Category Archives: Fox News

News comes from far away. . .

By Christopher B. Daly

Do we get too much information about distant conflicts, or too little?

The New York Times offers two very different answers.

One comes from Anjan Sundaram, a former stringer for The Associated Press in Congo. So, he should know. He laments the withdrawal of American correspondents from many countries, the shuttering of overseas bureaus, and a general decline in the coverage of wars, violence, and the politics of many nations.

News organizations need to work more closely with stringers. Make no mistake: Life as a stringer, even for those eager to report from abroad, is daunting. It’s dangerous, the pay is low and there is little support. For years after I left Congo, my position with The A.P. remained — as it is now — vacant. The news from Congo suffers as a result, as does our understanding of that country, and ultimately ourselves.

The other view comes from my Boston University colleague David Carr, the Times‘ media columnist. In his Media Equation piece today, Carr describes the sensation of information-overload that he has been experiencing lately as social media bring him a flood of data about a rocket war in Gaza, plane crashes, and the other disasters.

Geopolitics and the ubiquity of social media have made the world a smaller, seemingly gorier place. If Vietnam brought war into the living room, the last few weeks have put it at our fingertips. On our phones, news alerts full of body counts bubble into our inbox, Facebook feeds are populated by appeals for help or action on behalf of victims, while Twitter boils with up-to-the-second reporting, some by professionals and some by citizens, from scenes of disaster and chaos.

In my view, they are both right, at least to a degree. Sundaram is correct that many U.S. news organizations have retreated (usually for economic reasons) from their commitment to covering international news. In particular, they have lost the budgets to pay for keeping full-time staffers in locations around the world that are not boiling over. I’m talking here about trained journalists who have the time to become multi-lingual, to learn about other cultures and societies, to develop good sources, and to roam about developing a good first-hand sense of the place they are covering. These are the kind of people you want to be able to in a crisis, to explain a self-immolation in Tibet, or a riot in Indonesia, or a drug war in Central America. And, yes, there are too few of those.

But that’s not the same issue David Carr was identifying. He is describing the flood of images, information, and opinions that come streaming at Americans from the hotspot of the week. And yes, he’s right about. In a country or region that America is paying attention to, the flow of news is usually pretty abundant. That doesn’t mean that it’s always very useful, only that there is a lot of it.

This general problem was identified almost a century ago by Walter Lippmann — journalist, author, and media theorist — in his landmark book about journalism, propaganda, and politics, Public Opinion.

News comes from a distance; it comes helter-skelter, in inconceivable imgresconfusion; it deals with matters that are not easily understood; it arrives and is assimilated by busy and tired people who must take what is given to them.

That is, for passive news consumers, the picture of the rest of the world is fragmentary, random, and often blurred or blacked out. I dare say that I am not the only avid consumer of U.S. news reporting who could not tell you a single meaningful thing about Indonesia (the fourth most populous country on Earth and the largest Muslim-majority nation). I don’t know anything about it, because no U.S. news organization has a single full-time correspondent there. I cannot say I am bombarded by social media (or any other kind) about Indonesia. But if something should happen there that draws the attention of the United States, we can be sure the firehose will be turned on, and we will start to absorb a torrent of images, facts, and opinions. Until our attention shifts.

Thurber-Lippmann screenshot

by James Thurber

 

 

 

 

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Inside the Meme Factory: Hilary edition

By Christopher B. Daly 

Unlike some people, I enjoyed Ken Auletta’s recent piece in the New Yorker, which was ostensibly about Hilary Clinton’s problems with the news media. (Yes, Fox and the like: she has her problems with reporters, too.)  I don’t know whether is right about her media problems, and frankly, this far out from the election, I don’t give a hoot.

What I enjoyed in his piece was his swerve into the history of right-wing media and his documenting of what I call “the Meme Factory” — that interlocking directorate of conservative media, think tanks, and other institutions built since WWII with huge donations from the right. Auletta delves into the doings of Matthew Continetti — who is something of a third-generation of conservatives who have been building a parallel set of media institutions. (Continetti was mentored by Bill Kristol, who is, in turn, a direct descendant of one of the major builders of conservative media and think tanks of the 20th century, Irving Kristol.) Continetti founded a non-profit news operation called the Washington Free Beacon. (It’s like a normal DC-focused news website, but every article serves a conservative purpose.)

Hillary Clinton once famously complained that she and her husband were the targets of a “vast right-wing conspiracy.” That’s only half-true. There is a vast (and growing) network of right-wing institutions that are mutually reinforcing. Their existence is no accident. But it is a touch paranoid to refer to all those people and institutions as a “conspiracy.” They do not need to conspire to carry out their mission.

