Wednesday, March 24, 2021

The makings of a Trend

Even on Planet Fox, this is an achievement: The top two stories are not just about the same event, they're in effect the same story. At top is a rewrite of an Albany Times-Union story about Gov. Cuomo's (allegedly nepotistic) vaccine priorities. In the No. 2 position is ... a rewrite of the same Albany Times-Union story about Gov Cuomo's (allegedly nepotistic) vaccine priorities!

This is a notch more dramatic than a previous case this month, in which one appearance by a newly hired "Fox News analyst" on a Fox talk show also held down the top two positions:

The visual framing is a bit more distinct here (March 4, if you're scoring along at home). The top story gets to remind the audience of the Main Enemy; the second story singles out a new one. Through March 5, as it turns out, Jen Psaki had been mentioned in as many Top Five homepage headlines as Mitch McConnell (21 each: two behind AOC but four ahead of Harris*).

So overall, what do you hear about when you visit the Fox homepage for your news? The most frequent headline words in this data set* are Trump (281), Biden (242), Cuomo (130) and COVID (100). Some frequent phrases? Glad you asked! Here's an edited selection:

  • Nursing home                 34
  • Impeachment trial         19
  • Super Bowl                      18
  • Anti-Trump                     16
  • Left wing                          16
  • Cancel culture                 13

Context, as usual, is everything. "Super Bowl" can be the game itself, but also the reaction of various Twitter randos to the halftime show, anything involving Tom Brady's postgame experiences or the uppityness of assorted players and relatives. "Anti-Trump" is often the Lincoln Project but also CNN and other miscreants. There's just no end of potential fun here.

* For the record, "Seuss" comes up 16 times and "Limbaugh" 15.

** Data cleanup still pending

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Guide us to thy perfect light

Came a question a few weeks ago on how the Fair 'n' Balanced Network might compare to the muscular right-wing news empires of the past -- say, Col. Bertie McCormick's Tribune. One point that hadn't stood out was the degree to which McCormick, and perhaps even more so Hearst, lavished space on their own prose and ideas. I'm now tempted to change my mind, based on this epic by one of Fox's pet media writers:

Fox Corporation chairman and News Corp executive chairman Rupert Murdoch turns 90 Thursday, but the media mogul hasn’t taken a step back from defending free speech, harnessing key roles in two of the most recognized and influential media companies in the world.

Uh, sure. McCormick, whatever else you might think of him,* was an actual defender of the First Amendment, even when it cloaked characters as slimy as Jay Near. Murdoch's outlets think free speech is fine, as long as it comforts the Trump cult and afflicts working journalists.

Murdoch recently condemned cancel culture as "awful woke orthodoxy" suppressing free speech around the globe while accepting a lifetime achievement award from the Australia Day Foundation earlier this year. He began by noting that his career is far from over, before slamming a "wave of censorship" plaguing the media industry.

If by "recently" you mean "late January," true. Here's the same writer then:

Murdoch made the remarks when accepting a lifetime achievement award from the Australia Day Foundation. He began by noting that his career is far from over, before slamming a "wave of censorship" plaguing the media industry.

You have to admit, it's a lot easier to just copy your own prose. Here's today's third paragraph:

"A lifetime achievement award does have an air of finality, almost of closure, but I can assure you that there are many goals still to come, and challenges to overcome. Well, I’m far from done," Murdoch said, noting his journey that "began in a smoke-filled Adelaide newsroom" remained in motion.

And January's:

"A lifetime achievement award does have an air of finality, almost of closure, but I can assure you that there are many goals still to come, and challenges to overcome. Well, I’m far from done," Murdoch said, noting his journey that "began in a smoke-filled Adelaide newsroom" remained in motion.

Indeed, you won't find much new in today's 65o-word labor of love, except -- and this is truly Hearstian -- the paean from another Murdoch shop:

He expanded to the United States in the early 1970s, adding a plethora** of newspapers – including the New York Post – to his portfolio.

