The consequences of speaking to an echo chamber is you need more people (or in this case better "sources") in order for anyone to take you seriously:
Last Thursday, Media Matters published an extensive (and somewhat breathless) account from an anonymously sourced individual that was only identified as a former Fox News Insider. The report included lots of detail that alleged Fox News’ bias, with pithy quotes like “they’re a propaganda outfit but they call themselves news” and “stuff is just made up,” and was clearly intended as a scathing indictment of Media Matters’ mortal enemy, Fox News.
While the story made some ripples in like minded sites like Think Progress and The Young Turks, the story made barely any mention in mainstream news outlets, and ended up serving as a stark reminder of Media Matters’ growing irrelevance in the world of media criticism.
The report, written by Eric Boehlert, was likely seen by the progressive media watchdog group as a coup de grâce in their war against Fox News. The opening sentences give a clear indication of the direction, and point, of the article:
Asked what most viewers and observers of Fox News would be surprised to learn about the controversial cable channel, a former insider from the world of Rupert Murdoch was quick with a response: “I don’t think people would believe it’s as concocted as it is; that stuff is just made up.”
Indeed, a former Fox News employee who recently agreed to talk with Media Matters confirmed what critics have been saying for years about Murdoch’s cable channel. Namely, that Fox News is run as a purely partisan operation, virtually every news story is actively spun by the staff, its primary goal is to prop up Republicans and knock down Democrats, and that staffers at Fox News routinely operate without the slightest regard for fairness or fact checking.
“It is their M.O. to undermine the administration and to undermine Democrats,” says the source. “They’re a propaganda outfit but they call themselves news.”
The story continues to explain the reasoning, process and evolution of how news and opinion intermingle on Fox News. But for reasons that aren’t entirely clear, the provocative article was almost entirely ignored by the mainstream media. When reached by Mediaite, Ari Rabin-Havt, Executive Vice President at Media Matters, claimed the impact of the article was significant.
“More than 200,000 people read the story on MediaMatters.org this in itself shows the broad interest in this story.”
Regardless of the actual numbers, imagine if this report had appeared on another site, such as Salon, Slate (or even, say Mediaite), there would likely have been some pick-up from various cable news outlets, websites, and newspapers.
Why would such a provocative and interesting piece get lost in shuffle? Perhaps because, in the current hyper-partisan landscape of opinion media (and watchdogs) it’s difficult to take seriously a post that alleges that “stuff is just made up” from a story that is unwilling to identify its source. Boehlert’s lack of a primary focus on journalism (versus agenda) undercuts the story as well as the fact that his sourcing narrative is often confusing (at one point, it seems as though he’s referencing two different sources), and he fails to negotiate an attribution that would help the reader judge its credibility. Was this an on-air personality? An intern? A producer? Did this source leave Fox recently? Based on Boehlert’s attribution, the source could be Keith Olbermann as far as the reader knows.