Watch out for the fox

May 21, 2003

“The hardest part of my job is now to maintain any kind of journalistic standards, because they’re being weakened all over the country by newspapers and magazines.”
So says Roger Ailes, chairman and CEO of Fox News, quoted in a long profile by Ken Auletta in the New Yorker of May 26. Of course, the article starts out with an example of Ailes’s brutal humor, so his words above could certainly be seen as tongue-in-cheek. Unfortunately, too many Americans think that Fox News is upholding journalistic standards, where instead Fox is simply dishing up heaping servings of opinion. (Auletta shows CNN and MSNBC to be not so different.) Diversity of opinion in our country is wonderful, but to confuse opinion with fair reporting is troublesome. What bothers me is that cable news anchors are rude, and anchors and guests seldom offer an opinion that doesn’t cut someone down.

In the front lobby of Carroll Hall, the UNC-CH journalism school building, there is a four-square bank of television screens always tuned to CNN, MSNBC and Fox News. Students entering the building often stop to catch the ticker news or to watch an unfolding story. I get very agitated when I’m in this space, for I feel that cable news is by no means exemplary journalism, and for the journalism (technically School of Journalism and Mass Communication) school to publicly exhibit only this in its lobby seems like a slap in the face of print, radio and Internet journalists. You won’t see a current newspaper article from the New York Times, Washington Post or other major paper exhibited anywhere in Carroll Hall except for a few glass cases outside of our wonderful Park Library. I’d like to see more journalism in the j-school.

But I’ll be the first to admit that I can do more. Regular readers of this weblog (I get 400 unique visitors a month, and I hope that not too many of those are spammers looking for email addresses) know that I regularly comment on readings from the Times, Atlantic Monthly and New Yorker and reports from NPR. I’m now building up my repertoire of readings, with the Wall Street Journal a daily breakfast companion and The New Republic, Seed, and other magazines new sources; I’m trying to diversify my sources of information, and I’m open to your recommendations.

Anton Zuiker

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