This won't be a discussion of whether Sharyl Attkisson's resignation from CBS is proof of a liberal bias at the network or whether Attkisson herself was merely a conservative partisan trying to relate a partisan message at CBS. This isn't about whether CBS shut down the many stories she pursued that were critical of President Obama out of a need to defend the White House or because there was something legitimately wrong with them. This is about one thing: where Sharyl Attkisson will almost certainly go from here. The countdown is now on until her first appearance as a paid Fox News correspondent or anchor. You can put money on it and almost be guaranteed not to lose.
For those who haven't followed along today, Politico's Dylan Byers broke the story this morning that CBS investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson had reached an agreement with the network to resign. This was the culmination of months of negotiations between the two parties, with Attkisson, a 20-year vet of CBS, arguing that she'd had enough of what she called CBS's liberal bias, lack of dedication to investigation, and overall corporate interference in editorial decisions.
But, says Byers:
At the same time, Attkisson’s reporting on the Obama administration, which some staffers characterized as agenda-driven, had led network executives to doubt the impartiality of her reporting. She is currently at work on a book — tentatively titled “Stonewalled: One Reporter’s Fight for Truth in Obama’s Washington” — that addresses the challenges of reporting critically on the administration.
Writing an entire book alleging that there's a kind of vast conspiracy at work among your bosses to quash your Benghazi stories -- with a title that sounds at once self-righteous and self-pitying -- is an easy way to get your motives and agenda questioned by most objective observers, which is what happened within CBS's rank-and-file apparently. But CBS has certainly been accused of being biased to the left before, most notably by Bernie Goldberg, who's now, not coincidentally, at Fox News. He called out the "liberal media" and aired views that were decidedly conservative, and now he's at Fox -- same as Lou Dobbs, John Stossel, Brit Hume and, formerly, Glenn Beck. For some time now Fox News has been the light on the porch that attracts all the insects.
And Sharyl Attkisson is very likely next. The network is already greasing the wheels.
From Media Matters:
Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich reacted to news of Attkisson's resignation by tweeting, "cc: @FoxNews." In March 2013, Pavlich tweeted: "Fox News should launch a new investigative unit featuring: @sharylattkisson, @jamesrosenfnc, @JenGriffinFNC and Catherine Herridge." All the reporters referenced except for Attkisson currently work for Fox News. Fox News contributor Jonah Goldberg replied: "Fox Untouchables." Reporter James Rosen retweeted Pavlich.
If Attkisson adheres to tradition here it'll probably be good for her in that she'll obviously get to pursue all the anti-Obama stories she wants. It'll also be a huge PR victory for Fox News, which gets to tout not only a serious journalistic heavy-hitter coming aboard but one who defected from the liberal media precisely because it's the liberal media. Attkisson's status as a high-ranking apostate -- one willing to loudly preach about how stories critical of democrats really aren't allowed to gain any traction in the mainstream media -- makes her the kind of human propaganda campaign Roger Ailes surely can't wait to wrap his meaty arms around.
The problem, though, is this: Attkisson going to Fox News would further the homogenization of the media. Unless Attkisson really is an ethically compromised pain-in-the-ass -- using Fox News essentially as her assignment desk and pursuing the Obama administration with undeterred zeal despite running into roadblocks and turning up questionable results -- the public would be better served by her being anywhere but Fox News. Granted, if she's overreacted all along to the push-back she's supposedly gotten from her superiors at CBS, she might be a hard sell to another broadcast TV news department, despite her impressive credentials. But staying within the mainstream would be good for all of us because stories from all sides and ones willing to go against conventional wisdom give us something we rarely get anymore: a wealth of information from which to make up our minds rather than a narrowcasted, confirmation biased version of reality that constantly inflates the epistemic bubble so many of us now seem to want to resign ourselves to. Attkisson at Fox News just means one more viewpoint that aligns with conservative thinking at a place where everything is a viewpoint that aligns with conservative thinking.
The fewer dissenting opinions at each news outlet -- with Fox making it clear that if you're a conservative you belong in their little camp -- the more the viewers, readers, and people simply looking for a well-balanced vision of the world will suffer.
Although who knows -- maybe there aren't any of those people left anyway.