Watching or reading news or "non-fiction" books these days, one often yearns for the "gold old days" of journalism. Back then, the news reported the news, warts and all, and the only "rebuttals" or spin was on the talk shows. We look back to Walter Cronkite or Edward R Murrow
, thinking that News Organizations were more honest and unbiased. Never mind that Murrow's "See It Now" show was cancelled after a dispute over providing "equal time" for those painted in an unsavory light by the show. Way back in 1958, he was criticizing how news had become entertainment.
So fast-forward 50 years, and look how far the genre has fallen: We have a serious blur between news and opinion, we have rumor and popular opinion passing as fact ("some say"), and we have tell-all books with quotes from unnamed sources, corroborated by further unnamed sources. Forget the amateur journalism of people like James O'Keefe, who take a couple hours of video and snip it down into pieces and rearrange them chronologically to tell a story that never existed. Respectable journalism is just as unrespectable as ever.
Author Ron Suskind has just released a new book about the Obama administration ("Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington and the Education of a President") that does something similar. In it, he snips a quote to tell a completely different story than what was actually said
"This place would be in court for a hostile workplace," Dunn is quoted as saying in Suskind's book. "Because it actually fit all of the classic legal requirements for a genuinely hostile workplace to women."
Dunn told the Washington Post on Friday that quote was taken out of context.
On Monday, Suskind allowed a Post reporter to review a recorded excerpt of the original April telephone interview:
In that conversation, Dunn is heard telling Suskind about a conversation she had with Jarrett.
"I remember once I told Valerie that, I said if it weren't for the president, this place would be in court for a hostile workplace," Dunn is heard telling Suskind. "Because it actually fit all of the classic legal requirements for a genuinely hostile workplace to women."
The real quote shows him to be the good guy in the room; the clipped quote infers he is the lead sexist in a sexist administration. Considering how completely that little snippet changes the meaning, there's no denying that it was deliberately eliminated to paint President Obama in a bad light.
FOX News is in a league all it's own when it comes to faux journalism. It runs with the aforementioned James O'Keefe smear videos, and has guests on who regularly get their facts wrong (just check out Politifact
and Media Matters
for all the news that isn't). For just one example, FOX took this quote:
Now, as I mentioned when I was at La Raza a few weeks back, I wish I had a magic wand and could make this all happen on my own. There are times where -- until Nancy Pelosi is speaker again -- (applause) -- I'd like to work my way around Congress. (Applause.) But the fact is, even as we work towards a day when I can sign an immigration bill, we've got laws on the books that have to be upheld.
and gave it this headline
: "Obama: I'd like to work my way around Congress", suggesting that the president is actually actively looking for ways to circumvent Congress. The casual viewer would get a completely different view on the president's stance.
Sadly, the FOX News tendency to fabricate facts has bled over into the the parent company's sports organization. They were criticized recently for faking newspaper headlines
when reporting on Jay Cutler. The video showed images of Cutler with headlines superimposed, reading "Cutler Lacks Courage", and "Cutler's No Leader". The Chicago Tribune investigated, and responded:
Fox color analyst Daryl Johnston said, "These are the actual headlines from the local papers in Chicago," following the clip. He and play-by-by announcer Kenny Albert discussed the Cutler criticism for a few more seconds before on-field action forced a change of topic.
The Tribune went back to verify Johnston's claim and discovered that none of the "headlines" were used. The newspaper wrote:
The whole production rang false to us. The headlines didn't look real. The language used in them was off. And since we know that most Chicago media had defended Cutler, we looked into it. We searched throughout Illinois newspapers for those headlines — Tribune, Sun-Times, Daily Herald, every other paper in the state. What did we find?
In fact, we could not find any such headlines in any newspaper in the United States.
The old saying goes "the fish rots from the head", and so it is with FOX News's (and FOX Sports's) parent company News Corp. Rubert Murdoch and News Corp are under investigation in Britain for the phone hacking scandal. Tack that onto years of sensationalist reporting in tabloids and on FOX News, and you have a picture of a businessman that worships the almighty dollar by sacrificing the truth on the altar of the media. That other media mogul - Ted Turner - has declared that Murdoch must step down
over the hacking scandal. It will never happen of course. Besides - Murdoch's equally ethics-challenged son is already manning the reigns there, and appears to match his father's sleaze factor quite comfortably.
The 1st Amendment to our Constitution ensures freedom of the press. It's unfortunate that journalists and news providers don't treat that right with the reverence and respect it deserves.