Blurring the line of journalism


In the section of Outfoxed labeled Fox News Techniques: News commentary and Ad Libs, the film alleges to expose techniques of the news network that deceive the viewer – however the film begins this expose by deceiving the viewer.

James Wolcott, identified on screen as a former staff writer for the New Yorker/Cultural Critic for Vanity Fair creates the following strawman fallacy which is then endorsed by Outfoxed editing to lie about Bill O’Reilly’s role at Fox News:

WOLCOTT: No, they deliberately blur it and, I find it very hard to believe, you know – there’s no separation between Bill O’Reilly the Interviewer and Bill O’Reilly with his Talking Points. I mean, there’s just no separation at all.

FOX NEWS FOOTAGE OF BILL O’REILLY: Jimmy Carter is making yet another mistake and this time, there’s no excuse for it. And that’s the memo. Now for the top story tonight. Another view on this.

The criticism relies on the ignorance of the viewer on how Bill O’Reilly is used at the Fox News Channel. Wolcott falsely implies that O’Reilly has any role beyond that of analyst at Fox. The footage shown immediately following Wolcott’s dubious claim show’s the end of the Talking Points Memo segment where, in Fair & Balanced fashion, O’Reilly introduces a guest who disagrees with him. As the O’Reilly Factor is an opinion and news analysis program, there is never a switch to news delivery. If breaking news develops during the O’Reilly time slot, the show is pre-empted by a news anchor to deliver the news.


Jeff Cohen then appears to add more condemnation on the journalism, or lack thereof, at Fox News. He is identified only as a “former MSNBC/Fox News Contributor”, leaving the viewer to fill in the vague description. In reality, Cohen was a hired by Fox News as a liberal commentator, appearing on air to give left wing analysis mainly on the weekend show Fox News Watch which turns a critical eye on news coverage appearing on other networks and Fox News itself.

It’s very hard on Fox News to separate news from commentary because it all blends together. That’s what makes it so ridiculous, that slogan [GRAPHIC: FOX LOGO YOU DECIDE 2004]“We report you decide”, because there’s no TV news channel in history that’s ever reported less.

Cohen offers no insight, details, data or example to back up his claim about the amount of reporting taking place on Fox News.


David Brock follows Cohen’s statement to offer attacks on Fox’s daily Washington based newscast Special Report with Brit Hume. As with Cohen, no mention is made of Brocks career as a liberal media activist. He is identified only as “President/CEO of Media Matters for America”, with disclosure of the hyper partisan nature of the organization left absent.

DAVID BROCK: For example, a Brit Hume newscast, um, which is presented as a newscast, um, I think you see a lot of attitude and opinion, both from the anchor and the reports.

BRIT HUME: Welcome to Washington. I’m Brit Hume. There was further evidence today that President Bush’s days of absorbing John Kerry’s attacks without counter-attack are over.

This laughable example of alleged “attitude and opinion” is the only evidence given by Outfoxed to support Brocks smear of Special Report and its anchor Brit Hume. No further footage, citation or example even from Brocks memory is given to support his statement. The argument is exists entirely of an Argument From Authority fallacy in the form of: “a liberal activist ‘thinks you see a lot of attitude and opinion, both from the anchors and the reports’ so it must be true”.

CLAIM [by yet another unidentified-liberal media activist]: BRIT HUME IS NOT UNBIASED LIKE… PETER JENNINGS IS

Peter Hart, an anti-Fox News author and activist for the liberal media watch dog group FAIR is next to pile on Hume. As with Brock and Cohen, only his position as an analyst for FAIR is noted on screen with no disclosure of the organizations partisan nature or Harts anti-Fox News and liberal background.

PETER HART: Fox blurs the line between using commentary all over the place [dissolve to] We are to believe that Brit Hume is the anchor of a news outlet, he doesn’t bring strong politics to it, he just happens to anchor the news cast like Peter Jennings. On Sundays, Brit Hume turns into a rather caustic right-wing pundit.

Actually, Jennings not only disagreed with Hart’s false assessment of him, but expressed “concern” at it that same year telling a Missouri affiliate:.

I’m a little concerned about this notion everybody wants us to be objective,” Jennings said.

Jennings said that everyone — even journalists — have points of view through which they filter their perception of the news. It could be race, sex or income. But, he said, reporters are ideally trained to be as objective as possible.

And when we don’t think we can be fully objective, to be fair,” the anchorman said.

Outfoxed doesn’t explain why on Sunday’s, Hume allegedly turns into a right-wing Werewolf. The reference is apparently one to Humes role as an analyst on the Fox News Sunday program hosted by Chris Wallace. Hart fails to provide any basis for his allegation that Hume’s analysis are routinely “caustic” and “right-wing”.

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