At Fox News, the challenge for credible journalism; plus the LAPD’s Breitbart ad and a fired reporter feels ‘abandoned’

October 1, 2019
Category: Newsletters

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Good Tuesday morning, and happy October. The impeachment story continues to dominate the news, and likely will for weeks (months?) to come. It’s fascinating watching The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal take turns with scoops. As far as TV, the major networks report while the cable news channels spin. One cable news network is at a crossroads.

At Fox News, where does journalism fit?

In some ways, the most interesting cable news network to watch at the moment is Fox News. Not necessarily to get the latest news on the impeachment inquiry — after all, the network doesn’t even try to pretend that it’s neutral when it comes to President Donald Trump. We all know the cozy relationship between Fox News and the president.

The “Fox & Friends” morning show and the primetime lineup of Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham have a chicken-and-the-egg relationship with Trump. It’s hard to tell if the talking points start inside the White House or on the air. But they are repeated by the other.

Where things get somewhat dicey is that Fox News still has reporters who have credibility, such as Chris Wallace and Shepard Smith. Analyst Andrew Napolitano is on record as saying Trump’s actions are “arguably impeachable.”

While those reporters are at least trying to responsibly delve into the impeachment inquiry, the primetime pundits are defending Trump, criticizing the left, dismissing all talk of impeachment and crushing the “mainstream media” — which means discrediting even some of their own colleagues. As CNN senior media reporter Oliver Darcy tweeted, “How can Fox expect anyone to take their news division seriously when the network’s biggest stars don’t?”

The Hollywood Reporter’s Jeremy Barr wrote, “There’s always been a gap between the network’s news and opinion wings, but people who appear on Fox News told THR that the chasm has recently been growing.”

One source told Barr, “I think it’s gotten much more difficult for the actual journalists to operate under the legacy explanation of news plus opinion.”

It’s hard to imagine a scenario where Fox News executives put a muzzle on the primetime pundits. Those are the network’s stars, the money-makers. Even criticizing colleagues likely isn’t enough to get them in trouble with head honchos. The bigwigs might even think all the bickering makes for good TV.

The question is how much longer will journalists such as Wallace and Smith continue to put up with colleagues trying to discredit their work?

Reporter: I feel ‘abandoned’

Carson King of Iowa waves to patients in the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital during a game between Iowa and Middle Tennessee in September. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

I’ve written several times about Carson King, the 24-year-old Iowa man who held up a sign on ESPN’s “College GameDay” asking for beer money. Eventually he raised well over a million dollars for a children’s hospital. When the Des Moines Register did a profile of him, it found racist tweets from when he was 16. He apologized. Then the reporter for the story was discovered to have had insensitive tweets in his past and the Register fired him.

That reporter, Aaron Calvin, told BuzzFeed News that he feels “abandoned” by the paper, that his life has been “set on fire” and that he has received death threats. Calvin was criticized by local residents who felt he was trying to ruin the reputation of the man who had raised the money for charity.

On one hand, it seemed Calvin really had to go out of his way to dig up the tweets King wrote as a teenager. It seemed to go far beyond the normal background check. But on the other hand, there’s no denying that King did tweet offensive remarks.

Calvin said he was told by Register editors to apologize in a tweet for his past tweets. But now he says he regrets tweeting his apology, and argues that he was merely doing his job as a reporter when he wrote his profile of the “GameDay” fan.

That, however, doesn’t fully explain his past tweets. I don’t know Calvin and everything that happened after his offensive tweets were discovered. The Register is not commenting. So it’s hard to have an informed opinion on whether his firing was justified.

“I recognize that I’m not the first person to be doxed like this — this whole campaign was taken up by right-wing ideologues and largely driven by that force,” Calvin, 27, told BuzzFeed. “It was just a taste of what I assume that women and journalists of color suffer all the time, but the kind of locality and regional virality of the story made it so intense.”

Another blockbuster journalism book is due


Ronan Farrow in April. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

Ronan Farrow’s new book “Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators” is due out Oct. 15. According to Page Six, it will include some serious allegations about NBC News. The book is expected to dig further into Matt Lauer’s story, as well as NBC’s decision “not to complete Farrow’s investigation into Harvey Weinstein.”

Last month, Farrow tweeted:

“If you’re hearing about my reporting before it’s published, it’s likely because parties with an interest in spinning or downplaying their role are putting out inaccurate characterizations of that reporting—take it with a grain of salt.”

Lookin’ for law in all the wrong places

The Los Angeles Police Department is looking into how a recruitment ad appeared on Breitbart’s website. The LAPD put out a statement saying:

“The LAPD celebrates diversity and embraces it within our ranks, and within the city we serve. We are aware that a recruitment advertisement has been circulated on a website that creates a negative juxtaposition to our core values.”

The ad showed a female police officer with the caption: “Choose Your Future. LAPD is hiring!” The Personnel Department for the City of Los Angeles wrote on Twitter:

“Recruitment ads were purchased through Google and ended up on sites that do not reflect the City’s values through automatic placement. We have stopped these Google Ads altogether while we re-examine our ad filters and take all necessary steps to ensure tighter control of ad settings.”

A spokesperson for Breitbart told the LA Times that Brietbart is “one of the most pro-police, pro-law-enforcement news organizations in America.”

A look back at some light reading


Former Alaska governor and GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, left, and Katie Couric. (AP Photo)

This week is the 11th anniversary of Katie Couric’s famous interview with then-vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. That’s the interview where Palin didn’t name any newspapers or magazines that she typically read to help her shape her world view. Instead, she stumbled and said, “All of them, any of them that have been in front of me over all these years.”

It proved to be a major moment that helped demonstrate Palin’s lack of qualifications to be one heartbeat away from the presidency. Last year, Couric came out with a two-part podcast looking back at the Palin interviews.

Earlier this year, in an interview with BuzzFeed News’ “AM to DM,” Couric said she hadn’t planned on purposely tripping up Palin, adding, “I don’t know what she was going to say.”

But, Couric said, she doesn’t know if that kind of interview would have the same impact today, and that Palin would not have been criticized for not naming what she read.

“I think there’s such a reverse snobbery about intellectuals that I think it would almost be seen as a badge of honor,” Couric said. “I think that’s really concerning.”

Hot type

  • An unthinkable crime. A ground-breaking surgery. Lives lost and a life saved. All this is an amazing piece by Gene Weingarten in The Washington Post Magazine. This is elite-level journalism that you absolutely must read.
  • Is it worth it? The Cut’s Irin Carmon and Amelia Schonbek, with additional reporting from Sarah Jones, on what it’s like after a survivor comes forward about sexual assault and harassment.
  • Esquire picks HBO’s 15 best documentaries of all-time. In the meantime, The Athletic’s Richard Deitsch writes that tonight’s HBO documentary “Diego Maradona,” about the soccer legend, is the best sports documentary of 2019. (Note: The Athletic has a paywall.)
  • Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan and CNN media analyst Brian Stelter talk about how the media should be covering impeachment on WNYC’s “The Takeaway.”

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at tjones@poynter.org.

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