Category Archives: Fox News

Shameless self-promotion (Journalism history division)

By Christopher B. Daly

Finally, it’s here: the electronic version of my book about the history of U.S. journalism, Covering America.

Just in time for the anniversary of the rollout of the hardback, this prize-winning book is now available in all major formats:

Nook,

Kindle,

Apple iBook, (This is the format I am checking it out on, and it looks great.)

Google Play,

you name it.

I am very pleased because I know that some folks have been waiting for the e-book. These formats make the book quite a bit cheaper and dramatically lighter! For people who don’t feel drawn to the ~$50 hardcover, here’s your chance to read Covering America. The book won the 2012 Prose Award for Media and Cultural Studies, and it has been selling well and drawing rave reviews (except for one stinker on Amazon — sheesh).

Enjoy it, and write to me about your reactions. You can comment here, or email me: chrisdaly44@gmail.com

CA cover final

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under broadcasting, CNN, Covering America, David Halberstam, FCC, First Amendment, Fox News, history, Huffington Post, Journalism, journalism history, leaks, Murdoch scandal, New York Times, NPR, Photography, Photojournalism, Politics, publishing, Supreme Court, The New Yorker

Keeping up with the Murdochs

By Christopher B. Daly 

Now, British authorities are saying they plan to bring bribery charges against former top-ranking editors in the Murdoch media empire.

I’m confused: I thought these people were so intimidating and tight with the powers that be in Britain that they would not have to pay for anything. Sheesh.

Paying is so tacky.

No matter. Somehow, the troubles in Britain seem to have done little to slow down the News Corp. juggernaut. The Times says Murdoch (still never convicted of a felony in the U.S.) is shopping for new companies to acquire.

Now that the U.S. election is over, maybe we will be hearing from the Justice Dept about the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

 

 

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The right’s war on holidays (pre “War on Xmas” edition)

By Christopher B. Daly

Who does more to harm American families, ruin the holidays, and undermine our traditional way of life?

Is it left-wing secularists? (as Bill O’Reilly and other right-wing commentators,would have it)

Or is it corporate America (opening stores on Thanksgiving night and making workers show up) and the crazy shoppers who line up to buy all that stuff?

A thought for the holiday season

Let’s try this: Just don’t shop. Stay home and actually be with your family. Go out in the yard and gather twigs and make little presents out of twigs. People who love you will love whatever you make.

Peace.

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Math for journalists (and everyone else too)

By Christopher B. Daly 

In the wake of last week’s election, many Republicans seems to be facing not only a political problem but also an epistemological one. Epistemology is the term philosophers use for the study of knowledge itself. It is an inquiry that asks: How do we know what we know? (or, How do we know what we think we know?)

Two recent pieces raise the issue.

David Carr,in his column in the New York Times, emphasizes the crisis that overtook Fox News on election night, when some professionals at the conservative news network were forced to choose — live, on television — between Republican orthodoxy and journalistic empiricism. Carr rightly applauds Megyn Kelly for insisting on a fact-based approach while she was on-air with Republican Party strategist, fund-raiser, consultant (have I left any roles out?) Karl Rove, who doubles as a paid news “analyst” for Fox. As the Ohio vote was being counted last Tuesday night, it was becoming clear that Obama would win the state and, thus, the country. Rove insisted that Fox set aside the facts and hold off on placing Ohio in the president’s camp.

Inexplicably, though, Carr did not cite the definitive quote in the exchange. Kelly turned to Rove and asked:

“Is this just math that you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better, or is this real?”

(Jon Stewart rightly pounced on it as a moment of political/journalistic/epistemological crisis, and you can see the video.)

 

How about math we do as Americans to determine reality?

 

Many of the same issues are raised in a searching piece in Politico today about the “cocooning” of many Republicans. On election night, some Republicans found it difficult to believe that Obama was actually winning, largely because they only watch Fox News and only hear the views of analysts like Karl Rove. The piece, by Jonathan Martin, points in the direction of the book I am working on about the rise of conservative media after WWII, with the working title: Inside the Meme Factory: The Rise of Conservative Media and Think Tanks. Stay tuned for that. (If you think that an idea/slogan like “the rich are job-creators” arises spontaneously, you got another think coming!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dick Morris: wrong or stupid?

By Christopher B. Daly

Among the many satisfactions on election night 2012 was seeing Dick Morris, the smarmy former Clinton political adviser, get slapped around the head by the facts. Just a few days ago, Morris — who has been reborn as a mean conservative — was predicting not only that Romney would win but that the Republican would win in a landslide. You can read the interview he did with his enabler, Bill O’Reilly.

