"Be accurate, be fair, be American"
December 3, 2001 10:35 PM   Subscribe

"Be accurate, be fair, be American" is the Fox News mantra. Apparently, news with a moral slant is not only helping the Fox News ratings but many Americans report wanting their news to be "Pro-American." When did it become unpatriotic to at least want news that attempts objectivity? Are "accuracy" and "fairness" always possible if Fox journalists must also subscribe to News Corporation's prescription as to what it means to "be American?"
posted by karlcleveland (21 comments total)
I'm all for rallying 'round the flag at times of crisis, but what does it mean for news to be "Pro-American"? That doesn't make any sense to me. How can news be pro or anti anything? News should just be objective, non-partisan, and like Joe Friday, should just give us the facts. Foux News is none of those things. Anyway, I don't watch TV all that much, especially for the news. I get most of my news from the web, from the sources that I like and trust.
posted by Rastafari at 10:47 PM on December 3, 2001

Not sure if this is more than my own opinion, but I've observed that in South Africa (where I'm from) people definately tend to view American news (in a generalized, categorical grouping) as having a clear "Pro-American" slant. CNN World being the obvious example. I always disagreed, and put it down to standard American bashing. Having lived here (LA) for a bit, I'd definitely say that there's a certain lack of impartiality about the war coverage, overall. Was there not something about reporters being asked to remind viewers about the WTC everytime they showed the Afghan kids or pictures of the bombings?

2c given.
posted by Hypnerotomachia at 10:48 PM on December 3, 2001

Heh. This by the same organization that's defending the Chinese government to try to get broadcasting rights there.

Fox doesn't give a shit about news, or politics, or anything else. They want money
posted by delmoi at 11:01 PM on December 3, 2001

"O.K., war is hell, people die," he said. "We know we're at war. The fact that some people are dying, is that really news? And is it news to be treated in a semi-straight-faced way? I think not."

This quote came from Brit Hume... Any respect I have for the man has been lost.

That article scared me more than I thought it would because the biggest thing I pulled out of was that The FNN people actually believe they are "Fair and Balanced."

As for journalist taking a pro-american stance in reporting, it's a bad idea overall. If your argument's position is stronger than your enemies, than presenting both sides (or all sides depending on the issue) shouldn't be a problem. But by downplaying, or outright not reporting what has happened on the otherside, it's almost as if you're admitting your position is a weak one.

In the long run, people will turn away from Fox News if they don't tell the full story, because people don't like to be lied to (or so I'd like to believe)...

As for objectivity, every media critic I've talked to (O.k. only two but they both agreed) believes true objectivity is impossible, so reporters should be open about their biases, and do their best to tell every side of an issue fairly. So, it is possible to argue that Fox News isn't doing anything that drastic by honestly admitting it's pro-American...

I think Fox News viewers are going to be the ones who, when other attacks happen, wonder why people continue to hate the US, because they had only heard pro-US views.
posted by drezdn at 11:01 PM on December 3, 2001

i think fox realized that journalistic ethics aren't as profitable as it would be to pander to the lowest common denominator. i won't blame them; it sells, though it's not the sort of news coverage i would want to watch.
posted by moz at 11:10 PM on December 3, 2001

Everything has a bias. Everything.Television, radio, Newspapers, the internet...Advertisers pay for what they believe viewers want. News=Entertainment.
It's not like FOX is going to make up 'news' like they do in many other countries. Anyway, FOX has the best looking women, so they win.
posted by Mack Twain at 11:31 PM on December 3, 2001

While Fox is the most extreme example of this, how in the world could any American reporter truly report "just the facts" without a hint of of emotion after their country has been attacked? Ditto for any other country (Israel, England, Afghanistan). Perhaps when robots do the news, but until then...
posted by owillis at 12:19 AM on December 4, 2001

Mack Twain, you've nailed it. When I'm in need of a good laugh I flip on FOX News ... their war coverage is more amusing than this season's Simpsons. And good-looking women rule!

