Smarts: Making Sense of the Information Age," which focuses on the central question, "How do we know what we think we know?" A key theory that informs this conversation is called, generally, selective perception—the elegantly simple concept that says that we all see and understand the world differently because of our individual background, learning, culture, gender, socioeconomic/educational context, etc. Thus, two people reporting the same facts might well tell the same story quite differently.

    So it is in your courtroom, and whenever reporters engage in straight reporting. Ideology need not be part of it: Facts can be presented and understood differently. That's completely legitimate. We've gone beyond that, however, from honest "analysis" to the kind of shameful keening that now passes for informed social discourse.

    Ted Pease
    Professor of Interesting Stuff

  5. Excellent, Ted. Thank you.

    Fifty years from now, when all the books have been burned and history rewritten by the Nazi-like people in power, hopefully someone will have printed Koppel’s words on a little piece of paper that they keep in their shoe and pass around to certain individuals when the death squad isn’t looking.

  6. Sad that Ted Koppel, whom I used to admire, has been bought by the George Soros regime. I'm grateful to get the kind of news that makes me sit up and do fact checking so that I can see the truth for myself. It is narrow minded journalists and anchors who report only what they are told to report who distort the real picture of America.


  7. If this were a Facebook post, and there were a Like button that I could hit 100 times, I would do so regarding this thought from Koppel. This is one of your best finds. I've always admired Ted Koppel. Miss him.

    Yes, I am reading your daily posts. I am teaching Feature Writing next semester at University of Missouri-St. Louis (just finishing a semester of teaching PR and Technical Writing), and I am definitely going to put your blog as a resource on the course site.


  8. re. previous anon post:

    "Sitting up and doing fact-checking so [you] can see the truth for yourself" is, I think, what Koppel is suggesting. Whether you can do that through only one source—Fox, Koppel or otherwise—is unlikely.

    As for "GO FOX NEWS"? I'd have to agree with that, but we may disagree on what we mean....