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2005 in Review - Fox News Live Takes "Tabloid News" to New Lows

Reported by Nancy - January 1, 2006 -

So many themes, so little time. As I posted over & over again, FNL is a mishmash of slash-&-burn, rapid-fire, content-free, hit-&-run, miniblurbs that is best described as "Infotainment for the Attention-Span-Impaired." The full FNL treatment: multiple teasers, short clips & 2-minute interviews, mini-blurbs & excessive repetition, sort of like Hit-&-Run News. While largely content-free, FNL "news" always has a message, & that message is usually "Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid. Of Everything & Everyone."

There were some specific categories that recurred on a nearly daily basis, & my Top 7 list of those is below, with links to posts illustrating that particular theme. You'll notice a lot of overlap, because FNL is really very good at producing tabloid news you can't use. I'm leaving the political bias to other News Hounds to document, because it's so blatantly evident on the opnion shout-fests. FNL routinely chimes in with the most obsequious coverage possible of anything & everything related to the Bush administration in general, & to the Bush family in particular. But I think that FNL's offenses against good journalistic practice & common sense (not to mention good taste) are a significant part of the problem that is the "dumbing down" of the culture.

1-Terror, terror, everywhere
FNL's propaganda staff never miss a beat. From the hideous graphics ("War on Terror" in red-&-black designs that almost but not quite resemble dripping blood) to music (ominous clashing noise to remind you to be afraid), everything enhances the underlying message of the few "hard news" items they actually report. And those little items are invariably somehow skewed. For example, on July 15 there was a segment about how North Carolina is "a hotbed of terrorist activity" just in case viewers outside major metro areas might get complacent. The July 7 Bombs in London turned out to be All About Us!

There was a hue & cry every time "terror suspects" were identified or arrested but curiously (not) there was little or no follow-up on these cases, largely because the DOJ has had so few successful prosecutions. Wouldn't want viewers to know that, would we?

When it wasn't terror alerts, it was health theats.

The Bloodlust/Crime category might almost be a subset of this, but it gets so much air time on FNL I think it deserves its own attention.

There's nothing FNL loves better than a horrific crime to get the bloodlust pumping. They dig up the most extreme "analysts" who invariably assume, along with FNL staff, that a suspect (there is ALWAYS a suspect, even if they have to create an imaginary junkie or drug ring to get the requisite frisson of fear in viewers) is guilty & begin baying for more police, harsher penalties, tougher judges & imposition of the death penalty.

On Nov 10, for example, FNL was basically Crime, Crime, & Yet More Crime with the piece de resistance being not one, but two "missing white woman" stories that got the full FNL treatment. Yes, they had to go to great lengths to avoid talking about the Dems winning & GOPs losing in so many of Nov 8's elections & they nearly succeeded in ignoring the election results altogether.

The "Missing White Girl" is a subset of this category, the perfect combination of an attractive young -- & above all, white -- female victim, usually with plenty of grieving family & friends to interview; an unsavory suspect with a shady past, & opportunities galore for "analysis" by talking heads. On Nov 14, there was a Trifecta that make FNL deliriously happy: Missing White Girl! Amber Alert! Double Homicide!

But on June 21 there was an episode that was a sad illustration of the racism & sexism inherent in the "Missing White Child" Agenda. There was an ALERT for the verdict in 1964 civil rights murder trial of Edgar Ray Killen. FNL showed live video (full on & fairly close up) of the defendant while the judge polled the jurors (audio only, no pix of judge or jury). During a lull in the proceedings, Asman noted it is "41 years to the day" when the 3 (James Chaney, Andrew Goodman & Michael Schwerner) were killed. Then it was back to more video of the defendant, as the verdicts were read (guilty of 3 counts of manslaughter), followed by video of a "family member" hugging him after the verdict. But FNL, for all its carping & sobfests about victims, never showed pictures of Killen's victims or the decastated families of his victims. Why?

3-Eye candy
Here we find the car chases! buildings & bridges collapsing! death row escapee captured! former beauty pageant queen still missing! oil refinery fire! & other assorted visual effects that tease & titillate but don't inform. A few random examples:
house explosion & resulting fire in Lexington, MA, complete with video of billowing smoke.
HOT PURSUIT (full-screen graphic, with flames) in FL as police chase suspected sex offender, complete with grainy, pointless video of the eventual capture.

Fluff is the only way to describe some of the things FNL "reports" on. a vile brew of content-free eye candy, celebrity gossip & the occasional bout of self-promotion.