Hey, isn't there supposed to be liberal media bias? At least that's what Drudge Report keeps telling me.
posted by dack at 12:21 AM on December 4, 2001

owillis: Any reputable journalist should report the facts. It's their job. If they can't do it, they are in the wrong job.
posted by salmacis at 12:48 AM on December 4, 2001

I don't think the issue here is reporters "getting emotional" about the news so much as reporters skewing the news to reflect their personal ideology.
posted by Doug at 1:15 AM on December 4, 2001

US news is biased anyway. I learn so much more about the rest of the world through British, French and Spanish press than I do through the "best" of the US papers, like the NYT. (One excpetion I've noted before is the Christian Science Monitor). This represents simply being blatant about it. American papers have certain types of news, analyses and editiorials they would never, ever print, namely anything that might contradict or question the status quo. Magazines are a somewhat different story. There are some good ones around like The Atlantic, Harpers...
posted by mmarcos at 2:59 AM on December 4, 2001

FNC is not news, FNC is infotainment! Geraldo Rivera, reporting for Fox News Channel in Afghanistan, says he's packing a gun - which he will use to defend himself, if necessary, from hostile Taliban killers. [NY Post]

Oh, for the days when Americans had a wide range of daily newspapers to read! New York City, of course, had the most: David Berkman recalls "We had a choice of nine city-wide and one Brooklyn daily" [in the 1940s].
posted by Carol Anne at 4:41 AM on December 4, 2001

For better or worse, Fox is doing a good job, but just wrapping it in more ornamental, patriotic wrapping. What you have to remember is that most of their content isn't "news" but commentary. Its not the BBC. The problem is there's too little news; too much comment on the air.
posted by ParisParamus at 4:46 AM on December 4, 2001

"The fact that some people are dying, is that really news?"

Say it ain't so, Brit. I knew Hume had abandoned any pretense of objectivity when he spent an hour viciously slamming Clinton during an Inauguration Day news report. But this quote represents a new low. Maybe "Is That Really News?" should be the new slogan for Fox News.
posted by rcade at 5:32 AM on December 4, 2001

I vote for news organizations being open about their bias. All of the news is slanted in some way, people just gravitate to their preferred slant.
posted by revbrian at 5:46 AM on December 4, 2001

there's too little news; too much comment on the air.

i think this is the root of the problem. you have reporters spending a minute reciting the facts, and 59 minutes speculating, which frankly, most of them are not qualified to do. for example, mapalm linked to a statement by rumsfeld yesterday that the military might possibly use some type of gas in the tora bora complex which apparently instigated some conjecture that the gas *could* be a weapon of mass destruction, and all of a sudden there's an entire story on the U.S's "willingness to use weapons of mass destruction," when rumsfeld said nothing of the sort. i also think most Americans can distinguish between legitimate questions and questions that could put american lives at risk if answered publicly. i think when the poll says americans want more pro-American news they're not referring to wanting more pro-America cheerleading, just more congnizance that the American press has a responsibility to the American people (including the military) not to put them in harm's way with irresponsible reporting (i.e., asking for exact troop movements or publishing such information despite being asked not to do so for obvious reasons.) Does anyone really get anything out of watching "60 Minutes" segments on "300 different ways your local nuclear reactor is vulnerable to a terrorist attack"? the press blames the government for promoting fear with their "alerts," but the press has been *horrible* about sensationalizing things that *haven't even happened,* and if anyone deserves the blame for playing on the public's fears and cynicism, it's the media.

was watching the "daily show" a couple of weeks ago and jon stewart nailed it: [paraphrased, obviously] it's like these reporters have no real news to report so they sit in a room somewhere and come up with these horrible scenarios, like '*what if* bin laden had a nuke the size of a donut? and *what if* it *looked* like a donut!? oh my god! we have to do an expose on how vulnerable the donut people are to security breaches!"
posted by lizs at 7:14 AM on December 4, 2001

But then you think about how upset most Americans are to learn about things their government has done "behind our backs". You know, all that stuff, mostly in developing nations, where we sponsored vicious regimes and murderous uprisings, and the government never held itself accountable to the American people.

Can you trust Fox to in any way help prevent that from happening again? No.

Can you trust CNN, or the NY Times, or most other established media outlets, to shine a light on such activities, even if they look bad? Yes.