Morris debases the public sphere every time he speaks or writes.

And shame on Fox News for giving this guy airtime. 

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For Fox News chief: 4 more years

By Christopher B. Daly

Politics aside (now, how often do you see that phrase in a presidential campaign season?), let’s give Roger Ailes of Fox News his due. He did the following:

–had an original idea

–got someone else to fund his idea

–built a news outlet from scratch

–made it profitable

–made it hard to ignore

–took home $21 million in salary and bonuses from News Corp. last year.

On that set of facts, he deserves to be ranked with Horace Greeley, Ted Turner, or Arianna Huffington. (I know, I know: there are other facts that I have not introduced into evidence here. I’m just saying. . .)

Ailes, who is 72, signed a new contract with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. that extends his work life (and his ultimate control over Fox News) through the 2016 elections.

Roger Ailes (Jennifer S. Altman / LA Times)

Roger Ailes (Jennifer S. Altman / LA Times)

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Grammar for journalists

By Christopher B. Daly

One of the most popular “memes” of this week in politics has been the idea that Barack Obama hates business. The supposed evidence for this is something that the president said in a recent appearance in a fire station in Roanoke,Va. Here’s part of what he said:

“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet. The point is, that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.”

Now, let’s examine that statement, shall we? At the risk of sounding like a university professor (oh, wait!), I feel compelled to point out that the problem in that passage arises, as so often happens, from a pronoun whose antecedent is not clear. The president was saying that before anyone can start a new business, the public has already invested tax dollars in an array of public goods that make that private enterprise possible. Public schools probably educated most of the workforce and customers. Police and fire departments provide a safe, orderly environment. Public roads bring supply trucks and customers to the new business. And so on. That is what Obama meant when he said, “If you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own.” (Think, for a minute, about the chances of starting a business like Staples on a desert island, or in the tribal areas of NW Pakistan. Not gonna happen.)

The president went on to say, “Somebody invested in roads and bridges.” In other words, taxpayers funded the infrastructure.

In the very next sentence, the president said: “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that.”

Question is: in that last sentence, what does that refer to?

Does that refer to the noun that immediately precedes it? In that case, the president is saying: If you have a business, you didn’t build it. 

Or, does that refer to the previous concept of “roads and bridges” (in which case, grammatically speaking, the pronoun should be them not that) or the broader point of infrastructure?

Personally, I think the president’s meaning was plain: If you run a successful business today, your success is based on the earlier investment in infrastructure.

But that’s my personal conclusion. Fox News and Mitt Romney have come to a different conclusion (surprise!) and have chosen to lift one sentence out of context as “proof” that the president is hostile to business. People who use the English language in their professional lives should know how to parse it.

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NYT error: Fox News is not top rated

By Christopher B. Daly 

Today’s Times has an interesting (though somewhat thin) story about the relationship between president Obama and Fox News.

One thing caught my eye:

But now, with the presidential campaign entering its most competitive phase, the simmering tensions between Mr. Obama and the country’s highest-rated news channel threaten their fragile détente.

Problem is, Fox News is NOT the “country’s highest-rated news channel.” It is the highest-rated cable news channel, with about 1.3 million viewers. But it comes nowhere near the size of even the lowest-rated broadcast news channel. And it is still a tiny fraction of the combined audiences of ABC, NBC, CBS, and PBS, which have well over 20 million viewers in all.

(Yes, there is a bit of an apples/oranges issue here, but, come on: Fox is in a different universe from the broadcast networks.)

(A further thought: in a nation of 300+ million people, does Fox News with 1.3 million viewers deserve the attention it gets?)

 

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“Wait, wait”: Would someone please impose an embargo on the news media

By Christopher B. Daly 

Kudos to the SCOTUSblog for this remarkable tick-tock on what went wrong in the initial reporting about the Supreme Court ruling on the Obama health care plan back on June 28. Tom Goldstein, the publisher of SCOTUSblog, has put together a 7,000-word reconstruction of the first half hour of reporting, focusing on the screw-ups  at CNN and Fox News. He has done us all a service with his meticulous, minute-by-minute (and sometimes second-by-second) narrative of that day’s hits, balks, run-downs, and errors.

What this post-game review suggests to me is that, first and foremost, the news business needs to do better. As a former wire service reporter (10 years with the AP, both on desks and in the field), I appreciate the need for speed. SCOTUS decisions move markets; they sometimes hand the White House to one party over the other. Often, they are the epitome of breaking news. That said, it is insane for reporters to cover Supreme Court opinions on the fly. No one benefits. In Goldstein’s tick-tock, the description of the gyrations of the front-line legal correspondents reminds me of nothing so much as an episode of “Iron Chef” — in which highly talented people are subjected to insanely artificial difficulties (“OK, now you have two minutes to make a three-course meal out of kale and strawberries. GO!”). There is absolutely no reason to turn this scheduled event into a speed-reading contest.

