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by Tim Rutten
Tuesday, Nov. 04, 2003 at 11:01 AM
LA Times article on bias at Fox News, and who's responsible.
Los Angeles Times
November 1, 2002
Miles from 'fair and balanced'
By Tim Rutten
A veteran producer this week alleged that Fox News
executives issue a daily memorandum to staff on news
coverage to bend the network's reporting into
conformity with management's political views,
refocusing attention on the partisan bias of America's
most watched cable news operation.
The charges by Charlie Reina, 55, whose six-year tenure
at Fox ended April 9, first surfaced Wednesday in a
letter he posted on an influential Web site
(www.poynter.org/column)maintained by Jim Romenesko for
the Poynter Institute, an organization that promotes
journalistic education and ethics.
Concerns about Fox, which styles its news coverage as
"fair and balanced," begin with its owner, Australian-
born Rupert Murdoch. The corporate boards and family
investors who control most of the American news media
generally feel obliged to maintain a wall of separation
between news and editorial opinion. Murdoch, by
contrast, operates in the style of the traditional
Fleet Street proprietors, who dismiss such distinctions
as inconvenient fictions.
And as a deeply conservative man, he is willing to put
his money where his politics are: Murdoch, a
naturalized U.S. citizen, subsidizes publication of the
Weekly Standard, one of the country's most influential
right-wing journals. According to a forthcoming book by
the New Yorker's Ken Auletta, he loses as much as
million a year maintaining the New York Post as an
outlet of conservatism in Manhattan.
As Fox's founding president, he hired Roger Ailes, a
shrewd Republican political operative who earned a
well-founded reputation for bare-knuckle campaigning
while working for Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. As
one of the architects of the elder George Bush's media
strategy in his campaign for president against
Democratic rival Michael Dukakis, Ailes helped devise
the notorious Willie Horton commercials. As he told
Time magazine in August 1988, "The only question is
whether we depict Willie Horton with a knife in his
hand or without it."
The late Lee Atwater, another Bush aide, described
Ailes as having "two speeds - attack and destroy."
Before joining Fox, where he serves now as chairman,
Ailes produced Rush Limbaugh's short-lived television
According to Reina's letter, "Daily life at [Fox] is
all about management politics".Editorially, the FNC
newsroom is under the constant control and vigilance of
management. The pressure ranges from subtle to direct.
First, it's a news network run by one of the most high-
profile political operatives of recent times. Everyone
there understands that [Fox] is, to a large extent,
'Roger's Revenge' against what he considers a liberal,
pro-Democrat media establishment that has shunned him
for decades. For the staffers, many of whom are too
young to have come up through the ranks of objective
journalism, and all of whom are nonunion, with no
protections regarding what they can be made to do,
there is undue motivation to please the big boss."
Fox News spokesman Rob Zimmerman told The Times that
"these accusations are the rantings of a bitter,
disgruntled former employee. It's unfortunate that
Charlie's career ended the way it did, but we wish him
well." Asked whether Reina's quotations from the memos
were inaccurate or taken out of context, Zimmerman
said, "All we are saying is that these are false
accusations." The Times' request to speak with Ailes
was denied: "Roger is not addressing this and is not
available," Zimmerman said.
Reina, who told The Times he left Fox in a dispute over
salary and workload - not politics - hardly comes
across as a knee-jerk liberal. He is at pains, for
example, to say that he believes his former employer's
cable rivals - CNN and MSNBC - also air news reports
riven with bias on both ends of the political spectrum.
At Fox, he not only produced the network's weekly media
criticism show, "News- Watch," but also a series of
specials on Newt Gingrich and a talk show with
conservative religious commentator Cal Thomas.
Still, Reina, whose 30-year career includes stints at
the Associated Press, ABC News and CBS, said Fox's
ideological problems begin with Ailes.
"Roger is such a high-profile and partisan political
operative that everyone in the newsroom knows what his
political feelings are and acts accordingly. I'd never
worked in a newsroom like that," he said in an
interview. "Never. At ABC, for example, I never knew
what management or my bosses' political views were,
much less felt pressure from them to make things come
out a certain way. I'm talking about news bias, and I
never experienced it there. At CBS or the AP, if a word
got in that suggested bias - liberal or conservative -
it was taken out.
"At Fox it was all about viewpoint. I'm not talking
about the nighttime personalities. I'm talking about
the news report. Fox executives will say their network
only appears conservative because it is fair, when
everyone else is liberal and biased. That's bull. Fox
doesn't 'seem' conservative and Republican. It is
conservative and Republican."
