As early as news began, reporting has been biased. Newspaper editors had reasoned that it is not enough to simply report facts. The real thing that will save society is getting readers emotionally invested in a story. Mechanically spoonfeeding facts doesn’t interest people, but telling stories about good vs. evil does. This kind of sensationalist news reporting is what cable news outlets like Fox News excel at.
Fox News is the most-watched cable news network on television. It targets right-leaning conservatives and broadcasts worldwide. It was created by Australian-American media mogul Rupert Murdoch and used to be a division of 21st Century Fox but is now owned by the newly dubbed Fox Corporation following Disney’s acquisition of Fox’s entertainment assets.
Fox News often comes under fire from critics for being unfairly biased towards Republicans and against Democrats, and for swaying conservative voters by spreading propaganda. I lean to the left politically so I often criticize the network relentlessly and ridicule their pundits, but to be fair, news has been biased for a long time. Cable news just carries the torch into the modern era.
Just to be clear, I have no problem with opinion pieces (which Fox News will sometimes site as a counter-argument to their accusations of bias). Framing news to convince people of the reporter’s point of view could be considered propaganda if it were not specifically categorized as an opinion piece. Surf the web and you’ll find plenty of them. The problem only arises when people cannot tell the difference between opinion and fact.
The question of how trustworthy news organizations really are has plagued the world for ages. Even Thomas Jefferson said that advertisements were the only reliable truths in newspapers.
James Madison, the fourth president of the United States, wanted political institutions to be balanced so as to balance the power between two opinionated political parties, and this extended to news and media.
Yellow journalism (an American term for journalism that is poorly researched and tries to get attention by sensationalism) really caught on in the late 1800s, and this technique was employed by the country’s two biggest news publishers, William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer.
In those days, newspapers revelled in sensationalism. It’s practically the language of the early 20th century, a time when everyone always blamed Jews and communists for the world’s problems. Filter bubbles, used by internet companies like Google and Facebook to filter out content the user may not like, are very much in the same vein as they only report stories that their already opinionated audience will favor.
But liberal bias is something news organizations get accused of as well, and this is the attitude that spawned Fox News. In addition to ending slavery, the Federal Government closed down many organizations that favored the Confederacy during the Reconstruction Era, which was of course seen by many in the Deep South as biased, and in the 1960s when television reporters started getting hired out of college, they often brought a liberal point of view back with them, which many thought tilted the balance of media journalism towards the left, including Rupert Murdoch who saw dollar signs in his eyes when he had the idea of tapping an underserved well of conservatives in America who increasingly felt left out by the increasingly left-leaning television market.
Following Murdoch’s experience with news networks after launching Sky News in the U.K., the profit he received from his 50% stake in the parent company of film studio 20th Century Fox a year before the company’s earnings increased in the fiscal year of 1986, and the success of Murdoch’s launch of the TV network FOX, which would be home to many TV hits like The Simpsons and American Idol, Murdoch announced his company News Corp. would launch a 24-hour cable news channel to target conservatives and compete with the likes of Ted Turner’s CNN, which launched in 1980 as the first 24-hour cable news network.
The man who Murdoch hired to be the news network’s CEO was Roger Ailes.
Ailes, who was born in Warren, Ohio in 1940, graduated from Ohio University in 1962, where he majored in radio and television and was even the student station manager for two years, although he got his foot in the door a year earlier as a TV production assistant and later became a producer and eventually executive producer for a local talk-variety show called The Michael Douglas Show and continued as executive producer after it was syndicated nationally in 1963. The show won Ailes a few Emmys, but the awards were not the most important thing that happened to Ailes on that show.
When Vice President Richard Nixon appeared on the show in 1967, Ailes had a lively discussion about television. Nixon felt TV was a gimmick but Ailes argued that television benefitted politics. Ailes won Nixon over and the future president ended up calling on Ailes to help Nixon appear more likable on television, hiring Ailes as his own personal executive producer.
The success of Nixon’s presidential election in 1969 brought Ailes into politics. He also worked on Ronald Reagan’s reelection campaign and received credit for George H. W. Bush’s victory in 1989 as well. But he abandoned his role of political consulting after his unsuccessful effort to get Richard Thornburgh elected in the U.S. Senate in 1991 and Ailes eventually returned to TV.
He became president of CNBC in 1993 and founded the 1994 CNBC spin-off network America’s Talking, which got relabled as MSNBC in 1996. The CNBC gig was short-lived, as Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News would also be launched in 1996 with Murdoch hiring Ailes as its CEO.
Fox News eventually became a trusted source of information for many Americans, especially conservatives.
Its popular programs are often the number-one news programs in their time slots, and they include The O’Reilly Factor (now cancelled), Fox & Friends, America’s Newsroom, Outnumbered, Tucker Carlson Tonight, Hannity, The Ingraham Angle and Justice with Judge Jeanine.
While CNN gained popularity in the nineties for its coverage of the Gulf War, Fox News has also gained a significant amount of viewership during huge American events like presidential elections, 9/11 and the Iraq War. It was after 9/11 when Fox News added up-to-date news coverage in text on screen during their programming to catch viewers up on breaking news, and it was so popular with the viewers that it is still in effect to this day.
The Fox News slogan “Fair and Balanced” was invented by Roger Ailes to counter the liberal bias of other news networks. Although in 2016, following the sexual misconduct allegations that eventually got Roger Ailes fired from Fox News and replaced by Suzanne Scott, the network came up with an additional slogan “Most watched, most trusted” as a way to distance itself from Ailes.
Fox News is widely seen as an extension of the ideology of the Republican Party, always amplifying Republican ideas to their base while slandering Democrats, such as when the Tea Party Movement was organized by Republicans to protest Obama’s policies. Meanwhile, Trump receives little negative coverage over his controversies, which are often ignored or countered with stories of lesser importance.
Positive news coverage of Democrats is also ignored often, and stories that make Republicans look good are given primary attention. At one point, Trump’s affair with Stormy Daniels was uncovered by former Fox reporter Diana Falzone before the results of the 2016 presidential election, but according to The New Yorker, it was dropped because Rupert Murdoch wanted Trump to win the election.
There is evidence of Fox News staffers being directed on how to report certain subjects (just watch Robert Greenwald’s 2004 documentary Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism), and that is the perfect example of why I do not like Fox News. It’s because it is a network that does not care about news. It only seeks to spread an agenda, whether that agenda is true or not. Calling that agenda “news” legitimizes it to a lot of people. But the problem is that many viewers do not look to the network for news. They look to it for validation of their pre-existing beliefs, which is something not only conservatives do. That is something we all do.
Republicans and Democrats have only grown more divided over the years and Fox News seems to revel in making those divisions wider. Barack Obama has called Fox News “destructive,” while Donald Trump treats it as the only honest news source and will decry every other news organization as the “enemy of the people.” I think we all know who I think the real enemies of the people are.