The Supreme Court also has some lessons to learn. It is insane that the Court does not post its opinions, in full, on the Web at 10:00:01. Why should the White House and Congress have to wait? Why should citizens have to wait? Why should prisoners facing execution or stock traders or anyone have to wait? In this day and age, to hand out paper decisions is an affront.

But most important of all, after reading Goldstein’s report, I am strengthened in my belief that the Court and the news business need to get together on a slow day and figure out a better system for these kind of hand-offs. The answer is staring them in the face: an old-fashioned news embargo. The Court could simply identify 10-20 of the top court reporters — all vetted, credentialed experts — and invite them to come to the building at 8 a.m. The journalists could all then be locked in a room (like jurors) with no wi-fi access. They could then take their time to read the opinion (in full), digest it, and craft a coherent and accurate story. At 10:00, those stories could all be released, all at once. That way, all the news organizations that care about speed would have a multi-way tie and the issue of who was “first” would be moot. That way, the first version would also be the right version. That way, the public gets a full, careful, accurate version at the earliest possible moment.

P.S.: The world would certainly be a better place if people would stop posting comments just to gloat. Goldstein mentions a couple of these kind of comments that SCOTUSblog received from readers rubbing it in that CNN and Fox were right and SCOTUSblog was wrong. In retrospect, they look like the doofuses they are.

Twitter postings / Topsy

Twitter postings / Topsy

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Journalism 101: Read the whole opinion

By Christopher B. Daly

It comes down to this: two major news organizations (CNN and Fox News) blew their initial coverage of the most important Supreme Court ruling this decade. They did so because reporters at both cable news outlets made a rookie mistake by generating headlines without reading the whole SCOTUS opinion. In these situations, reporters often face an apparent dilemma: Do you want to be first? Do you want to be right?

The answer, of course, is that a conscientious reporter should want to be the first one who is also right.

And, just so I don’t let anyone else off the hook, this message needs to be embraced and shared by editors, desk people, and top management. The message has to be sent early, often, and unambiguously.

How do I know?

Aren’t I just a professor, safely watching this from the sidelines?

Well, yes and no. I worked for almost five years in a news cockpit, covering the state government of Massachusetts for the AP. In that role, one of my duties was to read the opinions of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (the SJC, the oldest continuously sitting court in the English-speaking New World, older than SCOTUS). When those opinions were newsworthy, as they often were, I had to bang out an immediate hard-news lead. Directly across the room from me in the Statehouse Press Gallery, my competitors at UPI were doing the same thing. We could tell from the sound of our typing who was writing and who was finished and had transmitted the story. The stakes were not as high as they were on Thursday at SCOTUS, but covering the SJC is essentially the same challenge.

So, here are my takeaways from the health-care bulletin fiasco:

–News organizations need “beat” reporters. That is, they need reporters who specialize in an area (health care, let’s say, or covering the Supreme Court) and become experts in it. General-assignment reporters (and god love ’em, we need them too) cannot be thrown at every new situation and expected to learn on the fly.

–The Supreme Court should re-institute the “embargo” system. An embargo occurs when the news media are given material in advance, on condition that they agree to withhold it until a specific time. When that agreed-upon moment arrives, the journalists are all released from their promise and can all disseminate the news at the same time. That system has several advantages. It means that reporters are quarantined for a period of time that they can use to their benefit — they can read the whole opinion, maybe more than once; they can check their notes and background materials; they can even call experts for analysis and comment. They can use the time to craft a story that is accurate and complete, knowing that no other news organization that participated in the embargo is going to scoop them. Granted, it is not natural for a news professional to endorse any system that delays the delivery of news. But the reason we sometimes accept embargoes is that they ultimately serve the best interest of our audiences, which is what we should care about the most.

–We need bloggers too. A delicious irony from Thursday is that two big-deal professional news organizations (yes, I am lumping Fox News in here, arguendo) discovered their mistake in part by reading a blog! The highly regarded SCOTUSblog got the story right and prompted part of the correction process. So, let’s give a hat tip to the power of a small group of experts using the Web to communicate.

(And a special salute to Lyle Denniston of SCOTUSblog, seen at right. Talk about beat reporters! He has been covering the Supreme Court for 54 years, or far longer than any of the current justices has served.)

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