In his letter, Reina wrote that "the roots of [Fox's]
day-to-day on-air bias are actual and direct. They come
in the form of an executive memo" written by John
Moody, the network's vice president for news, and
"distributed electronically each morning, addressing
what stories will be covered and, often, suggesting how
they should be covered. To the newsroom personnel
responsible for the channel's daytime programming, The
Memo is the bible. If, on any given day, you notice
that the Fox anchors seem to be trying to drive a
particular point home, you can bet The Memo is behind
it. The Memo was born with the Bush administration,
early in 2001, and, intentionally or not, has ensured
that the administration's point of view consistently
comes across on [Fox]".
"For instance, from the March 20th memo: 'There is
something utterly incomprehensible about [U.N.
Secretary-General] Kofi Annan's remarks in which he
allows that his thoughts are 'with the Iraqi people.'
One could ask where those thoughts were during the 23
years Saddam Hussein was brutalizing those same Iraqis.
Food for thought.' Can there be any doubt that the memo
was offering not only 'food for thought,' but a
direction for the FNC writers and anchors to go?
Especially after describing the U.N. Secretary
General's remarks as 'utterly incomprehensible'?".
"One day this past spring, just after the U.S. invaded
Iraq, The Memo warned us that anti-war protesters would
be 'whining' about U.S. bombs killing Iraqi civilians
and suggested they could tell that to the families of
American soldiers dying there. Editing copy that
morning, I was not surprised when an eager young
producer killed a correspondent's report on the day's
fighting - simply because it included a brief shot of
children in an Iraqi hospital".
"These are not isolated incidents at Fox News Channel,
where virtually no one of authority in the newsroom
makes a move unmeasured against management's politics,
actual or perceived. At the Fair and Balanced network,
everyone knows management's point of view, and, in case
they're not sure how to get it on air, The Memo is
there to remind them."
Av Westin, a longtime ABC news executive who is now
executive director of the National Television Academy,
examined Reina's letter and said: "Nothing about this
surprises me. The uniform smirks and body language that
are apparent in Fox's reports throughout the day
reflect an operation that is quite tightly controlled.
The fact that young and inexperienced producers
acquiesce to that control by pulling stories is further
evidence that nonjournalistic forces are at work in
"Roger runs the place with an iron hand and he was put
in place there by Murdoch, who selected him for his
politics. In that sense, what's happened at Fox is a
carry-over from all Murdoch's print publications, where
the publisher's politics and editorial preference is
reflected in the news hole to an extent that isn't true
anywhere else in American journalism."
Reina is out of television news these days, supporting
himself in New York with a small woodworking business.
Looking back on his time with Fox, his greatest concern
is for its young staff. "Many of them wanted to be on
television but not necessarily in news. They haven't
had the benefit of traditional journalistic training,
so they're easily molded.
"Time after time I watched what management's politics
did to the young anchors. As they near the time to get
their own show, the hair gets blonder and the bias gets
Copyright 2003 Los Angeles Times
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||Tuesday, Nov. 04, 2003 at 12:23 PM
||Tuesday, Nov. 04, 2003 at 1:01 PM
||Tuesday, Nov. 04, 2003 at 1:56 PM
| ex-leftist activist
||Tuesday, Nov. 04, 2003 at 2:52 PM
||Tuesday, Nov. 04, 2003 at 3:26 PM
||Tuesday, Nov. 04, 2003 at 4:36 PM
|WVP=an idiot's opinion
||Tuesday, Nov. 04, 2003 at 4:39 PM
||Tuesday, Nov. 04, 2003 at 4:41 PM
|yup, I noticed
||Tuesday, Nov. 04, 2003 at 4:43 PM
||Tuesday, Nov. 04, 2003 at 4:46 PM
|well then, fucking bring it on
||Tuesday, Nov. 04, 2003 at 4:48 PM
||Tuesday, Nov. 04, 2003 at 4:49 PM
||Tuesday, Nov. 04, 2003 at 4:51 PM
||Tuesday, Nov. 04, 2003 at 4:56 PM
|Time in on my side.
||Tuesday, Nov. 04, 2003 at 5:02 PM
||Tuesday, Nov. 04, 2003 at 5:05 PM
||Wednesday, Nov. 05, 2003 at 8:01 AM
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