2004/10/13

Fox News & The Media Critic

The (British) Guardian gives us:

Fox News apologises for Kerry fabrication

Oliver Burkeman in New York
Monday October 4, 2004
The Guardian

Fox News, the influential rightwing US television network, said yesterday it had "reprimanded" its chief political correspondent after its website carried fabricated quotes attributed to John Kerry, in which he called himself a "metrosexual" who enjoys getting manicures.

The network, owned by Rupert Murdoch, apologised for the article in which the Democratic challenger was quoted telling a rally in Florida: "Didn't my nails and cuticles look great? What a good debate!" Comparing himself to the president, Mr Kerry was supposed to have said: "I'm metrosexual - he's a cowboy." Women voters, he purportedly added, "should like me! I do manicures."

The article appeared under the byline of Carl Cameron, who has been following Mr Kerry on the campaign trail. It had been posted on the site, the network said in a statement, because of "fatigue and bad judgment, rather than malice."

"Carl Cameron made a stupid mistake and he has been reprimanded for his lapse in judgment. It was a poor attempt at humour and he regrets it," a Fox spokesman, Paul Schur, told the Los Angeles Times, though he would not give details of what action would be taken against Mr Cameron.

From Talking Points Memo:

Okay some more details on that bogus Kerry story that ran this morning on the Fox News website. As we noted earlier, this morning the front page of the Fox website a story with a series of phony Kerry quotes (see post below). After questions were asked the offending material was quickly pulled from the site, without explanation.

So what happened?

Late this afternoon I spoke to Fox spokesman Paul Schur who told me the following ...

“Carl [Cameron] made a stupid mistake which he regrets. And he has been reprimanded for his lapse in judgment. It was a poor attempt at humor.”

So the Fox reporter covering the Kerry campaign puts together this Kerry-bashing parody right out of the RNC playbook with phony quotes intended to peg him as girlish fool and somehow it found its way on the Fox website as a news item.

Imagine that.


Later on, Josh reprints a piece stating that no one has any idea how, or obviously if, Carl was disciplined. Nor, he makes it clear, does anyone know how the story appeared on the website. Fox claims Carl was tired. Does the website not have an editor? Does no one keep track of what a major news organization is telling millions of people all over the world? How on Earth does the website get updated in the first place? Is it done by techies who just sort of grab whatever material they find and post it? By the reporters themselves? By an organized process involving authorizations, sign-offs, requests, and decisions by executives? Maybe it’s just because I’'ve worked in large organizations, but I have a very hard time believing it'’s not the last answer.

So, how does a media critic from a major newspaper handle this? I've reproduced the four times that Howard Kurtz from the Washington Post was asked about the incident.

New York, N.Y.: Your thoughts please on the Carl Cameron reporting of phony quotes attributed to John Kerry. Has he been reassigned away from the Kerry campaign-- if not, do you feel that this incident calls his objectivity into question?

Howard Kurtz: I deal with this in today's column. Sure it calls his objectivity into question. But Cameron was writing a parody that was not meant to be published or broadcast, and which was mistakenly posted on Fox's Web site.
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Ramsey, N.J.: Have you actually tried to find out what, if anything, has Fox News done to punish Carl Cameron? He is obviously still covering a the campaign of a man he wants to lose.

Howard Kurtz: Fox executives say Cameron has been disciplined. Obviously, they haven't taken him off the Kerry campaign.
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Bethesda, Md.: The thought of the story being "mistakenly" placed on a Fox News web-site strains credibility. But what makes me giggle even more is the notion posted by one of the chatters above that Cameron shouldn't be allowed to cover Kerry because he "obviously wants him to lose". Using that criteria regarding an alleged rooting interest, practically no one currently covering the Bush campaign for most of the TV networks should be allowed to do so ...

Howard Kurtz: I'm not buying your comparison, but even if it were true, the test isn't whether journalists have opinions but whether they can keep those opinions out of their work. As for the notion that the Fox posting was no accident, this doesn't make sense. Why would a news organization put up a story it KNEW to be false, since that would cause great embarrassment and require a correction? Remember, these bogus quotes were attributed to Kerry, so it's not like no one would notice.
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Anonymous: Excuse me?

Why would you buy into that lame excuse provided by Fox News? Are you trying to be fair and balanced? Or are you attempting to obfuscate the fact that more than likely, those people at Fox News knew exactly what they were doing when they "leaked" Cameron's parody of Kerry.

They make news, remember?

Fair and balanced they are not.

Howard Kurtz: I still don't see how this episode helps Fox. Executives there are angry at Carl Cameron and see this as a setback for their credibility.

Keep in mind, this is after Kurtz has said at the beginning of the call-in:

Consumers used to get their news from newspapers, magazines and evening broadcasts from the three television networks. Now, with the Internet, cable TV and 24-hour news networks, the news cycle is faster and more constant, with every minute carrying a new deadline. But clearly more news and more news outlets are not necessarily better. And just because the press has the ability to cover a story doesn't always mean they should -- or that they'll do it well.

So, where’s the research? Where is any sign whatsoever that Kurtz did anything more strenuous than pick up a phone and chat with some Fox executives? This is a guy who gets paid more than a shelf-stocker at a grocery store, i.e. minimum wage? Yeesh!

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