Let’s get something straight. Fox is not “fair and balanced.” But let’s not be naive. CNN is not “the most trusted name in news,” and it’s arguable whether or not MSNBC will “lean forward” with their news.
I don’t try to assess whether or not news channels and newspaper companies are biased, because there is no question that they are all biased towards one thing or another. It is virtually impossible to be completely objective in any kind of news story. It is not, however, virtually impossible to provide good journalism for people to read.
Take a second to read the following excellent, excellent example of some terrible, terrible journalism. What is wrong with this article?
I’ll give you a hint: it’s in the sixth paragraph down and is completely unnecessary to the purpose of the article.
“It also reported that a Koran was among the contents inside the car although police did not say that it had any relevance to the investigation.” First of all, it’s Qur’an, not Koran (spelling things correctly is always a good idea, Fox). Secondly, and more importantly, if it has no relevance to the investigation, THEN WHY REPORT IT?
Are journalists just going to start listing random objects in every abandoned car they find? Are we going to start providing unnecessary details for every single story that we report?
“A suicide bombing took place in Hong Kong today. Confidential sources say that the bomber was wearing crocs.”
“The winners of the raffle were announced yesterday. The announcer’s favorite food is spaghetti.”
“Mark Zuckerberg announced Saturday that he would be donating money to the New Jersey school system. He drove to Jersey in a Prius.”
Adding that the extra information is irrelevant to any of these statements doesn’t help at all. For no reason at all, the reader will associate the suicide bomber with crocs, the raffle winners with spaghetti and Zuckerberg with Toyota, unconsciously disregarding that this piece of information is completely irrelevant. Fox understands this very well and this is precisely why they added in the statement about the Qur’an into a news article about a suspicious vehicle.
Yes, it’s clever. No, it’s not illegal. But it lacks journalistic quality. What’s despicable is that this bad journalism was probably intentional. And it probably worked on at least 50% of the readers.
President Obama recently called Fox News’ point of view (yes, it is a point of view) “a point of view that I think is ultimately destructive for the long-term growth of a country.” We can’t progress from ignorance if we don’t have the right facts. Facts are primarily disseminated to the general public from the media. Therefore, the media, including Fox News, has an incredible responsibility upon it to understand the needs of its readers and help them assess what is going on in our country and the world. The sooner it realizes this great responsibility, the sooner we can become part of a country (and a media) we’re proud of.