Over the weekend, Fox News' Chris Wallace stepped into the circle and, wait for it, practiced journalism.
Dear Lord, say what?
That's right, Wallace grilled President Donald Trump on issues ranging from the coronavirus to the challenges facing his re-election effort. It was interesting, and at times intense. That makes for good TV, and it makes for informative news when you have the most powerful man on the planet grappling with a once-in-a-hundred-years pandemic.
It also makes for controversy at a time when cable news outlets are more interested in preaching to their converts than in presenting the news.
Those allegiances made the pro-Fox watchers angry that Wallace — in their eyes — betrayed and even ambushed the president. It made the pro-CNN choir sing that Wallace was too good for Fox as they pretend their liberal bias is a ghost story. Heck, the Washington Post offered the view that this was a "fig leaf" for Fox's usual M.O.
Goodness, the national media now gets bitter about the other side actually, you know, doing good media.
Gang, this is how it's supposed to work.
If Wallace, the son of longtime CBS news giant Mike Wallace, had been on "60 Minutes," he likely would be a front-runner for an award. Instead, he's getting drummed by the Fox nation.
The left acting stunned that anyone from Fox would actually, you know, be a responsible journalist, and the right feeling betrayed because a Fox heavyweight actually practiced journalism pretty much sums up our confounding situation.
This is the extended reach of tribalism that has splintered the national media, and neither side is clean in this.
Did it mean more because you expected Fox to lob softballs, the same way the right understandably expects CNN to be overly critical?
This is how it used to work: Tough questions about tough decisions in tough times for an America longing to understand why our leaders did what they did. Maybe it started when Jon Stewart turned the farcical "Daily Show" into a 30-minute version of SNL's "Weekend Update" that became the 11 p.m. news of choice for an entire generation.
That opened up the transition toward entertaining rather than informing and rationalizing rather than reporting that pushed CNN and Fox — and their extended, more biased and hybrid cousins MSNBC and OAN — into telling viewers what they wanted to hear rather than what they needed to hear.
That what made Wallace's prepared and polished interview Sunday so strong, because it was the exception of now, when it was the norm a quarter of a century ago.
Now should come the next chapter — Joe Biden sitting down with Wallace for his time in the spotlight, fielding questions from the host demanding to know Biden's plans and thoughts. That, friends, would be balanced, rather than biased. That's journalism.
And it would be part of the solution rather than simply continuing the problem.
Contact Jay Greeson at firstname.lastname@example.org.