Fox News makes an anti-Obama attack ad: How production value impacts perception

Take a moment to watch this video:

Entitled “Four Years of Hope and Change,” you get dramatic visuals and music – a greatest hits of Barack Obama’s first term as president. Well, if you didn’t like the guy, anyway.

The facts seem to be fine from a cursory glance. It would be an excellent creation of the Romney campaign or some political action committee. Thing is, it wasn’t a creation of a blatant activist group. It was produced by Fox News and ran multiple times Wednesday on its morning infotainment program Fox & Friends.

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[Clickworthy] How the media may have already doomed Jerry Sandusky

Diogenes would have an easier time finding an honest man than one who honestly presumes that Jerry Sandusky is innocent. In part, after his shockingly incriminating interview with NBC, Sandusky has himself and his lawyer to blame for widespread presumptions of his guilt. But before he ever sat for the interview, the former assistant football coach had been convicted in the press.

With the end of the semester approaching, I haven’t had enough time to blog lately. If I had, this is largely what I would have written. Wendy Kaminer’s piece on The Atlantic today highlights what happens when the world of sports journalism collides with a story far beyond the scope of sport.

I’m not one to demean sports journalists. After all, my out-of-class alter ego is a sports broadcaster. They are great at what they do, and what they do is far more than telling stories about brawny guys smashing into each other or trying to hit a ball with a stick.

But the Jerry Sandusky story is not what sports journalists do. When the narrative moves off the football field and into the courtroom; when people charged with, but not convicted of, crimes await their fair trial… sports journalists aren’t the best to preserve due process.

Bob Costas would be the exception. His phone interview with Sandusky – a remarkably ill-advised move by the former Penn State Defensive Coordinator – was as uncomfortable as it gets. And, let’s face it, Sandusky did not portray himself in a good light at all. Still, Costas never broke. He never made it sound as if Sandusky was already guilty; his facial expressions didn’t even hint at condemnation or disbelief.

His colleagues have not performed as admirably, which Kaminer highlights in the article. I listen to the Dan Patrick radio show most days at work. Patrick, an Emmy-award-winning sports journalist who is as careful and slow to judgment as they come, has called Sandusky every name in the book, and suggests his guilt almost every hour. Patrick had Costas on his show the day after the phone interview, desiring to know how Costas really felt about Sandusky. Costas responded that he “Probably shouldn’t say. It’s a story I, and perhaps you, will be covering in an ongoing way.”

Patrick, like so many other people – never mind journalists – are emotionally impacted by this story. The accusations are graphic and sickening. The kinds of things that cause otherwise mild-mannered men to respond viscerally. We want Sandusky to pay. Except he hasn’t gone to trial. For all we know, he could be exonerated. Not that anyone would notice…

We have a special hate toward those who sexually abuse children, as we should. But we cannot go all Nancy Grace Mode and convict them in the press. What newspaper columns and talk radio shows and television programs around the country have done in the past week violate journalistic integrity and responsibility. Sandusky might turn out to be as guilty as the world thinks he is. But in our democracy, judge and jury convict, not some yahoo with a hot microphone and a hot temper.

Teaching September 11

One of my senior-level seminar courses took a break from our normal lecture schedule last week to look back at the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and their impact on journalism, culture, and diplomacy in the United States and abroad. I titled the series, “Effects of 9/11 – 10 Years Later,” and opened it to students across the campus.

With the immense anniversary coverage being prepared for the weekend ahead, it seemed like an excellent opportunity to look back (For more on the extent of the coverage, see Paul Farhi’s piece in the Washington Post). The idea gained steam with the launch of the new Understanding 9/11 page from the Internet Archive, a massive collection of television coverage from the original Sept. 11, 2001 broadcasts of major news networks around the world.

I arranged the lectures around clips from the archive and other corners of the Internet. I was quite pleased with the discussions that took place. My colleagues and I wondered if the students – most of them 10-11 years old when the attacks occurred – would have the same memories of that day as we do. As it turned out, the associations were still strong, and sparked some great debate.

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Perceived Media Bias and Cable News Branding: The Effects of Diversification in the Marketplace of Information

This presentation was given Saturday at the AEJMC Annual Conference as part of a refereed paper research session on “Bias and Branding” sponsored by the Radio-Television Journalism Division. This is a rudimentary script to an oral presentation with visual aids, so it will leave a bit to be desired for the blog reader.

For the PowerPoint accompanying this presentation, email Dylan.

For more on the conference as a whole, view my main post on AEJMC ’11.

Claims of media bias are nothing new. And despite plentiful content analyses that show little to no evidence of some collective attempt to mislead the public, perceptions of bias not only remain, but have increased dramatically over the past decade, a time frame that correlates with the rise of Fox News and MSNBC – cable news networks to compete with CNN and create a competitive marketplace.

Researchers like Sutter or Anand, DiTella, and Galetovic have looked at news coverage economically, and cable news as just what it is – a for-profit industry. That means, like any differentiated product market, the news outlets must seek a place along a continuum of potential audiences. With radio stations, it would be genres of music; with news it could be the types of stories covered (intl/domestic; hard news/entertainment), but we often think of it in terms of political ideology.

The suggestion is that our oft-idealized paradise of objectivity doesn’t make good business sense, because wide-open market segments are left untapped while everyone battles for the middle. If every station in town is playing country music, why don’t you try reaching out to the hip-hop fans? (Ideology isn’t quite so drastic, but you get the idea.)

So instead, content analyses (or a casual channel surf during primetime) have suggested that the cable news environment looks something like this. Each network has differentiated, targeting its own particular audience. Which begs the question… How do these differentiation attempts influence the audience’s perceptions of bias in those networks?

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The biggest 7%-off sale in history: Why are sales tax holidays such a draw?

At 12:01 a.m., Mississippi’s sales tax holiday weekend officially began. It is one of the most restrictive in the country, covering only “Clothing and footwear items, meant to be worn next to the body and cost[ing] less than $100 per item,” according to the Department of Revenue press release. Touted as a back-to-school savings event, it doesn’t cover backpacks or school supplies of any kind. And if your child participates in athletics, sportswear doesn’t count either, despite it’s closeness to the body.

Still, your favorite shopping destination in the Magnolia State will likely be packed this weekend, as families look to save on blue jeans, t-shirts, socks and the like (unless they have a Nike swoosh on them, I suppose).


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