"Media mogul Rupert Murdoch turns 90 today, and apart from his family, it’s The New York Post, and New York City, that have the most reason to celebrate the milestone," the Post’s Steve Cuozzo wrote Thursday.

"The Big Apple hasn’t been the same since Murdoch bought the paper from Dorothy Schiff in late 1976. The city is immeasurably more self-aware and better-informed than it was when its media were uniformly liberal if not outright left-leaning. It’s also a more fun place to be, thanks to Page Six," Cuozzo added.

You followers of pre-WWII exceptionalism can clear your own throats here. But if you've been wondering, yes: You may add the Heavenly Chorus to the ways in which Murdoch resembles his predecessors.***

So happy birthday, boss. Here’s to many more.

* Plenty.
 ** Pro tip: Never use "plethora" unless (a) it's preceded by "veritable" and (b) you are Howard Cosell.
*** Three guesses about what the prewar McCormick or Hearst would have thought about being likened to a carpetbagger who received an award from "a nonprofit organization designed to unite the leading figures of the Australian community living in the United Kingdom."

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Sunday, March 07, 2021

America First

 In a stunning departure from the past week, in which the top story at your Fair 'n' Balanced homepage has been either Donald Trump, Andrew Cuomo, liberal hypocrisy, Dr. Seuss, Andrew Cuomo, liberal hypocrisy, Donald Trump, mass murderers getting checks from the COVID bill or Andrew Cuomo, Sunday afternoon is all (well, 60%) royal family. And even by Fox standards, the lie at the top of the page -- the queen's "last-minute swipe" -- is rather striking:

Queen Elizabeth II stressed the importance of unity and family in a royal address that aired just hours before Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's sit-down with Oprah Winfrey is set to air.

In a message broadcast on Sunday, Britain's monarch also touched on the role of technology in keeping people connected with friends and family amid the global coronavirus pandemic.

Although it came hours before the highly anticipated interview, the queen made no mention of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex or their upcoming interview with Winfrey, which will Sunday evening in the U.S., and on Monday in the U.K.

Needless to say, this isn't the fault of the writer, who was merely rearranging (per standard Fox practice) some words at the top of an AP story. But rest assured that someone at Fox is working hard to make sure you get the headline you want, regardless of what the pesky text says. 

In other royal news, some sources talk about

the misery of life at Kensington Palace,
and another reality TV star is using Twitter -- bringing to mind one of the less clueful columns of late in the local fishwrap:

The celebrity business has gone cold in this country. It's taken a massive hit from COVID- 19. And no one should feel sorry about that. On the contrary. You could argue it's one of the few good things to emerge from The Year of Coronavirus.

You could, but then you'd be making claims about public opinion without evidence, and here I managed to get through an entire election without a rant about poll coverage. Sigh.

Anyway, to round out the page, we have Fox promoting Fox personalities:

"This might be the future once the vaccine really gets control over the pandemic and we just start seeing isolated cases," he said. "By then, this drug might be ready and this might be the drug for over the next several months."

... and another press release from Dear Leader, which clocks in at eight paragraphs (including "Fox News' inquiry to Murkowski's office was not immediately returned") but required the efforts of two staffers. Quite a day at the glue factory for Fox.

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Monday, February 22, 2021

You 'kids' and your 'abbreviations'

 

Before we roll our eyes too hard at Those Kids and What They're Doing To Our Words, it's always fun to dig into the archives -- here, your 1941 San Francisco Examiner -- and see how things looked in the past.

Why is "gas" in quotes in the Oct. 22 business section but quoteless in the news section on the same day? Probably not a fight between desks. The top hed refers to real gas, see -- the kind that's used to run factories. The "gas" in the second hed is that stuff autoists put in their autos. 

If you used your i'Phone to schedule a time for your 'flu shot, you might not be too surprised at the 'chute escape described below. And, yes, getting in the local university angle is like getting the dog's name -- by the time you're qualified to work for Hearst,* you're expected to know that kind of stuff.


