Andover, Mass.---Veteran reporters attending a journalism conference here largely agreed that Fox Television Network presents mostly opinion rather than news and is not particularly interested in getting at the truth.
"The whole idea of the moral underpinning of a society, the idea of a common good, all of this has been wiped out in a celebrity culture. I don't know you can even refer to Fox as a news organization," said war correspondent Christopher Hedges, a Pulitzer Prize-winner who formerly reported for The New York Times. "This is a very frightening development, along with Lou Dobbs on CNN's (Lou Dobbs Tonight) and all this other junk. It's not news, it's entertainment."
Another Pulitzer Prize-winner, foreign correspondent Tyler Marshall, co-author of "The Changing Newsroom" and now with the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism, said, "With the rise of cable TV and the proliferation of electronic media, we have before us a group of entertainers masquerading as news people. And Bill O'Reilly of Fox TV and Keith Olbermann of MSNBC are far more intent in ruffling feathers than in getting at the truth"egos supersede the search to the truth in too many cases."
Marshall deplored the logo used by Fox on the coverage of the United Nations debate on Iraq. Marshall said it was "B-A-G-G-I-N Baghdad"---"that was the level at which the public was being informed." The conference was sponsored by the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover.
But Benjamin Compaine, senior consultant for the Innovation International Media Consulting Group, defended Fox. He said Fox News is "the whipping boy of many journalists" because "It is trying to do something different. It's not trying to be CNN. You may not like it, but the whole idea of what journalism can be about is trying to cover things from different angles, taking different perspectives sometimes as long as you got the facts right." He added, "a lot of what Fox News does is opinion but much of what it does is reporting, (just) what CNN does."
Lou Ureneck, Chairman of the Department of Journalism at Boston University, said that a Pew study about public impressions of the Iraq war showed "those people who seriously believed that there was a connection between 9/11 and Saddam Hussein principally got their news from the Fox television news network."
Compaine said a survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found that about 34% of the public gets its news from the Internet and a like number from a newspaper.
However, about 57% of people said they got their news from TV "so that's still the 600-pound gorilla."
Compaine said the 25 percent who rely on the Internet are "younger and better educated than the public as a whole---people who use the Internet as the main source of news express relatively unfavorable opinions about the mainstream news sources and are among the most critical of press performance"As many as 38 percent of those who rely mostly on the Internet for news say they have an unfavorable opinion of cable news, compared to 25 percent overall."
David Boeri, a reporter for WBUR radio, Boston, said that Greta Van Susteren of Fox TV News ("On The Record") "turned her numbers around in one year by making Natalee Holloway, the poor girl, her poster child every night. So the headlines on Van Susteren's show would be night number one, "Natalee Holloway Missing." Night number two, "Natalee Holloway Still Missing. Night number three, you get the point. White girl, cute white chick, still missing. They were never black. They were always white."
Transcripts of the conference at the law school are published in the book "News Media In Crisis"(Doukathsan) and are available by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Massachusetts School of Law at Andover is a 21-year-old law school whose pioneering mission is to inexpensively provide rigorous legal education, a pathway into the legal profession, and social mobility to members of the working class, minorities, people in midlife, and immigrants.
Through its television shows, videotaped conferences, an intellectual magazine, and internet postings, MSL - - uniquely for a law school - - also seeks to provide the public with information about crucial legal and non legal subjects facing the country. #
(Sherwood Ross is a media consultant to Massachusetts School of Law at Andover. Reach him at email@example.com)