It is no surprise that liberals distrust Fox News. With its emphasis on more conservative stories and right-wing pundits, left-leaning groups like Media Matters for America and Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting have opposed the network since its foundation. Even moderates are displeased – in a 2012 poll by Public Policy Polling, 55 percent of respondents said they did not trust the network.
Criticism is rising among an unexpected new group, however–conservatives. Because they feel underserved by the mainstream media as a whole, conservatives are looking for a more dynamic narrative that can better represent their principles and intellectual diversity. Among those most displeased are conservative millennials, who face a great challenge ahead in restoring alternative media’s reputation during an age of sound bytes and increased partisanship.
During a roundtable discussion organized by The Right Mind–a conservative group composed of mostly UVa Burke Society alumni–the participants debated these challenges to conservative journalism. One question stood out above the others as particularly striking: “Is Fox News good for the conservative movement?” Many of the people present did not believe so. Some of their reasons included the some of the network’s poor decisions like appointing Donald Trump as a pundit and defending gaffes that depart far from what most conservatives actually believe.
The UVa conservatives present at the Right Mind meeting are not alone in their critique of Fox News. Prominent publications have explored the topic as well. In a March 2013 article, The American Conservative published a piece called “Beyond Fox News,” which criticizes the network and other conservative media outlets for equating conservatism with Republican conformity, which has deadened credible intellectual debate. Much to the frustration of many conservatives, most Americans still consider Fox News to be the flagship conservative news source. This begs the question as to whether young conservative journalists will be able to repair the network’s disconnect with conservative principles or replace it all together with the rise of New Media.
Some conservative journalists feel that no wide-sweeping changes are immediately needed. For example, Francesca Chambers, the Editor-in-Chief of Red Alert Politics, told The Virginia Advocate that, “on both sides, there are always going to be outliers,” referring to those on the fringe who often provide controversial comments to news organizations, which present those quotes as representative of mainstream conservative thought. Chambers contends that people can discern the reality of mainstream conservatism on their own. She also mentioned that extreme ideas tend to get a lot of attention as commentators are often paid for brandishing these types of statements out in the public square.
As a publication that reaches out the young conservative millennials, Red Alert Politics is setting the stage for an improvement in conservative media, as millennials will no doubt play a vital role in advocating the conservative cause and improving conservative media. They will not need to know their Leo Strauss from their Johann Strauss in order to do this, however–what they will need to do is get their voices heard, offer their own perspective on new stories, and show how the importance and diversity of conservative philosophy affects today’s generation. In other words, as The American Conservative’s Rod Dreher would title his article, it is about “Story Lines, Not Party Lines.”
Outlets like The Collegiate Network and The Intercollegiate Review are a great place for college students and millennials to have a voice in the conservative movement. More specially, students at UVa can get involved with The Virginia Advocate. Whether one wants to talk about green conservatism’s effect on local farms or about libertarian ideas affecting small businesses in America, these ideas touch upon the actions of everyday people. As the link between academic life and normal life, millennials can improve the quality of conservative media by discussing these topics at the local level.
All shades of the political spectrum–including some conservatives–have problems with Fox News and the contemporary culture of many right-leaning media outlets. Whether their issue is with the constant gaffe-making, the sensationalism, or the lack of rigorous thought, people are clearly dissatisfied with current perceptions of American conservatism. Change, however, can come from the bottom up, even at the college level. Instead of repeating their elders’ mistakes, right-leaning millennials must re-emphasize both the hard facts and the theoretical principles that accompany them. Otherwise, the conservative media will not be the only laughingstock in town–the movement, as a whole, will definitely bear the burden.
By Tatiana Lozano, Staff Writer