The Fox and the hounding | Bleader

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Fox and the hounding

Posted By on 07.20.11 at 03:10 PM

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  • Pew Research Center
Let's not jump to conclusions...

But Rupert Murdoch's Fox News has been paying much less attention to Murdoch's troubles in Britain than its competitors have.

The Pew Research Center released a study Wednesday. Pew reports that its analysis found that the "Fox News Channel devoted about one-fifth as much time to the story as MSNBC and about one-sixth as much time as CNN."

Pew doesn't say why. But let's think about it. It could be that Fox is simply too ashamed and embarrassed to commit to the story. Or just not up to it. This is an international story, after all, with complications — not exactly in the Fox wheelhouse.

On the other hand, maybe Fox has made the cool-headed calculation that it's not that big a deal. Yes, it's brought the British government to a standstill, but if Parliament stands still, what concern is that of Americans? Fox may have been persuaded by the cogent thinking of the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal.

This week the Journal made its feelings known. "Politicians and our competitors are using the phone-hacking years ago at a British corner of News Corp. to assail the Journal, and perhaps injure press freedom in general..." it asserted. "We trust that readers can see through the commercial and ideological motives of our competitor-critics."

If Fox News decided not to play that game, and keep its distance from the pack of baying hounds assailing the Journal (which by coincidence is also owned by Murdoch) and undermining press freedom, it deserves just as much the credit as you want to give it.

We can't begin to guess what motivates Fox News.

Pew doesn't quantify the Journal's coverage of the phone-hacking scandal. But it has completed a content analysis of Journal front pages since Murdoch bought the paper four years ago. It reports:

"Coverage has clearly moved away from what had been the paper’s core mission under previous ownership—covering business and corporate America. In the past three and a half years, front-page coverage of business is down about one-third from what it had been in 2007, the last year of the old ownership regime.

"That, to some degree, reflects the Journal’s move toward a more general interest publication. And some categories of news, such as coverage of government, foreign news involving the U.S. and lifestyle subjects, have increased noticeably in recent years. Yet attention to other subject areas has fallen. Front-page coverage of health and medicine has been de-emphasized the past few years. Education issues have virtually disappeared from the front pages as has—ironically enough, given the current state of affairs—attention to the media industry."

Maybe that's what Fox noticed. "It's only a media story," editors there might have concluded. "We'll cheap it out."

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