An Authentic News Organization Doesn’t Photoshop Pictures

by cv harquail on July 7, 2008

Show me a liberal — heck , show me a thoughtful American — and I will show you a person who says that the name "Fox News" is an oxymoron.

fox-news-logo.jpg With their fake name, Fox News claims that it is a news organization. Fox News works very hard to make viewers think that what they see on their Fox TV screen is "news". Fox news pulls out all the tropes, covers all the genres, amps up all the symbolism it can to make itself look like a news organization.

As Timothy Noah writes, on Slate : "No fair-minded person actually believes that Fox News is unbiased, so pretending that it is calls for steely corporate resolve."

But every now and then, despite the smoke and mirrors, viewers get a glimpse of the truth, of the authentic Fox News. This time it’s from an error so egregious you can’t help but wonder how the people at Fox News fool themselves.

Check out this breaking critique from mediamatters.org :

On the July 2 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends , co-hosts Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade labeled New York Times reporter Jacques Steinberg and editor Steven Reddicliffe "attack dogs," claiming that Steinberg’s June 28 article on the "ominous trend" in Fox News’ ratings was a "hit piece." During the segment, however, Fox News featured photos of Steinberg and Reddicliffe that appeared to have been digitally altered — the journalists’ teeth had been yellowed, their facial features exaggerated, and portions of Reddicliffe’s hair moved further back on his head. Fox News gave no indication that the photos had been altered.

Zip on over to the MediaMatters site to see the before and after photographs themselves.. Or, go to xenon.arcticus.com for a detailed, full analysis of what was actually done to the original photos. Then, come back for the rest of the story…).

Why would a "news" organization broadcast photographs that are not accurate representations of the persons they are purported to depict? Why? Because this is not a news organization. These distorted photographs demonstrate that, as a ‘news" organization, Fox News is inauthentic.

Where being authentic really matters

There are two types of organizations where authenticity matters above all else:

(1) mission-based, ideological, political organizations, and

(2) news & science organizations

Mission-based, ideological, political organizations
need to be authentic. They need their actions to match their beliefs because their actions must promote, advertise, and convince others of the validity of their beliefs. If the organization’s actions don’t reflect how the organization defines itself, then the organization can’t demonstrate that these beliefs matter enough to put into practice. It demonstrates that the organization lacks conviction.

News & science organizations need to be authentic so that they can sustain confidence in their conclusions. News organizations require high standards of evidence, because their main product is accurate information. We need to know that their data is solid, objective, and empirically verifiable. (How many points did the Dow dropped today? Where humans alive when dinosaurs roamed the earth?)

With other types organizations, we don’t really question whether or not their product is "true" or "accurate." (Is a sneaker true? Is a chalupa accurate?) But with news, you’ve got to start with the facts. Because if the organization because without facts, it’s not a news organization.

Fact vs Opinion

Fox News has always sullied the line between fact and opinion In particular, it has distorted the way that facts are presented (by the way it frames a story) to lead viewers to a particular interpretation or conclusion. For example, Fox viewers are more likely than viewers of other news networks to believe – erroneously and contrary to fact – that Iraq was somehow partly responsible for 9/11. Yet, when it comes to objective truths that have little political implications — like what the people referred to in a ‘news’ story actually look like — we have at least expected Fox News to tell the truth.

Of course, I’m not the only person who believes that Fox news is a poser — an ideological organization pretending to be an objective, news organization. Here’s what media critic Eric Alterman (writing in The Nation) has to say, quite succinctly:

Fox, like the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation and the Washington Times , is a conservative counterestablishment institution designed to ape the functions of the real thing, doing double duty by firing up the troops with custom-crafted ideological spin, "analysis" and phony scholarship while confusing the rest of the world with nonsense disguised as news.

There is a wealth of information out there about how, time and again, Fox News has somehow distorted the story so that people interpret it in a particular way.

But aren’t there are some distortions that even Fox News should avoid? Shouldn’t they avoid the distortion of the visual images used to document and illustrate a story, when these images are presented as real representations of something or someone?

[Yes, of course the choice of which images to use — even when these images are undoctored, even when ‘unshopped’ — can highlight certain interpretations of the facts.]

It’s one thing to choose an ugly photograph. It’s another to take someone’s regular publicity headshot and distort it to make that person look uglier, nastier, or somehow less attractive. Distorting someone’s head shot is very blatant, since it is so easy to show a ‘before and after’ contrast (see xenon.arcticus.com) . And it seems rather meaningless, if not petty, to even bother with how the men look. Will viewers really dislike these NYT reporters more or trust their criticism of Fox even less — if the guys are kind of ugly?

Opinion vs Fact

Whether or not the photos have been distorted is not a matter of opinion. One can’t suggest that only liberals would think the photos were distorted or that only liberals would be concerned by how the NYT reporters were depicted. The reporters have been made to look less attractive and more like ‘bad guys’ to distort how viewers hear the story. There is no denying that ‘reality’ has been distorted, in a way that serves Fox News’ identity as an ideological organization and contradicts any attempts by Fox News to present itself as a news organization.

This behavior raises a new level of doubt about Fox News: If they are comfortable distorting something so easy to detect, in so bald and bold a manner, what’s going on inside their organization?

Which brings me back to the question of the people who work at Fox News

What is the real identity of Fox News?

What do the employees of Fox News tell themselves about the organization? (Be sure, there are many (former) Fox News employees have told their truth.) If you were to ask a group of them, "Who is Fox News? What defines Fox News? What does Fox News want to be?", what kind of organizational identity would they describe? Would they describe the organization thus:

fox-news-logo-lying.jpg

My bet is that the identity would be more like a ‘mission-based, ideological, political organization’, and less like a ‘news & science organization’ than the name Fox News would suggest. Certainly, their actions deny any claim to being an authentic news organization.

{ 2 comments }

Jimmy Howell October 8, 2010 at 8:28 am

Hey Fellow….Fox News Rocks!! Anyone who defends the NY Times or any of the other cable news outlets takes the rest of us “normal” people for idoits!! I am just a good’ol South Carolina country boy who happens to hold an EE BS from Georgia Tech. Contrary to the crap you spew, us’s down here ain’t dumb 😉

Have yourself a elitist, socialist, Fabian Society day!!

vetted definition August 23, 2011 at 10:59 pm

I want to start a website and I have no idea how. It has to be free and relatively simple, and I want other people to be able to comment on articles/pictures. Any suggestions?.

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