02/22/2007 05:32 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Decline of US Media: Fox News Leads Race to the Bottom

Senator Barack Obama is refusing to appear on Fox News after the network reported a litany of GOP-talking point lies about the presidential candidate. A coalition of organizations is leading a bold campaign to convince Democrats not to play ball with Fox and urge businesses to pull their ads from the network. Why is this issue so important? Let's start with three facts you might not know:

1) Over 60% of Americans get their primary news from television;
2) The most watched TV news channel is Fox News (with more viewers than CNN & MSNBC combined);
3) The handful of massive companies that own most of the US media care primarily about profit, not delivering a quality product.

Understand this, and you understand why it took five years for majorities of Americans to stop supporting our blundering and dangerous president while losing our nation's integrity and the world's goodwill.

These facts are also crucial to understanding why, four years into the Iraq debacle, when President Bush and his cronies should be worrying about impeachment but aren't, when Anna Nicole Smith dominates the news for two weeks, and when stories like the "emerging Iranian threat" continue to be ripped and read from Pentagon press releases, you likely feel that we are doomed to a lethal replay of Groundhog Day for years to come.

Fox News continues to amaze us and propagandize many, labeling as fringe-left anyone who disagrees with the president, takes issue with tax cuts for the ultra-wealthy, says that Iraq is a quagmire, or dares to declare that all Americans deserve a living wage and guaranteed health care. The narrow, corporate-driven rhetoric that passes as reasonable political debate on Fox and most of the mainstream American media has become a laughing stock - if only to keep us from crying.

Owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, and run by far-right operative Roger Ailes, the network has figured out how to deliver rightwing-propaganda-dressed-as-legitimate-news into millions of living rooms every day using reactionary messages, cutting-edge graphics and a fast-paced infotainment format. Their latest antics falsely allege that Democratic senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama went to a Muslim grade school, was raised by his Muslim father, that his middle name is a major liability, and that....don't inhale.....he's a cigarette smoker! (The last one is true, but their point is?) Brave New Films released this two-minute video on Thursday that details the Obama smear, and Obama has wisely decided not to appear on Fox in the future.

But Fox is not alone. CNN, CBS, ABC, and NBC are not much better, except for a few journalists who have awoken from their power-induced haze to occasionally deliver actual reporting: Lou Dobbs on labor issues (if not immigration); Anderson Cooper in New Orleans (though the type of reporting he did there is becoming a distant memory), and the increasingly brilliant clarity of Keith Olbermann. But 99 percent of the time Americans remain flooded with 24/7 celebrity, soundbyte and uncritical fare - at the expense of investigative journalism, government accountability, and informed political debate.

And unless TV viewers teach themselves to become savvy Internet users, they're increasingly out of luck. Newspapers, the media outlets that hire real reporters to dig up real stories - local and national - are dying a quiet and quickening death. Circulation is withering as the industry is battered by online classified services such as Craig's list and migration of readership to the Net with its free content and immediacy. Combine this with increased operating costs and consolidated ownership (refer to fact #3 above), and the results are eviscerated newsrooms and the demise of the last bastion of local journalism in America.

Newspaper consolidation has made most American cities one-newspaper towns, usually owned by giants like Gannett, McClatchy, Tribune, Hearst or a handful of other conglomerates. Even amid this downward spiral, Bush-appointed Federal Communication Commission Chairman Kevin Martin is moving to eliminate the long-standing law preventing major newspapers from also owning TV and radio stations (and vice versa). The hubris and corruption of the Administration is staggering even by current standards.

In the face of the Fox-ification of TV news, most terrifying is what will happen if the US suffers another major terrorist attack: media that will allow those in power to again manipulate the public with more fear and blind patriotism rather than informed analysis and reason.

What passes for political opinion and debate in the mainstream US media has become a dangerous joke, and Fox is the top prankster. If, like me, you're sick and tired of being the butt of the joke, take action at