Today is a great day for broadcast journalism. Sarah Palin, ex-governor of Alaska and arguably the star of the 2008 presidential election, has signed up to work as a pundit for Fox News. You might have thought that her, I don't know, INSANITY might get in the way of her media career, but obviously it hasn't held her back so far.
In fact, a comment made by Palin on accepting the role sheds light on the calibre of the news outfit she is joining. She said:
I am thrilled to be joining the great talent and management team at Fox News. It's wonderful to be part of a place that so values fair and balanced news.
Since her comments have often shown themselves to be incredibly accurate and insightful, I thought I'd round up the top five examples of "fair and balanced news" at Fox.
1. Mr Chairman . . .
Back in July, as the News of the World phone hacking scandal was breaking, Rupert Murdoch -- proprietor of both NotW and Fox News -- went on the channel. Jon Bernstein blogged about it at the time. Did they uphold the values of fair, balanced, independent news reporting and grill their chairman with a daring disregard for their own interests? Judge for yourself:
Anchor: "Mr Chairman, sir, thanks very much for joining us. We appreciate it."
Rupert Murdoch: "Fine, good afternoon."
Anchor: "The story that's really buzzing all around the country and certainly here in New York is that the News of the World, a News Corporation newspaper in Britain, used . . ."
Rupert Murdoch: "I'm not talking about that issue at all today. Sorry."
Anchor: "OK. No worries, Mr Chairman, that's fine with me."
2. What terror attacks?
Last week, Sophie Elmhirst blogged here about Rudy Giuliani denying on ABC that any domestic terrorist attacks took place under George W Bush. But far be it from Fox to get left behind! Last week, Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi said on Fox:
One of the things the American people appreciate about the Bush administration [is], after September 11, not one time did the terrorists who tried to kill us and end our way of life, not one time were they able to attack the mainland United States again.
You guessed it -- the interviewer, Neil Cavuto, stayed shtum and did not correct this factual error (the Shoe Bomber, the LA airport attack . . . )
3. Glenn Beck
Ah, Glenn Beck. This major broadcaster at Fox News recently had the dubious honour of being named "Misinformer of the Year 2009" by the Media Matters for America website. He came to international attention in July when he said on air that Barack Obama had exposed himself "over and over again" as a person with "a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture". To give Fox some credit, Brian Kilmeade tried to argue with him, saying that most of the Obama administration was white, so "you can't say he doesn't like white people". (I'm sure there are better arguments to be made, but it's the thought that counts. Sort of.) But Beck pushed ahead, arguing:
I'm not saying he doesn't like white people, I'm saying he has a problem. This guy is, I believe, a racist.
Apart from the fact that his statement doesn't make sense, it's also based on precious little evidence. But the big boss didn't mind -- Rupert Murdoch said in November: "If you actually assess what he was talking about, he was right." Great!
4. Bill O'Reilly
Another big hitter at Fox News deserves a special shout-out, too. Bill O'Reilly's chat show The O'Reilly Factor is reportedly the most watched cable "news" programme in America. He calls his show a "no-spin zone" but others beg to differ. In 2007, researchers from the Indiana University School of Journalism published a report analysing O'Reilly's "Talking Points Memo" segment with techniques developed by the Institute for Propaganda Analysis. It concluded that he consistently used propaganda and name-calling, and cast non-Americans as threats.
5. A stranger among us
There are some good 'uns in there. Last week, a Fox reporter, Douglas Kennedy, went mad on air on the Fox News Watch discussion show, telling the host, Jon Scott: "This intro sounds like it's written by Dick Cheney in his bunker." He then said that the panel had a right-wing slant. Kennedy's co-panellist Judith Miller objected, saying: "Wait a minute, I am very, very liberal on a lot of issues." But Kennedy was not to be silenced: "You went to jail to protect Dick Cheney, Come on!" Yeah, you tell 'em.