Thursday, December 9, 2010

Fox Shock. Or Not.

I am shocked, shocked, to learn about a Fox News memo that sought to have its talking heads spin and frame a story in a certain way, just to influence its audience.

According to Howard Kurtz, the best news critic in the biz, a memo shows Fox asked its folks to portray the summer health care debate in words more likely to make the proposal look bad. According to the memo, pollster Frank Luntz suggested:
“If you call it a public option, the American people are split,” he explained. “If you call it the government option, the public is overwhelmingly against it.” 

“A great point,” (Sean) Hannity declared. “And from now on, I'm going to call it the government option, because that's what it is.” 

Or as the memo added:
“Please use the term ‘government-run health insurance,’ or, when brevity is a concern, ‘government option,’ whenever possible.”
As readers here know, how a story is framed may influence what and how people think about proposals, policies, or current issues.  This is an instance of Fox News attempting to consistently frame a story in such a way as to influence opinion -- a major no-no in journalism.  But Fox is more about talking about the news than reporting on the news, and this memo merely adds more evidence to that belief.  And this is too bad.  It's one thing to opinionate against it, but it's another to skew your language in such a way -- consistently across a network -- in order to subtly influence opinion. 

That's not journalism.  Hell, that's not even being fair with your audience.

Never mind that Luntz, who often appears on Fox, is one of the few pollsters once found to be in violation of the AAPOR ethics codes for opinion researchers.  Fox keeps using him because, let's face it, he's both kinda good at the political game, and he'll always come through for one particular political party.  Why Fox "News" can't find a more "fair and balanced" polling guy, that one I'll never understand.  Unless, of course, they don't really want one.

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