Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith and media:

Two networks and a virus. In the roughly three weeks Fox News has been branding, tagging, and collating its America Together content across linear and digital platforms, the network has featured almost 500 separate stories of sacrifice and selflessness during this virus pandemic (371 across FNC and, 126 across Fox Business Network and The uplifting stories have headlines like “New Jersey landlord waives 3 months rent for tenants”, “Cape Cod community delivers plants to homebound seniors during coronavirus” and “Here’s what food banks need most right now amid record demand during the coronavirus”. Not that the network has been all sweetness and light. It’s held the Trump administration’s feet to the fire enough that the prickly president has lashed out about it.

I’ve been watching and comparing Fox’s COVID-19 coverage with CNN’s with a lot of interest. I’ve worked at both networks and had good professional and personal experiences at both. I will say that Fox News, while obviously right-leaning on the air, seemed to me to have a lot more diversity of opinion behind the scenes, unlike CNN where it often felt like everybody agreed on virtually every political issue. But when I was the networks (CNN in the late nineties, Fox in the early 00’s) both made at least some attempt to, at least, appear fair – which often resulted in some actual fairness.

There has been a lot of fluctuation since – with CNN joining the “Obama can do no wrong” chorus during his administration and Fox veering toward near cartoonish Trump cheerleading in the early days of his. These day though, I believe an objective view of both channels’ daytime news hours (as opposed to the clearly-labeled opinion shows at night) shows that Fox, at least to some degree, has righted itself.  And by “righted” I don’t mean that it has become more right wing. I mean that you actually get the Trump Administration’s side of the story along with a fair representation of its critics – though The Five (an opinion show) needs at least one other person on Juan Williams’ side.  CNN, on the other hand, has become the cartoon – with a nonstop political prosecution offered by an array of anchors, reporters and panelists in a seeming competition to exhibit the most disdain for President Trump.

Now, I’m no fan of President Trump. In fact, I voted for Hillary Clinton (who I’m also no fan of) because I found his abrasive and often nasty manner so off putting and unpresidential. These days I find myself agreeing with Americans quoted in Michael Goodwin’s New York Post column who are quoted as saying things like “I approve of what he gets accomplished and I disapprove of what he says and how!…Arrogance is never appealing” and “Trump should shut up and let his team do more of the talking” and, finally, “I don’t believe voters will blame him for the ­disease.” To the last point, CNN actually seems to.

Bottom line: CNN would be more credible (and watchable) if they’d put aside the knives-out politics for a while and maybe, like Fox, spend a little more time on non-political optimism.

Optimism doesn’t just lift, it sells. Or maybe it sells because it lifts. Anyway, I’m not the only one who thinks so. Here’s Bill Maher (no fan of Trump or Fox) saying pretty much the same thing on his show.

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