Saturday, March 15, 2008

Fox 44: Only The News That Fits



David Wood is disappointed. A promise was broken.

David is a sales clerk at the Cornerstone Bookshop in Plattsburgh. Recently a reporter from a local TV station, WFFF Channel 44 in Vermont, interviewed him. Channel 44 is affiliated with the Fox television network.

The reporter, Ben Kennedy, was covering a story about downtown businesses, whether or not they were seeing a particularly slow time with the cold weather and the high price of gasoline.

According to David Wood, he mentioned during the videotaping that he didn’t want his quotes to be taken out of context. The Fox 44 reporter, said David, promised that wouldn’t happen.

But what appeared on TV that night didn’t reflect David’s actual POV. He had been miscontexted.

During the interview David stated that business was pretty good at the bookshop. As for the problem with high gas prices, some customers were making fewer trips but were buying more books each visit, stocking up. Ergo, fewer visits didn’t mean lower overall sales.

The national Fox TV news service proclaims that it’s “Fair and Balanced.” That means that all sides of a story will be heard. One assumes that the local Fox affiliate subscribes to that ideal.

But with TV news, when you have to meet a deadline, when you’re going on air in a few hours, it’s easier to stay with a preconceived slant and make the information you gathered fit it.

When the story was presented on Fox 44, the slant was apparent right from the beginning. The studio anchorwoman opened the story:

“A college hockey game is drawing thousands to Plattsburgh tonight. But come Monday, it’ll be the same sad story for business owners downtown.”

Fox 44 went live to reporter Ben Kennedy in Plattsburgh who continued to reinforce the slant that all downtown businesses were suffering. First up was a video clip with a restaurant owner who said he had been seeing fewer and fewer customers.

Next was the video segment with David Wood at the Cornerstone Bookshop. The reporter in a voice over stated that not only restaurants were seeing a drop in business; a bookstore was also being affected.

If one paid strict attention during the broadcast, it’s apparent that David’s quote didn’t exactly fit the doom and gloom theme. His comment was presented, fewer visits but larger sales per visit.

But when watching a broadcast, comments come and go quickly. Blink your ears and you’ll miss the subtlety. Fortunately I have a copy of the story that can be replayed as needed.

From studying playbacks it’s obvious the voice over leading in to David’s quote obscures the issue: “David Wood at the Cornerstone Bookshop hasn’t seen as many sales this year.”

In actuality, David stated that compared to last year’s slow time, sales were pretty good. But that quote didn’t make the cut. And the one that did was tainted by the slant.

Zip-zip-zip – images and sounds fly by and what was said in one context now fits a different one.

The Fox News Channel has another slogan: “We report. You decide.”

Maybe the slogan of the local affiliate should be: “We slant. You buy it.”



[Note for any conflict of interest critics: David Wood is a friend. I try my best not to allow a friendship to slant my writing. My conclusions and views do not necessarily agree with his.]

5 comments:

kengaroo2 said...

Faux News is more like it.

It's an important part of the republican spin machine. Obama and Clinton have already stated they know it's going to be an up hill battle against the republican lie machine and swift-boat attacks. Remember what they did to John Kerry in 2004? They attacked a silver star Vietnam vet who actually served, unlike Bush who was too busy with whiskey and cocaine .

Luke T. Bush said...

kengaroo2:

Please - in my presence use the term "Shrub" when referring to the so-called president. I'm not related to him in any way - by blood or brains. (Note my surname.)

Writer Molly Ivens came up with the Shrub nickname, using it as the title for her book on the Commander in Chimp. She would've made a better president. In fact, right now she would be a better president - even though she's dead.

Whiskey and cocaine? Well, at least Shrub had a surfeit of brain cells he could sacrifice. After all, through his school and college years, he was an A+ student.

As for Fox 44, the local station is obviously training the next generation of Faux News reporters.

Luke

Anonymous said...

If you have a problem with the news coverage, you should call their newsroom and speak to his manager. The local Fox station is not at all affiliated with the Fox News Channel.
Ben is a good reporter. He is also a young reporter. Your comments might be welcomed by his bosses... as a way to teach Ben he needs to do a better job.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Kennedy is a great reporter. I didn't catch the piece mentioned above. But he reported on a story involving my organization and did a fantastic job!

-Carol

Luke T. Bush said...

Carol:

Good to hear that you had no problems with Mr. Kennedy. But when it comes to reporters - and bloggers - your mileage may vary.

Reporters can slip up now and then. Too many people prefer to grumble about it but don't complain. Unfortunately, when you don't keep journalists on their toes, more problems can crop up.

Journalism doesn't need another Janet Cook or Jeff Gannon.

Luke