Nov 1 provided a good example of a program that was Stuffed With Fluff with repeated & essentially content-free mini-blurbs about Bush's "plan" for how to cope with a possible bird flu pandemic, but by far the bulk of the noon hour was taken up with drivel masquerading as news. There was plenty of eye candy (burning mansion in Georgia! explosion at gas pump in OH!) plus sleaze (college station broadcasting sex & nudity!). As with any Murdoch-owned outlet, there was plenty of coverage of Charles & Camilla's visit to the US (your daily quota of celebrity fluff). The hour was capped by FNL's staple: the "missing cute white girl" entry.

The Friday edition of FNL tends to be the dumping ground for an awful lot of fluff, especially of the "caught on videotape!" variety.

All the fluff serves as a distraction from any real news, of course, as when FNL used live coverage of "The George W Bush Travelling Road Show" & "The George W Bush Photo Op at the White House" to ignore the Downing Street Memo.

5-ALERT! for nothing much
Here are some of the sillier ALERTs from FNL in 2005:
ALERT: Pete Rose Jr will plead guilty to drug charges.
ALERT : Bush is "getting ready to board Air Force One",
multiple ALERTs::a military test plane (F-15) made a safe emergency landing
ALERT:: Bush makes a phone call
ALERT: suspect being chased on rooftops

A subset of this category is minor items of possibly mild local interest that are given national air time by FNL, exemplified by David Asman reporting that Jennifer Cabanayan, Miss Everett Teen USA 2004, is joining the Army or that 6 people:were stuck on an amusement park ride.

Finally, here an example of something that should have merited multiple ALERTs -- possibly even an entire special investigative report -- but was instead buried in the headlines near the "bottom" of the hour: the news that we now have a Star Chamber,.when a federal appeals court ruled that the government could hold Jose Padilla without charge indefinitely.

6-Lack of balance from the "fair & balanced" network
Yes, the channel that somehow sold the public the entirely bogus idea that news should be "balanced" is anything but balanced when it comes to advancing its own agenda.

On Nov 08, for example, only one France-bashing guest was invited to bloviate about the riots in France -- Bill Kristol, ideologue extraordinaire.

On Oct 27, in discussing thewithdrawal of Harriet Miers's nomination, FNL solicited opinions & analysis overwhelmingly from GOPs, & showed clips of a number of Senators (all GOPs) making statements about the situation. The only topic deemed worthy enough to interrupt the Miers-fest was the arrival of GWBush (GOP) in FL to "tour" the damage caused by Hurricane Wilma with his brother Jeb (GOP).

On Oct 6, in an effort to reinforce one of Bush's speech earlier that morning, FNL even dragged out one of the big guns, Richard Perle, who rarely appears on the daytime programs & who took this opportunity to offer an alternate version of reality, skewed to the neo-con agenda. There was no one to oppose or question Perle's assertions (he's STILL trying to imply that Iraq was connected to 9/11 & he, one of the prime architects of the mess in Iraq, STILL refuses to take responsibility, trying to blame the CIA, the State Dept, "bad decisions" made by unidentified others, & the institution of democracy for not being as war-hungry as he is).

Back in August, with the nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court, there was a good example of imbalance from the normally inojectionable Megyn Kendall.

Marc Ginsberg (former US Ambassador to Morocco, Fox "foreign affairs analyst") is a frequent guest on FNL, & on Aug 4 he turned in a stellar performance in an unopposed rant about Saudi Arabia & Al Jazeera (both of which are ongoing targets at FNL), displaying his undiplomatic skills with the use of phrases like "camel express".

The "family values" crowd is nothing if not hypocritical, & various programs on FNC prove that every day. FNL does its part with a variety of sleazy topics ccovered as though they were "news" when really all they are is mere titillation. Here are some examples of sleaze treated as "news" on FNL:

National Porn Sunday!
Jennifer Anniston -- after a teaser ("how she REALLY feels about seeing her hubby snuggling with Angelina Jolie"), David Asman read from a Vanity Fair article about Anniston, while FNL displayed pix of Anniston that he described as "seen here in the sexy photo spread from the magazine."

One episode of FNL was so awful I even coined the word Splooze to describe the mix of spin & sleaze the was oozing from the TV screen.

A subset of this category is FNL's unhealthy obsession with older women having sex with younger men, epitomized by the teacher-student tabkiud scandals like this one: Beth Geisel, (an "attractive, wealthy" teacher) charged with having sex with 4 of her students at a Catholic school. Asman's comment: "Wotta teacher."