One strange risk of the News Corp hacking scandal is that it is such an egregious violation of common ethics and morality that it may cause us to overlook how Rupert Murdoch’s media outlets disgrace the profession of journalism on a daily basis. Americans are now wondering, as well they should, whether any News Corp outlet has unethically spied on American soil or on American citizens. But even if they had not done so, News Corp’s Fox News damages American journalism in ways big and small on a daily basis.
A perfect case study is actually how Fox News has covered—or failed to cover—the phone-hacking scandal of their corporate sister in Britain. After largely ignoring the events, Fox addressed them on Friday on Fox and Friends and, in less than four minutes, demonstrated how Fox fails to meet the most basic requirements of journalism. Host Steve Doocy and public relations consultant Bob Dilenschneider, who has no apparent expertise on the subject, agreed that the public “piling on,” News Corp is “too much.” They also agreed that Murdoch has done all the right things to address the crisis. They also conflated News of the World hacking into citizens phones with other companies being the victims of hacking.
Here’s an annotated guide to the video:
Lack of ethics. Note that there is no mention of the fact that they are discussing events at a newspaper that shares the same owner as the network they are on. It’s simply pro-forma to disclose that sort of conflict of interest, NBC does it with stories on General Electric all the time. Not so at Fox News apparently.
Hypocrisy. Dilenschneider and Doocy agree that we should be focusing on the more important issues facing the country. Do you remember Fox complaining about how there was too much coverage of the misleading gotcha videos “exposing” ACORN, Planned Parenthood or US Department of Agriculture official Shirley Sherrod? Neither do I.
Intellectual dishonesty. Dilenschneider and Doocy equate News of the World hacking into innocent victims phones and Citibank being the victim of hacking itself so as to dismiss News International’s malpractice as just another hacking scandal.
None of this is new, of course. Back in 2003 the University of Maryland found that Fox viewers were the most likely of all media consumers to believe demonstrable false statements about current events. In 2010 they found the same thing. Whether or not News Corp has committed any crimes in America, they have done plenty of damage.