Media hounds -- if you're reading GetReligion that probably means you -- will likely recall the recent dust up involving television news icon Ted Koppel and Fox's Sean Hannity. They went after each other over the impact on the body politic of the often confusing mix of "news" and "opinion" that now dominates American journalism.
It started, you'll remember, when Koppel criticized Hannity in an interview Koppel did with him for CBS. Koppel, a network news traditionalist, labeled Hannity's unabashed advocacy style as "bad" for America.
That followed Hannity's statement -- and Koppel's expressing the opposite opinion -- that Americans were media savvy enough to discern the difference between reported facts and individual opinions. Said Hannity:
We have to give some credit to the American people that they are somewhat intelligent and that they know the difference between an opinion show and a news show.
Koppel and Hannity were talking, in the main, about contemporary cable TV. But as GetReligion writers repeatedly note, the same may be said these days of any news platform -- print, web and broadcast.
I happen to believe that what we were sure was hard news just a couple of decades ago was not entirely free of opinion. Journalism has never been pure (and nobody at this weblog has ever argued that it was). News media have too much influence on political and social issues for the power elite to always resist the temptation to manipulate information for its own ends.
But that's another post. Suffice it to say that I agree that the mixing of fact and opinion today is greater than I've ever witnessed in my 50-plus years in and around the news business. This piece from The Washington Post strikes me as a solid summation of the situation.
Ironically, it's also a clear example of the trend it explains, in that it ran without any label alerting readers that it was loaded with opinion, which it clearly is.