Monday, June 15, 2015

Fox News and the Return of Yellow Journalism

In our own time, has the recent rise of the Fox News phenomenon just a return to the days of Yellow Journalism?  Did Roger Ailes’ Fox News do for the overthrow of Saddam what William Randolph Hearst’s and Joseph Pulitzer’s newspapers did for the Spanish-America War – and what may Fox Newspeak do with the continued Middle Eastern conflict? 

I’m not the only one posting about the re-yellowing of journalism, in the pot calling attention to the kettle, Gawker’s io9 blog posted a piece February a year ago comparing the use of Clickbait and Yellow Journalism.  GoogleNews the two terms and more recent posting will show up.

However, what is going on at Ailes’ Fox News is not Clickbait for advertisement dollars, viewers, likes, friends, or even ratings – although that is a nice reward and conformation of strategy.  Nothing comforts Roger more than for events to meet his expectation – the very mechanism (Clickbait?) he is using to sell his product.

That Fox News is the spin-doctor for the Republican Party is well known.  And it is not new or news.  That is major broadcast medium would do what the old Yellow Journalism newspapers did, is news.  Its one thing to Clickbait designers to get a whole bunch of “likes” or “friends”, it is something entirely else to do it for a political party’s foreign war or local social welfare objectives. 

The big diff between then and now is that you had to read the newspaper.  Buy it, pick it up, stop what you were doing and read it.  Not so when you can just turn it on and it bathes over you while you sit there.  And, Hearst’s and Pulitzer’s newspapers had mostly North Eastern, New York area readership.  Their advocacy journalism was not being broadcast nationwide as Fox Newspeak is.

Because of this new technology, professional journalism had a rebirth toward the middle of the previous century.  Given its power to move people, first in newspapers but certainly with the coming of radio and television, profession journalism developed a conscience.  Stories that inspired mass movements, whether for political or commercial reasons, cause journalists to look at themselves and introspect.

Journalism schools require a course in ethics and the history of journalism, which of course, highlights its role in the American Revolution, First Amendment rights, historic exposés and the rise of mass media, as well as the bias tainted reporting of earlier journalism.  Seems that bias journalism for events that history now looks favorably on is good while events that history is not so favorably looks “yellow”.

The study of journalism is not just learning to write the news reports and stories; it is learning to write for your audience.  Knowing your readership or viewers is as important as knowing syntax and presentation.  So, if bias journalism is what your publisher or your intended readers wants that is the way you write it.

Objective journalism is not bias except to the facts of the story.  The facts determine if a story is news worthy – not its political impact or sordid interest.

While many would argue that objective journalism is a fool’s (liberal’s) dream, some journalists try to achieve a reasonable goal of objectivity while trying to keep a job.  Sure a big story can make a reputation and career, but getting space daily either in print or on air pays the bills.

When Yellow Journalism masquerades as objective journalism, we have a problem.  The question of yelling fire in a crowded theater that could lead to people being killed in the stampede to evacuate is a basic lesson in journalistic ethics.  The significant point is when there is no fire and it was only done for attention, ratings, or in Fox News’ strategy, political gain.

Shouting fire in Obama’s theater is Fox Newspeak.

A recent posting in the New Yorker made several comparisons with Hearst and Ailes and the reporting medium.  It also included the comparison to Citizen Kane, with Ailes treatment as a child as his “Rosebud.”

And now we learn that Roger Ailes favors Scott Walker in theGOP primary.  This is going to be interesting to watch.  This may be a test of the meme floating around the Internet:  Fox News used to work for the Republican Party.  Now, the Republican Party works for Fox News.

Some historians have Yellow Journalism demise with supposed links between Hearst’s sponsored rants in his newspaper and the assassination of McKinley.  And over time critics say, Pulitzer became haunted by his "yellow sins".

Is something like that going to have to happen for our current Yellow Journalism to come to an end?

  • Constant snide and insulting remarks about the present administration causes some psycho to assassinate Obama making Biden president.
  • Fox Newspeak cause some paranoid paramilitary group in Texas to rise up and take over the state to prevent some perceived notion aggravated by Fox News talking heads that Obama plans to declare marshal law in several western states.
  • Fox News propagandizes Scott Walker into the GOP Presidential nomination and he does even worse against Clinton than Romney did against Obama.

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