Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Report Finds (Surprise, Surprise) Fox "News" Overwhelmed By Opinion

In the late 1980s, when I was a college newspaper editor, I regularly edited the copy of one reporter who would write news stories on religion topics, which in truth were opinion pieces that included one or two interviews supporting the author’s point.

I labeled such pieces “news analysis,” and stuck them on specialty pages – separate from what would be considered hard news. The reason? Even with our limited experience, I and the other editors knew that there had to be a line dividing “news” and “opinion.”

If only someone could teach that to the folks at Fox News.

***

A 617-page report, from the Project for Excellence in Journalism, suggests that Fox’s slogan of “We Report, You Decide,” is hardly the case.

On average, Fox News reporters and anchors shared their opinion on 73 percent of the stories covered, compared with 29 percent of stories handled by MSNBC, and just 2 percent of those on CNN.

Among the big three networks, journalists offered opinions on 17 percent of evening news stories and 11 percent of morning news reports. Just 3 percent of PBS’ NewsHour included opinion.

(The numbers in all cases were modestly inflated because of presidential campaign stories, in which news correspondents offered "horse-race" opinions and other commentary. The report found that news correspondents offered such opinions 44 percent of the time.)

***

How does Fox News interject opinion?

In one example from last March, Fox News reporter Todd Connor reported that “Iraq has a new interim constitution and is well on its way to democracy.” Anchor David Asman replied: “Let’s pray it works out.”

Another time, after hearing that Iraqis helped capture a Saddam Hussein henchman, Asman said: "Boy, that's good news if true, the Iraqis in the lead."

Whether the opinions are liberal or conservative doesn’t matter. The point is that Fox News has an opinion. The line is blurred.

What’s worse, Fox News doesn’t seem to mind that it is rewriting the rules of journalism.

In a March 14 interview with The Washington Post, Fox executive producer Jerry Burke said: "I encourage the anchors to be themselves. I'm certainly not going to step in and censor an anchor on any issue. I think that's part of the success of the channel, not treating our anchors like drones. They're, number one, Americans, and number two, human beings, as well as journalists."

CNN spokeswoman Christa Robinson tiold the Post that the study "reaffirms what anyone watching CNN already knows: CNN's reporting is driven by news, not opinion." MSNBC declined to comment to the Post.

Cable networks "have gravitated, particularly as Fox has surged in the ratings, toward programs and somewhat less toward reporting," Tom Rosenstiel, director of Project for Excellence in Journalism, told the Post. He says opinion-laden journalism "probably is part of Fox's identity, but it's not true of all the programs."

Perhaps influenced by Fox News, cable news stories lack the thoroughness of network evening news stories or newspaper front-page stories, the project found. Only about 25 percent of cable news stories contained two or more identifiable sources, compared with 49 percent of network evening news stories and 81 percent of newspaper front-page stories.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

good point here.....poor choice of examples.

1:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, good point, I guess. But it still doesn't explain why FOXNEWS has managed to crush every other cable news channel and practically put CNN out of business. I would surmise, that JAABS, and for that matter Liberal, hatred for Fox stems from its general hatred for average Americans (you know the ones Liberals think are too stupid to know what's good for them). Keep quoting those worthless surveys, meanwhile Fox is laughing all the way to the bank.

2:55 PM  
Anonymous alias: "Cutiepie" Johnson said...

The above post makes no sense.

It's ok to be wrong, as long as you are popular? It's ok to lie, as long as you make money? Is that your point.

Keep drinking the Kool-Aid, man.

By the way, explain what in the JABBS article shows a "hatred" for Fox. Perhaps disappointment, since David is a journalist and I guess he values the separation of news and opinion. He's not alone, apparently. Fox does it a different, and among journalists, inferior way. But "hatred"? I don't see it.

10:28 PM  

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