The Curse of Niche News

That is why I am so alarmed by the influence of ‘opinion’ – with its basis in certainty – on the mainstream media. It flies in the face of historical experience, which has shown again and again that the application of a doubtful mind is the best way to wisdom and insight. That principle is enshrined in journalism’s foundations – objectivity and balance – yet today, some media organisations are drifting from those moorings in favour of reporting with unapologetic ideological bias. Fox News is the best known example of this. although we also see it in talk radio, blogs, newspaper columns and on cable television talk shows, such as Lou Dobbs Tonight on CNN. It’s sometimes referred to as ‘viewer cocooning’ or ‘niche news’. It preaches to the choir, telling consumers that they want to hear by pandering to their existing beliefs and biases.

Openly partisan journalism takes the view that objectivity is unattainable, so biases might as well be admitted rather than hidden. The logic is that those who watch the right-wing Fox News know they are getting news with a particular slant, as opposed to the viewers of the ABC, the BBC and CNN, who are told they are getting the objective truth. Critics claim that those organisations have a left-wing bias but just refuse to admit it.

Leigh Sales, On Doubt, 2nd ed. (Carlton, VIC; Melbourne University Press, 2017), pp. 18-19. ISBN: 978-0-522872-934.