Monday, July 19, 2004

the FOX news memos

John Moody is taking some heat over some memos of his that were released. You can find them on Wonkette along with this comment
... about 30 memos from Fox News chief John Moody, released to journalists by the makers of the anti-Fox documentary "Outfoxed" to support their claim that Fox bends the rules and twists the news. And boy howdy, do they.
...
... Such rock-ribbed partisanship may rub media critics the wrong way...
I read the entire thing and couldn't find anything that I would remotely describe as "bending the rules" unless by "the rules", they mean things like "Rule 1: hurt George Bush. Rule 2: The US is a cruel imperialistic bully." There was also no sign of "twisting the rules" or partisanship.
Yes, there are some editorial directions in the comments. He is the news chief after all. And yes, he wants the Iraq war portrayed in a positive light for the US, but this makes him patriotic, not partisan. And there is no reason to think that he is any more positive about the war than the other news channels are negative about it. Being pro-US is no more (and no less) "twisting the news" than being anti-US.

As to his partisanship, there are several places in the comments where he mentions that Bush and Kerry are both giving speeches and he wants equal time for both. In response to John O'Neal, who is a harsh critic of Kerry he writes:
Let's not overdo the appearances by Kerry's swiftboat mate John O'Neil. While his appearances so far have been OK, he represents one side of the 30 year recollections of what Kerry did, or didn't do, in uniform. Other people have different recollections.
That's hardly the attitude of a strong Bush partisan.

And yes, his outlook on the war is good for Bush, but he doesn't go overboard there either. For example:
We've given the escape of Thomas Hamill pretty good attention since it became known. Let us not overdo it. It's good news for him and for Macon, Ms., but it's weekend news.
...
There will be a service for Pat Tillman, the NFL player turned army ranger turned symbol of patriotism. We can do some lives on the service, but as before, be cautious about making his death, though tragic, any more significant than the deaths of non-famous GI casualties.
Nock Confessore has this to say
Even I was shocked at the tone of the diktats, which quite clearly contain instructions to slant the news coverage (especially of the Bush administration) in a certain way. He tells his people what side to take and what arguments to make, and evidently they take. Read them and try to tell me you believe Moody when he says his staffers are free to make suggestions or raise objections. Puh-leeze.
Puh-leeze yourself. There was nothing in any of those memos that suggested any negative consequences for people who disagree with Moody. Just because he gives directions doesn't mean he won't listen to dissenting opinions or that people would be afraid to offer them. I suppose Confessore thinks that a manager has to sit back and not let anyone know what he thinks in order to avoid stifling the creativity of his hapless, frightened little minions. Confessore continues:
What struck me was not so much that Moody frequently urges the taking of a conservative or pro-Bush line, but that he cleaves so tightly and uninquisitively to GOP/administration talking points about the issue at hand. It's kind of what I imagine Pravda to have been like.
OK, let's get back to that "Puh-leeze". No one at FOX news has to fear a knock on their door at midnight due to something they said at work. They don't have to fear being dragged off with their families to a slave labor camp to slowly starve to death. There is no evidence that they even have to fear losing a promotion. Another difference is that Pravda was a part of a government monopoly on news sources. FOX is one of a half-dozen news sources, all of which take diametrically opposed positions on most issues.

Even if it were true that Moody "cleaves so tightly and uninquisitively to the GOP/administration talking points" (and this isn't clear from the memos), what harm would it do if the GOP to had one news channel in its pocket? It's not like the whole news industry is wedded to a specific platform. Now that would be harmful, right Nick? Were you complaining about that when the entire news industry was a part of the Democrat political machine during the Reagan years?

UPDATE: In response to Donald Crankshaw, I should note that when I said the memos are not partisan, I did not mean that they don't press a particular point of view; I meant that they do not directly promote a party. His policies might have that effect, but only because he has similar goals to the Republican party. To show partisanship (favoring a party), you would have to show that he is driven by party loyalty rather than ideology. I saw no hint of that in the memos. This is not to say that it isn't true, just that the memos don't support the allegation.

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