 * Warren Breed, author of "Social control in the newsroom" (1955) and a former Hearst reporter, described this phenomenon in an interview for a journal article much later: Nobody had to tell you when a story should begin "Bands playing and flags flying...", because you already knew

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Thursday, February 04, 2021

Battle for the top

 

How do you pick the most Foxalicious story of a fairly ordinary day (Thursday, for example). Where do you even start? 

Could it be this classic "under fire" take from around 8:30 a.m.?

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., is facing criticism over initial claims she made about the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, with many noting that she wasn't even in the Capitol when it occurred.

The controversy erupted after the New York congresswoman posted a video in which she described a confrontation with Capitol Police at her office, which is located on the larger Capitol complex. But it is not in the Capitol itself — which includes the dome, the House, and the Senate — and was where many rioters stormed in and were seen breaking windows.

Her office is located in the Cannon building, which is accessible through underground tunnels connected to the Capitol as well as via a short stroll down a walkway and across the street. It was also one of the buildings where staff was told to evacuate after suspicious packages were found in the area. Law enforcement found pipe bombs and Molotov cocktails in the vicinity.

Clearly worth the No. 2 spot of the morning, right?

... On Wednesday, she faced a wave of backlash. Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., also blasted
media coverage, tweeting that insurrectionists never stormed the hallway that she shares with Ocasio-Cortez. The hashtag #AlexandriaOcasioSmollet trended, an apparent comparison to actor Jussie Smollett, who falsely claimed to be the victim of a hate crime.

To be fair, assorted Fox allies tried to get several hashtags trending, including the misspelled one highlighted downpage the previous evening. But as a Fox reader, you didn't really need the prompt, did you?

Or could the day's Foxiest story be the discovery, around 3 p.m., that those Endless Wars the previous administration was always ending are a pretty good idea after all?

President Biden announced Thursday that the U.S. will end its support for Saudi-led offensive operations in Yemen against Houthi rebels, as part of a new foreign policy outlook by the new administration.

"This war has to end, and to underscore our commitment we are ending all American support for offensive operations in the war in Yemen, including relevant arm sales," Biden said.

Earlier, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan pointed to the stopping of two arms sales of precision-guided munitions that were moving forward under the last administration as an example.

Nice, but I'm going with the story that broke into the No. 3 spot around 8:30:

Though the numbers aren’t public, Hunter Biden was likely paid big bucks for his new book deal. 

The tale of Hunter Biden’s experience with drug addiction will "likely" earn the president’s son a number in the "high six figures," a book industry source told Fox News. 

Fox News has reached out to Simon & Schuster for confirmation. 

...Sources tell the Daily Mail Hunter likely received an advance as high as $2 million and could earn millions more if he allows his life story to be filmed. 

This is actually Fox's third story of the day on the alleged memoir but the first to omit this crucial sideswipe:

Hunter Biden's book will be published by Simon & Schuster, the same publishing house that dropped Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., from a book deal over Hawley's objection to the certification of electoral votes from Pennsylvania. The protest of the votes led to a pro-Trump mob attacking the U.S. Capitol.

The final effort required the efforts of three Fox staffers (one in the byline, two in the shirttail), Considering that the main point of a Foxclusive like this seems to be getting the commenters riled up -- at this writing, it takes all of five reader comments to get to SOROS!11!!1!!!1!1!!!!!1!!! -- one wonders whether if wouldn't have been easier just to take the wire story and give everybody the evening off.

Friday, January 29, 2021

King to puppet

 

If you're not careful, you could spend the entire day writing about the Fair 'n' Balanced Network, but the salmon isn't going to roast itself, so here's a brief look at The Day In Biden on the Fox homepage. 

The left-hand tale (both are from the No. 3 position), around 10:30 a.m., suggests that your place on the monarchy-to-republic scale depends largely on who you are:

Biden’s orders have stopped construction of the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border; reversed the ban on transgender individuals serving in the U.S. military; reversed Trump’s travel ban on mostly Muslim countries; rejoined the World Health Organization, after Trump withdrew last year amid the pandemic; rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement, after Trump withdrew; restored the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in full, which Trump sought to get rid of; rolled back Trump environmental policies, like scrapping the contract for the Keystone XL Pipeline, and more.

