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Is bias-free news coverage coming back into vogue?

After years in which news outlets became associated with one political slant or another, there are some signs that a course correction is under way in the media. So far, the shift is a subtle one.

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The notion that Fox is tempering its tone makes some of its critics laugh out loud. Fox may well be evenhanded in directing tough questions to all Republican presidential candidates, but "that's to be expected because this is the GOP primary," says Ari Rabin-Havt, executive vice president of Media Matters for America, a liberal media watchdog group, and a co-author of "The Fox Effect."

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ColorOfChange, a national African-American political advocacy group, is currently calling on Fox to fire business commentator Eric Bolling for what it deems derogatory slurs against prominent African-Americans, from President Obama to Rep. Maxine Waters (D) of California. Mr. Bolling said on the air after the death of singer Whitney Houston that Ms. Waters needed to step away from her "crack pipe," says Rashad Robinson, the group's executive director.

Bolling apologized for remarks he made about Mr. Obama last summer, says Mr. Robinson, adding, "They seem to think it is enough to simply apologize for bigotry and continued racial slurs."

Because Fox News Channel's ratings declined as much as 15 percent over the past year, it's logical, even inevitable, for Fox to pursue a broader audience, says media pundit Paul Levinson of Fordham University in New York and author of "New New Media." "This is just what happens with media organizations over the long haul," he says. "When they first arrive they stake out positions, but then they want to be as successful as possible and last as long as possible, and they start to veer more toward the center," which is where the largest audience gathers.

Keith Olbermann's departure from MSNBC last year is just such an example, notes Mr. Levinson. The channel's coverage still tilts liberal, he says, but "nobody is as far left as Olbermann."

Over at the Huffington Post, considered a left-of-center website, an adjustment appears to be under way as well, says political scientist William Rosenberg at Drexel University in Philadelphia. A social media commentator who recently addressed one of his classes said the site has "widened its scope" by tapping more guest bloggers, Professor Rosenberg reports.


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