Tag Archives: Fox News

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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Filed under blogging, broadcasting, CNN, Fox News, Journalism, Supreme Court

“Fox & Friends”

By Christopher B. Daly 

In reading today’s Times story about the Fox News morning program “Fox & Friends,” I found it difficult to decide which of these facts was more startling:

____ Gretchen Carlson graduated from Stanford University, with honors no less!

____ Gretchen Carlson plays classical violin.

____ Gretchen Carlson was Miss America in 1989.

It has been reported. Now you decide.

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Filed under broadcasting, Glenn Beck, Journalism

The Murdoch hearing (cont.)

By Chris Daly 

James Murdoch, son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, is set to appear again Thursday before a committee of the British Parliament to answers about the behavior of Murdoch employees in Britain.

 

The NYTimes has a preview today, along with a couple of sidebars.

 

But the most extensive coverage I have found is in the Guardian, which seems determined to try to topple the entire Murdoch empire.

He has already been asked so many questions on so many subjects that it seems unlikely he could avoid making mistakes and possibly worse. He may want to bring a bodyguard (like his dad’s wife, Wendi — shown below waging a counter-attack against a prankster who tried to “pie” Rupert during an earlier round of Parliamentary hearings.)

 

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Filed under Fox News, Journalism

Watching the watchers

By Chris Daly

The news about the news business is suddenly all-Murdoch, all the time.

I am struggling with my reflexive reaction to government meddling with journalism, which is to say: hands off. Murdoch is the one person in the news business for whom I might consider an exception. (And that is based not on his right-wing politics, but on his declared intent to destroy the NYTimes. That puts him in a different category — a destroyer or vandal of journalism.

[Aside: is it just me, or does it seem that the Times is on a mission to print as many unflattering, aging photos of Murdoch as possible?]

AFP/Getty

So, it is with somewhat mixed feelings that I greet the news that Sen. Jay Rockefeller (who may actually be richer than Murdoch) has called on U.S. authorities to investigate the behavior (not the views) of all Murdoch employees in the United States for possible criminal actions. That would involve FOX TV News, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, and other properties.

Here’s a story from The State, based in Rockefeller’s home state of West Virginia.

Stay tuned.

 

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More news about the news

By Chris Daly

More news today about journalism.

~First, an update from the NYTimes about the harrowing captivity of four of its own journalists (including Tyler Hicks, a BU alum who will be the commencement speaker this spring at BU’s College of Communication — assuming he stays out of any further serious trouble). And thanks to Joe Klein, on today’s “Morning Joe” on MSNBC, for pointing out that when certain people (he mentioned Sarah Palin) whine about the “lame-stream media,” they should realize that they are disrespecting people who deserve better. 

 

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

~Whither Glenn Beck? Who the heck knows?

 

~Thanks to Michael Miller for pointing this out, here are some interesting further thoughts on the NYTimes pay model (including bold assertions about the future) from John Gruber at Daring Fireball. (With a name like Daring Fireball, no wonder he’s so confident about his predictions…)

 

~A happy prospect: help-wanted from Talking Points Memo, which is seeking to fill a new position, that of associate editor for Washington news. Here’s the take-away:

Crackerjack news judgment, experience as an editor and deep familiarity with politics and political news are each a must. Competitive salary for qualified applicants; health care, three weeks annual vacation and 401k benefits provided.

 

Glad to see health care benefits being offered. Wonder what is meant by “competitive salary”. . .

 

 

 

 

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Filed under broadcasting, Fox News, Glenn Beck, Journalism, New York Times

A Tea Party news nugget

By Chris Daly

Today’s New York Times features a story and charts on the findings of the latest Times/CBS News poll — this one about the demographics of the Tea Party movement.

One finding that caught my eye had to do with where Tea Party members get their news. No surprise, they get “most” of their news from Fox News. In fact, the preference for Fox News was the biggest skew in all the findings that I could find. Comparing Tea Party members to a category defined as “all adults” (is this like contrasting them to “normal Americans”?), there was a 40-point spread in news consumption. Even compared to Republicans, the Tea Party folks favor Fox over other news sources.

Maybe we should just call it the Fox Party.

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By Chris Daly

Thanks to the Washington Post, we now know this about Glenn Beck:

“Love him or hate him, Beck is a talented, often funny broadcaster, a recovering alcoholic with an unabashedly emotional style. Yet even that has caused grousing. Some staffers say they have watched rehearsals, on internal monitors, in which Beck has teared up or paused at the same moments as he later did during the show.”

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