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Film Critiques Fox News and Media Empires

Film Critiques Fox News and Media Empires


By Sonia Nettnin

The film, ''Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism'', demystifies the presentation of news and commentary by Fox News.

Director Robert Greenwald interviews former Fox contributors who had serious concerns with the news techniques incorporated by the network. He interviews media analysts from numerous media organizations also.

The Public Square, a non-profit organization that discusses political and cultural issues through a social justice lens, hosted the opening screening on Chicago’s South Side Wednesday night.

Murdoch, News Corp CEO and Chairman, owns nine, satellite TV networks, 100 cable channels, 175 newspapers, 40 magazines, 40 television stations and one movie studio. His media corporation reaches 4.7 billion people, or three-fourths of the world’s population.

Interviews with former Fox contributors detail the network’s operations. The people stated it is “…not a news organization but a proponent of a point of view,” and “you’re either one of us or one of them.” Their observations are prevalent themes throughout the film. Greenwald shows numerous copies of internal Fox memos that support their opinions.

For example, a memo dated 04/28/2004 talks about U.S. Marines and the use of the word “snipers.” The memo states that “snipers,” has a negative connotation and should be replaced with the word “sharpshooters.”

Another example of an internal memo-in-action talks about presidential candidate John Kerry and his “flip-flop” about support of the war against Iraq. After the memo, whenever Fox News anchors and correspondents discuss Kerry, they use the phrase “flip- flop.” The phrase “flip-flop” takes visual form when Fox shows a picture of yellow, flip flops next to Kerry. The color, yellow, has many connotations also. As a result, the film shows the strong influence these memos have on Fox employees and the visual presentation of the news.

Through graphics, music, banners, and icons, Fox news utilizes sophisticated, techniques in their news presentation. As people watch a program, the moving banner - located on the lower one-third of the screen - catches the viewers’ eye. During interviews and discussions, people absorb the moving words.

For example, I noticed when Fox used the word “Palestinian,” it was next to the word “terrorists.” Paired together, they become the phrase “Palestinian terrorists.” In turn, the phrase becomes an association in the mind. Word associations grouped together repeatedly develop into a perceived point of view or “side.” Employment of this technique repetitively instills fear in viewers. If a program pushes a viewpoint that opposes this word association, an “us vs. them,” assessment may develop in the viewer. When viewers are scared, they look for safety and security. If they see the American flag, an icon of government, then it creates another association.

Fox News consultants (experts) are conservatives, mostly, and are paid under contract. One former contractor talked about his final show. They wanted the phrase “suicide bombings,” replaced with “homicide bombers.” He would not use the new phrase because it did not make sense to him. Although his contract did not expire for another eight weeks, he was not called back to the show.

The phrase, “some people say,” is a sourcing technique used by the network frequently. Who is “some people,” exactly? A quoted source is a person who supports the quotation presented by the journalist. Some people are not specific persons, unless there is an official study or poll. The phrase “some people say,” can be used to replace a person’s opinion or viewpoint. The difference between opinion and news reporting is that the former is commentary and the latter is the news. Greenwald shows how Fox uses the phrase frequently.

Greenwald shows the frequency of the phrase “shut up,” on Fox’s show, The O’Reilly Factor. When some of O’Reilly’s guests explained their views, he told them to shut up. After Jeremy M. Glick challenged O’Reilly on the show, future O’Reilly programs showed clips from Glick’s s interview with the phrase “vile propaganda,” next to the Talking Points. Glick explained that future clips of his appearance on O’Reilly’s show misrepresented his view.

During the 2000 U.S. presidential election, Fox news projected George W. Bush as the winner in Florida. Former Fox contributors stated the data was too complex to make that determination. After Fox’s declaration, the other news stations followed suit. The projection created the perception that Bush was the winner. Fox News CEO and Chairman, Roger Ailes, apologized for the faulty projections. He said “…it will not happen again.”

However, the error shows the power and influence media has on its competitors and on public opinion. The media analysts state that if the public wants change and diverse media, they have to claim their digital destiny.

****************

Sonia Nettnin is a freelance writer. Her articles and reviews demonstrate civic journalism, with a focus on international social, economic, humanitarian, gender, and political issues. Media coverage of conflicts from these perspectives develops awareness in public opinion.

Nettnin received her bachelor's degree in English literature and writing. She did master's work in journalism. Moreover, Nettnin approaches her writing from a working woman's perspective, since working began for her at an early age.

She is a poet, a violinist and she studied professional dance. As a writer, the arts are an integral part of her sensibility. Her work has been published in the Palestine Chronicle, Scoop Media and the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. She lives in Chicago.


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