Sunday, March 12, 2023

Biden is coming

 So in what seems like big news around here, all my Fox data from 2022 -- 2,624 screenshots of the top five stories on the -- is now entered in a single spreadsheet. (Hautboys and trumpets off.) And the AEJMC deadline is still 19 days away.

What, you might ask, is the point? Well, it's not to say anything about Tucker Carlson and his guests; you don't need a spreadsheet to find the "off" button on the remote. It doesn't demonstrate that any specific, falsifiable utterance about Dominion Voting Systems' joint operating agreement with Beelzebub was made with actual malice under the Sullivan standard. Nor does it prove that Fox is a propaganda network and thus will lose its news license forthwith.* But it is a reasonable way to spend some time fleshing out the ways in which news routines, wherever they're practiced, allow all sorts of ideological skulduggery to sneak past the watchdogs.  

As that suggests, this isn't a study that loses sleep over what the opinion pages do. I'm not especially panicked by opinions showing up amid the news; if you don't like frontpage editorial cartoons (or large 1A doses of W.R. Hearst's views on life, the universe and everything), you shouldn't study security framing and the run-up to Pearl Harbor. And Fox is generally scrupulous about labeling opinions when they show up among the top five stories. It's not too surprising when two opinion pieces show up in a day, but when Joe Biden is coming for your retirement and the old homestead in consecutive screen grabs (above right, from about 10:45 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. Eastern US, Feb. 17, 2023), something cool is afoot.

Some of Fox's practices -- g-droppin', for example -- look like mere tabloidism. Across time, they point to some more entertaining questions: not just why "Not lovin' it" is the headline of choice for stories about miscreants at McDonald's, but why "Hidin' Biden" is a more frequent hed choice than "Cruzin' for a bruisin' " -- or why "California" in heds is followed not just by "dreamin' " but by "fleein' " and "leavin'."

Measures of sourcing and placement help address how frequently Fox's top political stories are rewritten from Politico or the frequently dericed New York Times or CNN. You can tell how often the day's lead story is based on a single tweet from Elon Musk or start to estimate whether anything Kamala Harris does is news before Fox has a chance to write a "Twitter erupts" hed about it. You can even count how many uniqure stories about the Idaho murders can lead the page in a single day.

Then there's some sheer nerdery: figuring out the correctness conditions of slamming and blasting, for example. (Hint: You can slam and blast pretty actively if you're a Republican or a CEO, but if you're a Democrat, be prepared to submit to a lot of passive blasting.) Melting down is almost exclusively done by two groups: (a) Black athletes and entertainers and b) liberals and the media. Done properly, even the occasional garden-path faceplant can take on a partisan tone.

A 2021 take on some of this has already shown up in the Big Securitization Book, but there's plenty more to be played with.

* Oh, stop it.


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