Clinton is also wide of the mark in another sense. While it is true that all of the people on the right hate her and her husband and strive unceasingly to destroy them, it is not true that they are her only problem. If Scaife and Murdoch and Limbaugh and the whole gang were to suddenly vanish, Hillary Clinton would not enjoy the glide into the White House that she may envision.

 

 

 

 

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A pox on “A pox on both their houses”

By Christopher B. Daly 

I spend a lot of my waking hours at the intersection of Journalism and History, two empirical fields that share a lot of DNA. It’s an interesting place to hang out, and I wish more of the residents of each street would roam around more on the other street.

Today, a story in TPM about an item on a blog known as the 20Committee, nicely frames an issue that highlights one of the distinctions between the disciplines of journalism and history. The upshot is that journalists do us all a disservice when, in the name of non-partisanship or “fairness,” they throw up their hands and blame Democrats and Republicans equally for behaving in ways that are partisan, counter-productive, hypocritical or the like. As a former political journalist myself, I know this phenomenon well, and I know where it comes from: it is an adaptation to the pressure many American journalists feel to write as if they have no stake in the outcome, to show an aloof indifference to cause or candidate or party.

Many journalists, particularly in the mainstream media who work in the reporting tradition, apply this technique to coverage of hard problems like Obamacare or fracking or political spending. This is the problem often referred to as “false equivalence” or “false balance.”

But, I would submit, no historian who studies our current period in the future would be caught dead doing that. Every historian of our present situation will look at essentially the same facts and will exercise judgment.

[I will further predict that 95 percent of them will conclude that our current messes are the fault of Republicans. But, to use another favorite journalistic evasion, Only time will tell.]

Shutterstock/ Christos Georghiou

Shutterstock/
Christos Georghiou

 

 

 

 

 

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Inside the Meme Factory: Conservatives gin up “studies” to suit needs

By Christopher B. Daly 

Here’s a peek inside what I call “the Meme Factory” — the interlocking set of institutions that conservatives built, mainly since WWII, to manufacture “studies,” slogans, and ideas that could probably not pass muster at most universities or scholarly journals but are very useful to the conservative movement. Briefly, the way it often works is that a conservative funder or activist has a notion. The notion is taken to a conservative “think tank,” where it can be refined, simplified, and outfitted with some academic-sounding “research.” The whole package can be offered to sympathetic conservative “journalists” who work at conservative media outlets like Fox, National Review, Newsmax, Breitbart, etc. Then, when real scholars and responsible journalists ignore it, conservatives can cry foul and denounce everyone else as “biased.”

Today’s case in point: a story in the NYTimes not about this phenomenon but which nevertheless reveals a bit of how this system operates. The story naturally focuses on the latest developments. Igt is essentially a “stage-setter” for a hearing set for Tuesday in a federal court in Detroit over the suitability of same-sex couples as parents. But it’s the backstory that really deserves equal attention:

–To start at the beginning, in August 2010, a federal judge in a different federal court in California writes in a ruling that he found “no reliable evidence that allowing same-sex couples to marry will have any negative effects on society.”

–Alarmed, conservatives swing into action.

–In late 2010, they gather at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, one of the central nodes in the Meme Factory. According to the Times, “opponents of same-sex marriage discussed the urgent need to generate new studies on family structures and children.” In other words, they wanted to commission studies whose outcome was pre-determined.

–Result: “the marshaling of $785,000 for a large-scale study by Mark Regnerus, a meeting participant and a sociologist at the University of Texas who will testify in Michigan.” The money comes from two conservative foundations: Witherspoon and Bradley.

–His study comes out in 2012 in the journal Social Science Research, and conservatives immediately start citing it. No surprise: the study “finds” that children do best when raised by their own straight, married, monogamous parents.

–Scholars criticize his methods and motives, prompting the journal to launch an internal audit of its own procedures. Basically, the folks at Social Science Research need to determine how they got so badly used in this case.

–No matter. The Meme Factory has delivered: a study, a controversy, victim status, and news coverage.

Who says American manufacturing is dying?

Below, as a public service, I offer a version of a work in progress. It’s a timeline of the interlocking institutions that make up the Meme Factory — think tanks and media outlets. You’ll notice that some names crop up again and again: Scaife, Mellon, Murdoch, Kristol.

(Please help me fill in any blanks.)

