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A Media World War III Looms as 2012 Presidential Race Gets Under Way

The 2012 campaign is going to get dirty fast.

Bill O’Reilly warned recently that charges of racism are going to be thrown around by the left-wing press corps that fears a loss by President Obama as a repudiation of their liberal agenda.

And the red-meat appetite on the far right for a candidate who can loudly challenge President Obama is an early sign that right-wing media will give lots of attention to personal charges thrown like darts at the president – charges of elitism, socialism, and appeasing Muslims.

Already the media that will cover the mudslinging is lining up behind their respective barricades.

The repositioning of the media front line, like signs of a coming storm, may foretell just how nasty the coming political campaign will be.

I am not alone in this view. My Fox News colleague, former White House senior adviser Karl Rove has also warned that "America is likely to see the most negative re-election campaign ever mounted by a sitting president."

The 2008 election shattered all of the records for media ratings and web traffic on a political story. The Obama team has already set a goal of raising a billion dollars for advertising.

The presence of so much conservative money in the recent special election in New York is a sign that Republicans don’t plan to be out-spent in the big race in 2012.

So here are some changes signaling the approaching political blood-sport:

It is impossible for me not to notice that NBC appears to have made the extraordinary decision to hire Vivian Schiller as their new boss of digital news. Schiller is the executive who allowed liberal orthodoxy to run wild at NPR as revealed in video of her top fundraisers talking in bitter tones about uneducated, ill-informed conservatives. She also allowed another of her team to fire me for breaking with the ordained liberal point of view and daring to talk to conservatives on Fox. And she personally attacked me by saying I need help from a psychiatrist and a publicist.

So I am disappointed that a major news organization – NBC – would associate their brand with such an intolerant, one-sided view of journalism.

Scott Pelley’s rise to take command as the "CBS Evening News" anchor is another key shift. The big change there is the attempt to move away from the personality driven approach of the Katie Couric era and focus heavily on straight news reporting. This is an attempt to regain credibility as a trusted source of news at a time when a Gallup poll finds that most Americans – 57 percent – do not trust the media. That is an historic high.

In his debut telecast Pelley’s CBS team chose not to tell the sensational story about Rep. Anthony Weiner’s embarrassing sexual behavior at the top of the show – even though it was clearly the news of the day. The danger here is that viewers will not tune into Pelley's show if it consistently downplays or ignores sensational political news that is the talk of the nation.

Meanwhile, Couric is going to ABC to launch a political talk show. It will be modeled on "Oprah" but with a stronger focus on politics. Along with “The View,” Couric’s new show seems to indicate the future of the daytime talk show will be more political, and aim to get attention by taking apart political controversies for its heavily female and minority audiences from the left.

On the right, Glenn Beck announced that he is leaving Fox News at the end of the month to start his own Internet-based, subscription-fee, television station. He will be having private conversations with his most ardent followers. That will further the idea the image of Beck as a niche taste on the far right but it will also create a greater sense of estrangement for his audience from any differing point of view.

Similarly, the king of talk radio, Rush Limbaugh, saw a 33 percent drop in listeners to his radio show in the last year, according to Arbitron rating released last week. His audience is becoming concentrated among true-believers. 

And there's also Keith Olbermann who is about to launch his far-left news show on Al Gore’s Current TV, again appealing to true-believers only.

All of this is adding to the right-wing versus left-wing divide that is defining modern media.

While news of Anthony Weiner’s Twitter feed have dominated most of the media coverage for the past few day it is a minor distraction. The big news is the coming Armageddon of political crossfire and the media teams lining up now to take sides.

Juan Williams is a writer, author and Fox News political analyst. His next book is "Muzzled: The Assault On Honest Debate" (Crown/Random House) which will be released in July.

Juan Williams is a co-host of FNC's "The Five," where he is one of seven rotating Fox personalities. Additionally, he serves as FNC's political analyst, a regular panelist on "Fox News Sunday" and "Special Report with Bret Baier" and is a regular substitute host for "The O'Reilly Factor." He joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in 1997 as a contributor. Click here for more information on Juan Williams

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