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Stateside With Rosalea: What I'm Looking At

Stateside With Rosalea

What I'm Looking At

*Small screen*

Now that I have joined the modern world and have at least basic cable, I can choose from 82 channels of television instead of about a dozen free-to-air. Included in my line-up is the newby TV One, www.tv-one.tv, which "offers a broad range of lifestyle and entertainment-oriented programming that respects [the] values and reflects [the] intellectual and cultural diversity" of the African American community.

To someone who necessarily has only an outsider's acquaintance with that culture, it seems that what differentiates TV One from the older Black Entertainment Television cable channel is its appeal to a younger audience. My favourite program is Sunday's "The Gospel of Music" which makes for a great antidote to the early morning political pundit shows on the national networks. Featuring a broad mix of styles, a segment on a gospel group from the past, and performers from all around the world, it's a must-watch for anyone interested in this most essential form of American music.

*Big screen*

Also included in the basic cable package is Fox News. Frankly, I can't bear to watch it any more than I can watch the CNN I also now get - because of all the clutter of graphics on the screen. Really these folks need to make up their mind whether they're going to be seen on a computer screen or a television, because the way that viewers relate to those two spaces is quite, quite different. (Or am I jjust an old fogey?)

Instead, I saw the most Fox News I've ever seen when I went to the Roxie Cinema in San Francisco on Saturday to the movie Outfoxed, which is a critique of the quality of that channel's journalistic standards. Like the editing in Fahrenheit 9/11, the editing in this movie is designed to give maximum weight to its central argument, which in this case is that, far from being "fair and balanced" as its promos claim, Fox is the propaganda arm of the Republican Party.

At one point the film shows the results of a poll that asked if people thought that Iraq and the 9/11 attacks were linked, and the graphic compared respondents who got their information from Fox with respondents who got their news from PBS/NPR (the public service television/radio stations). The percentage of Foxwatchers who thought the two were linked was far higher than the percentage of PBS/NPR folks who did. But what does that prove? Or rather, it could equally prove that those who get their news from PBS/NPR were misinformed by the left-wing liberals the right wing asserts run those two outlets.

The most shocking piece of video, however, is an out-take from July 2000, when Fox's lead political reporter was warming up to do an interview with George W. Bush. In the chit chat before the cameras roll, it transpires that the reporter's wife is actively working for the Bush election campaign. To the best of my knowledge, it's considered normal practice for editors to take journalists off stories in which they are so heavily involved that they might be seen to be biased.

Not so in the United States, it seems. And I don't think it applies just to the Republican side of things. According to his autobiography, Bob Schieffer, veteran CBS reporter, married into a family that was prominent in the Democratic Party, and who's to say that his reports over the years haven't similarly been less than objective? It's one thing for columnists, pundits, and talk show hosts to be partisan at best and ill-informed at worst, but it's quite another for so-called elite journalists to be so. "Elite journalists", by the way, is a derogatory term here in the States.

The worst thing about Outfoxed is the opportunity it misses to get people to do something about the woeful state of news reporting in this country. Interviews with people who have successfully challenged the system were intercut with the credits, and many people walked out as soon as the credits rolled, so missed out on getting that information.

*Computer screen*

While doing some research about the history of biotechnology, I came across what I consider the best, most succinct information I've seen about how the media operates and the synergy between reporters, their editors, and their sources. It's from the June 21, 2004 on-line newsletter of the Scripps Research Institute and is called What Journalists Want: Nine Things for Scientists to Think about Before Talking to Reporters. I recommend it to anyone who has any interest whatsoever in the process of informing people, or being informed, about the world around them.

http://www.scripps.edu/newsandviews/e_20040621/science.html


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