That is what makes journalism more valuable than being fed what basically amounts to propaganda. Fox is saying pretty much what the government would say if it was in the media business. Make the citizens happy. They don't need to know, let's just give them what we think they want. Fox's motivations are different, but the results are the same.

And god forbid this should make Fox so much money as to force other journalistic operations to follow suit, and create a sort of censorship by economics. That would not be good.
posted by mattpfeff at 7:41 AM on December 4, 2001

I suppose that if a modern-day Daniel Ellsberg came along with a sequel to the Pentagon Papers, Fox News would quietly turn him (or her) over to the FBI and cover it up.
posted by mischief at 7:57 AM on December 4, 2001

Thomas Sowell touched on the issue of patriotism and "bias" in a column last month:

There seems to be some hand-wringing among some in the media about whether they can be patriotic Americans and at the same time report the news objectively. But the truth is the truth, regardless of whose side you are on. Sometimes it is hard to know the truth, but you don't get around that by reporting every claim by an enemy regime with a long history of lying -- and then pretending to believe that it is just as credible as what you have learned from more reliable sources.

Much of the media has a confusion between being objective and creating an arbitrary "balance" between "the two sides."

Objectivity is about facts.

posted by mw at 8:04 AM on December 4, 2001

If american media were to take their objective journalistic integrity literally, they would be treasonous. Troop numbers and movements are facts but reporting them publically would inadvertently alert the enemy with what they're dealing with. Even speculating on how the military is going to smoke Taliban out of the mountains can put our men at risk. When the people behind the scenes at Fox News or wherever listen to the government and do what they're told, there's bias. There should be.

Actually, I can't recall there ever being true non-biased news ever anywhere. Back when William Randolph Hearst owned the lion's share of news media, there was certainly bias. Ben Franklin himself was biased and his periodical proved it. Indeed he was quite the liberal in his time. He even believed in astrology. Don't tell these guys though. They think by silencing the left we'll get nonbiased journalism. Wrong. We'd get journalism of a rightwing bias, which is equally as bad. Ben would get a good chuckle out of those fellows, then he'd ask them to hold his kite.

If the majority of people running the show happen to be liberal, or conservative, naturally their choices and actions are going to be affected by their personal convictions. They're human despite some of their choices. They're prone to making mistakes.

Objectivity is no longer marketable, because the majority of consumers don't want cold heartless facts. Cold heartless facts are boring and they'll change fast to some channel which presents the news in the way they would present the news if they were in charge. Ultimately, it's finances which cause bias. Objective reporting either doesn't get purchased by the consumer and eventually goes bankrupt, or gets bought out by the more successful conglomerates which give the public what they think they want.

Further, journalists in Afghanistan (and many parts of the world) are being killed in the line of duty. This makes it rather difficult to show both sides of the story, when one side answers questions by shooting the interviewer's head off. If I were editor-in-chief of a major news media organization, and one of the reporters who worked under me came home in a body bag - I'd be hard pressed to show the murderers in an objective light.
posted by ZachsMind at 1:26 PM on December 4, 2001

If American media were to take their objective journalistic integrity literally, they would be treasonous...

Objectivity is no longer marketable, because the majority of consumers don't want cold heartless facts. Cold heartless facts are boring...

Speak for yourself buddy. I personally like my news to be as impartial possible. I guess you'd present 'Hard Copy' as your news format as choice, if you actually believe the vacuous nonsense you spout about impartiality = treason. Why not - it was exciting, basically enforced the status quo, and never really reported anything which you were allowed to have a genuine perspective or opinion about. Hey, when we all think the same, we'll be happy, right? Will you be comfortable when all information is filtered and adjusted to conform to your 'patriotic' requirements? Impartiality may be difficult to achieve, especially in the dire and possibly realistic light you suggest (body bag, angry editor, etc) but that doesn't mean we should allow or forgive impartiality. History, truth, and the right to decide ourselves (which surely ARE patriotic values, for any liberal, democratic society) are essential to ALL journalism, and must be strived for, no matter what the cost.
posted by Hypnerotomachia at 4:50 PM on December 4, 2001

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