By 5:30 p.m. or so, it's clear who's really in charge:

Advocates for the Green New Deal have praised the Biden administration for its early moves to address climate change, taking a victory lap after the president signed a slew of sweeping executive orders targeting the environment.

The array of directives that Biden signed include pausing new federal oil leases, rejoining the Paris climate agreement, eliminating lucrative subsidies for the fossil fuel industry, revoking permits for the Keystone XL Pipeline and converting the government's fleet of vehicles to electric power.

Again, if you're scoring along with your J2100 textbook and wondering about that news value of timeliness, the "have praised" is a little puzzling -- since most of the story is based on some two-day-old tweets from the usual suspects, it's hard to see why this couldn't have been ready in time to head off the coronation. But at least we've managed to get AOC on the front again.

The biggest difference between Fox's news side and Fox's commentary side since the Peaceful Transfer of Power, at least to date, seems to be that the news side thinks Biden was elected president. (I'm almost willing to predict that the website is also more likely to break the "fourth wall" -- to lean over and tell you what it really thinks -- over the past week, but that awaits more thorough testing.) Compared with the heavy lifting that both sides are doing for the party, any differences are really quite minor.

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Monday, January 25, 2021

I'm not asking you who's on second

You might be wondering -- since Fox apparently made up its mind fairly early in November that Chavez and Soros and HILLARY!!111!1!1!!1!!1!!! didn't actually conspire to rig the election -- what things look like over on the Fair 'n' Balanced website these days. The short answer is more or less the way they always did. Enjoy, for example, the lead story from last Friday:

Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., believes President Biden killing the Keystone XL pipeline shows he’s putting "Saudi Arabia first," not American workers.

"It looks like he cares more about workers in Saudi Arabia than the workers in America," Daines said on "America's Newsroom." 

Classic Fox, in that it's a single-source story of the tedious sort: not an assertion of fact built off one background comment and waiting for confirmation, but one person offering an opinion about policy effects. Even though it took two staffers to assemble, there's none of the comment-policy-countercomment-background from which news is usually built from talk-show appearances. (Though to Fox's credit, it's at least cribbing from its own work here, rather than that of the professional networks.)

 Note also that it's a bit behind the times (that pesky news value of "timeliness") -- the event happened Wednesday, but it's not a lead story until someone puts it into the "foreigners first" perspective for you. Compare that with the Monday lead story:

Americans still waiting on coronavirus relief, including stimulus checks, from the federal government may be surprised to learn that President Biden is reportedly offering $4 billion to Central American countries for development.

Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Saturday that Biden told him the U.S. would send $4 billion to help development in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala — nations whose hardships have spawned tides of migration through Mexico toward the United States.

Fox needed four staffers and a boost from the AP to put together this eight-paragraph story (including the obligatory "Fox News' inquiry to the White House was not immediately returned"), and given the number of plates that need to be kept spinning, you can see why:

Biden wants a massive plan that includes $20 billion to accelerate vaccine distribution, a $15-an-hour minimum wage increase, an extension of supplemental unemployment benefits through the end of September, a one-time $1,400 stimulus check, a temporary expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit and $350 billion in new funding for state and local governments.

Biden promised that border wall building won't continue under his administration, and critics say his immigration stance encourages Central American migrants to cross the border illegally. Earlier in January, a caravan of thousands of migrants clashed with Guatemalan authorities while continuing to trek toward the U.S. border, according to reports.

Former President Donald Trump threatened to cut aid to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador for "doing nothing" about migrant caravans in 2019 after pledging to give them billions in 2018. Months later, Trump announced the aid the was restored after the countries reached immigration agreements with the U.S.

So if you can't tell who's on second, billionswise, it's because who is on first.

Fox, to at least its partial credit, didn't go for what seems to have become known as the Big Lie. Given the state of the numbers, that wasn't a really difficult call -- partly because Fox's stock in trade was always the myriad Little Lies it could spread in favor of its friends and against its enemies. Given the state of demand in the marketplace of ideas, it's hard to see how or why that would change.

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