CONSERVATIVE MEDIA AND INSTITUTIONS

 

A TIMELINE

 

Compiled by Christopher B. Daly

MEDIA OUTLETS

 

Debut              Name                                                   Owner/Founder

(not to mention: WSJ, Chi Tribune, LA Times, US News, Reader’s Digest, Forbes, etc)

1944                Human Events                                        Henry Regnery et al.

1955                National Review                                 William F. Buckley Jr.

 1965                Public Interest                                        Irving Kristol  (folded, 2005)

1967                American Spectator                             R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr./Regnery

196?                Commentary (turns right)                 Norman Podhoretz/

1968                Reason  (libertarian)                            Robert W. Poole Jr.   

1975                Conservative Digest                           Richard Viguerie

1982                Washington Times                              Rev. Moon/Unification Church

1985                The National Interest                         Irving Kristol

1988                Rush Limbaugh                                     Limbaugh/Clear Channel

1995                Weekly Standard                                 Murdoch/News Corp/ Wm Kristol

1995                Townhall.com                                      offshoot of Heritage

1996                Fox News                                                Ailes/ News Corp. (Murdoch)

1996                The Drudge Report                             Matt Drudge

 1996                Free Republic (website)                   James C. “Jim” Robinson

1997                World Net Daily                                 Jos.&Eliz. Farah

1998                Newsmax Media                                 Christopher W. Ruddy  (Scaife)

2001                InstaPundit                                         Glenn Reynolds

2002                The American Conservative (mag)     Pat Buchanan, Taki, et al.

2002                Glenn Beck Radio Program                 Glenn Beck

 2007                Breitbart.com                                      Andrew Breitbart

INSTITUTIONS                 [major donors: Olin, Coors, Scaife, Richardson, Bradley]

1943                American Enterprise Institute                        big business

1947                Regnery Publishing                             Eagle Publishing

1957                Hoover Institution                              ?????/ Stanford

1960                Young Americans for Freedom           William F. Buckley

1961                Christian Broadcasting Network        Pat Robertson

1963                Oral Roberts University                     Oral Roberts

1969                AIM                                                    Reed Irvine

1973                Heritage Foundation                           Paul Weyrich             (Coors)

1975                Eagle Forum                                        Phyllis Schlafly  (radio, Web)

1977                Cato Institute                                      Edward H. Crane                                                                                       (Koch, Olin, Scaife, Bradley)

1977                Focus on the Family                           Dr. James Dobson

1977                National Journalism Center                M. Stanton Evans (Buckley; YAF))

1978                Inst. for Educational Affairs               Irving Kristol/William E. Simon                                                (Olin, Scaife, Richardson)

1979                Moral Majority (thru 1989)               Weyrich, Viguerie, Falwell.

1982                Federalist Society                               Edwin Meese, Robert Bork, Olson

1987                Media Research Center                       L. Brent Bozell III

1997                Project for  New American Century         Wm. Kristol / Robert Kagan 

 

 

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Murdoch solves his housing crisis

So nice to see that Fox News founder Rupert Murdoch has found a place to rest his head.

Since Wendi got the triplex on Fifth Avenue as part of the divorce, Rupert has not exactly been facing homelessness, but still. . . He has landed a rather special spot: the top four floors (take that, Wendi!) at One Madison. (For those planning to drop by, the entrance will be on E 22nd, between Bway and Park.) That’s a lot of stairs for a guy his age, but apparently it’s worth it to be able to say you’ve got a quadriplex.

According to the Times, he paid more than $57 million for the new condo. Ah, to think of the money to be made in mass media!

The building under construction in September 2008; the Met Life Tower is in on the left

Wikipedia: The building under construction in September 2008; the Met Life Tower is in on the left

 

 

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O’Reilly on O’Reilly

By Christopher B. Daly

Not to be missed: this recent commentary by Tim Egan in the NYTimes about Fox News figure Bill O’Reilly and O’Reilly’s recent interview with President Obama. As usual, O’Reilly believes that the key figure in the interview was . . . himself. For days afterward, O’Reilly and his colleagues at Fox milked the interview and scored it a solid win for O’Reilly over the president (as if it were a debate).

Egan makes a good point here:

So, the first point for historians sniffing the odor of O’Reilly’s time capsule in 2114 is that the interview made no news. No ground was broken. It was a journalistic dud. O’Reilly himself spoke for about 40 percent of the time, and devoted 90 percent of the interview to “the full Fox scandal grab bag,” as Jon Stewart called it.

As it happens, I am teaching my students this week about how to conduct interviews in my journalism classes at Boston University (where, yes, I know: Bill O’Reilly attended college). The point I always try to drum into my students about interviewing is simple: It’s not about you. 

Of course, I understand that Bill O’Reilly is not trying to conduct a productive, journalistic interview. He is trying to stage a clash of personalities for television. Like his boss Roger Ailes, O’Reilly is very good at understanding television, even if he seems to have missed class on the day of the lesson about humility.

 

 

 

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Fox News: is bad news worse than no news at all?

Here is a graphic from a NYTimes op-ed  distilling a 2012 study conducted by researchers in the PublicMind project at Fairleigh Dickinson University. 

No comment.

25blow-ch-master180

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