Re-examining the Fox/Trump relationship; an exercise in community reporting

March 5, 2019
Category: Newsletters

Long before now, we’ve known that President Donald Trump is a fan of Fox News and that Fox News is a fan of Trump. So even when you read the money quote in Jane Mayer’s detailed New Yorker piece about the relationship between Trump and Fox News, it doesn’t have quite the impact it should.

“It’s the closest we’ve come to having state TV,’’ said Nicole Hemmer, an author and assistant professor of presidential studies at the University of Virginia.

If that quote doesn’t shock anyone, and if all the stories about how interwoven Trump and Fox News appear to be don’t break new ground, why was there such a media buzz Monday about Mayer’s story? What makes it so important?

The answer is, well, everything in the story, including that quote and all the details of the Trump-Fox News relationship.

This is a perfect example of how an exhaustive list of details, context and analysis assembled in one place demonstrates the gravity of a story, especially ones we might have become desensitized to. Perhaps we just needed reminding how unusual it is that a U.S. president is persuaded by the most popular cable news network in the country and vice versa — and why that is unhealthy. Mayer lays out a compelling case that Trump influences Fox News’ coverage, and Fox News’ coverage influences Trump.

During an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Monday, Mayer said, “You can hardly tell on any given day which one is in the driver’s seat. But what you can see is it works for both of them and maybe to the detriment of the rest of us.”

It’s doubtful that Fox News is bothered by the characterization that some of its programming is simultaneously a mouthpiece for Trump and a policy-influencer. Regular viewers of Fox News likely don’t have a problem with that, either.

But they should.

There are parts of Mayer’s piece that should trouble Fox News and its viewers. For example, this quote from former “Fox & Friends” co-host Alisyn Camerota: “Never did I hear anyone worry about getting a second source. The single phrase I heard over and over was ‘This is going to outrage the audience!’ You inflame the viewers so that no one will turn away. Those were the standards.” Camerota added that the show “regularly broke the rules of journalism,’’ and that Fox News would often “cull far-right, crackpot websites” for content.

There’s nothing wrong with any show, even one that proclaims to be a news or news-opinion show, wanting people to watch, but that should not come at the expense of responsible journalism. It’s also fair to question whether networks such as MSNBC and even CNN, on certain shows, are guilty of having an anti-Trump agenda and then gearing programming to meet that narrative. The difference, however, is that MSNBC and CNN are not driving policy as the New Yorker piece claims Fox News does.

Mayer’s story is a fascinating look at how Fox News and Trump became allies, how their relationship works on a daily basis and how it could impact the nation. It’s an important read, whether you watch Fox News or not.

Adding perspective

In the spring of 2018, about a dozen students from two south Los Angeles high schools gathered in the office of a non-profit called Community Coalition. There, they read a Los Angeles Times story about Maurice McKinzy, a father and former basketball coach who was shot and killed just blocks from one of the schools. The Times published the story again, but this time it’s annotated with comments from the students.

Some of the unedited comments included:

If violence was a cause for his death, the person who wrote this should have implemented things about gun violence in general, factors like the history of gun violence in general or what types of actions were implemented by police or the community to stop this, or if action was taken at all.”

“You guys should add that there’s communities here trying to make a change.”

“You guys should add little bit more of gang violence and how it’s something even ‘good’ people have to go threw.”

It was a compelling exercise that news outlets should consider to help reporters understand the communities they are covering.

Check it out

Luke Perry died Monday at the age of 52. The Rolling Stone’s Alan Sepinwall with a look back at “Gen-X’s teen heartthrob.”

Depressing story from the Times of London about what might have happened to the body of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

AL.com has a comprehensive roundup of Sunday’s tornadoes in Alabama, including strong use of Twitter to help tell the story.

A disturbing story from the New York Times’ Manny Fernandez about sexual abuse at the border.

The Washington Post has this look at Oprah Winfrey’s interviews with the two now-grown men at the center of the Michael Jackson child sexual abuse documentary, “Finding Neverland,” after the conclusion of the second part last night.

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