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Fox News Interviews Journalists, Not French, About French Protests

Reported by Judy - March 29, 2006

Fox News displayed a strange form of journalism Tuesday (March 28, 2006) during its "Dayside" coverage of the French protests over a new law that lets employers fire young workers for any reason during their first two years on the job.

Fox News found the protests on the streets of Paris and elsewhere in France so compelling that it junked most of the planned segments on "Dayside" and shows video of the people in the street being shot with water cannons by Paris riot police. The video was supposed to be so enticing that Fox played in a split screen even during a briefing from the Pentagon by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

"Dayside" co-hosts Juliet Huddy and Mike Jerrick remarked about the protests turning violent, but mostly mentioned people throwing rocks, bottles, eggs, and balloons filled with paint. During about 45 minutes of video, one demonstrator hurled something, but mostly the scene was one of several thousand people milling around and occasionally shouting something at the police, or cowering under streams of water from the double-decker trucks moving through the crowd.

The co-hosts spoke with Fox News correspondent Greg Burke, who was supposed to be covering the protest in Paris. Most of his comments focused on actions of the police, noting he saw some police almost totally covered with paint and some protesters being dragged on the ground, but said they probably deserved it if they were resisting arrest. Burke also suggested that once it got dark, it would be harder for the police to pick out the "bad guys." "Most of those here now, they're looking for trouble," Burke claimed, without indicating how he knew that.

Huddy and Jerrick then went to a French journalist, Regis Lesommier, who complained that young people "are used to having a lot of things being taken care of by the government" and that "there is need for reform in French society and people are reluctant to accept that."

Jerrick asked Lesommier how older people felt about the protests, apparently assuming that older people would be appalled at such disorder in the streets. Lesommier said he did not know for sure, but thought since many unions were supporting the young people in opposing the law, there did not seem to be a generational split.

Next, Fox went to reporter Jonathan Hunt, whom Huddy and Jerrick said is very familiar with Paris. They neglected to mention where Hunt was -- in Paris or still haunting the halls of the U.N. building looking for all that oil for food money. Hunt claimed that the protest was "symptomatic of this general malaise in France right now" and then went into his typical breathless overstatement mode, claiming there "is no leadership whatsoever in France" and that President Jacques Chirac "clearly is a lame duck president who has lost control of his government and it seems from this is quickly losing control of his country.” None of that told viewers much about what was going on in the scenes on the screen.

Hunt went on to claim that the riot police must not be getting any direction on how to handle the situation and that was why they were not being more brutal. How much brutality is suitable, in Hunt's view, for egg-throwing was left unclear, but clearly water cannons fell far short.

"Dayside" then found yet another journalist to interview -- this one being Eric Pape, a correspondent for Newsweek magazine. Unlike Hunt, Pape said the Paris riot police were doing a remarkable job, staying hidden around corners and then rushing out to make arrests when needed. "I've never seen so many riot police in Paris," he said, not sounding at all as if he thought they lacked direction or were unsure of what to do.

During none of this time did Fox News' man on the scene refer to any interviews he had done with young protesters or bystanders. He was there mainly to provide speculation and to foment a sense of uneasiness, that something bad could happen at any moment and that the French people were perhaps worried about the protests.

Had Fox News relied on Real Journalism, of the old fashioned variety, viewers might have gotten some real information, as readers of the New Zealand Herald did. In its story on protests in Paris, the reporter talked to average Parisians, one a young person and the other an older one. The reporter wrote:

"Marc, 56, an employee at the Paris Opera, had tears in his eyes. 'It is so beautiful when the people rise up. Just look at all these people. It's wonderful. Wonderful.'"

Guess that's the problem with interviewing people off the street. You never know what they might say that could disrupt the establishment's agenda.

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