Moody’s Memo’s fail to expose bias

Outfoxed displays under sinister music and ominous voice-over, several leaked internal staff memo’s from Fox News VP John Moody directing the coverage of the days news and how the network will approach the issues of the day. Greenwald portrays the act of direction as evidence of bias itself, depriving the viewer of the fact that every television news outlet has these internal memo’s.


MOODY CLAIMS OPENNESS, OUTFOXED HAS NO REBUTTAL

The content of these messages are portrayed as outrageous orchestrations of bias despite none of them showing evidence of the kind of slavish right-wing bias and distortion that is the movies thesis.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Moody rejects “the implication that I’m controlling the news coverage,” saying of his 1,200 employees: “People are free to call me or message me and say, ‘I think you’re off base.’ Sometimes I take the advice, sometimes I don’t.”

Michael Dubert, a former Fox News intern disputed the broad claims against Moody’s memo’s, painting them as sinisterly strict direction of how to cover the news, writing in the Daily Pennsylvanian in an article titled Outfoxed not an accurate portrayal :

I read those editorial memos every day for three months, during which time some big stories broke — the death of former President Ronald Reagan, American hostage Paul Johnson Jr.’s beheading, Saddam Hussein on trial, the Democratic National Convention and a fiery political race. And all FOX News shows prepared their rundowns as they saw fit. Editorials were blueprints, not marching orders.


THE FOX NEWS MEMO CHALLENGE

After the release of Outfoxed, Fox’s competitors started touting the memos in the film as credible evidence of the cable network’s bias. However, Fox News publicly challenged these (or any) media organizations to make public their own employee memos, whereupon “FOX News Channel will publish 100 percent of our editorial directions and memos, and let the public decide who is fair.”

None of the networks accepted Fox News’ challenge to reveal their own internal memos to the public.


BASELESS ACCUSATIONS. NO NAMES. NO INSTANCES. JUST SMEARS.

Larry Johnson, a former part-time Fox commentator who appears in the film, labels the staff memos “talking points instructing us what the themes are supposed to be, and God help you if you stray.” However, Johnson fails to back up this assertion and Outfoxed provides no instances of any employee (even those shrouded in darkness whose voices are changed to protect their identity while giving their testimony’s) ever receiving any negative consequences from voicing any disagreement to Moody about the tone of Fox’s news coverage. In fact, Outfoxed provides no evidence that any of the Fox employee’s made any such comment to Moody in opposition to his memo’s.


OMISSION OF MEMOS CONTAINING LIBERAL DIRECTION

The presentation of the memos in Outfoxed does not disclose how many the movie’s producers had obtained so the viewer can discern how representative the ones spotlighted in the film are of daily operation at Fox News.

USA Today revealed that Outfoxed had cherrypicked the memo’s to present a fictionally slanted view that makes no mention of the existence of memo’s obtained but not used by Outfoxed that give sympathetic direction to Democrat presidential candidate John Kerry:

However, Outfoxed does not mention other memos its researchers obtained from Fox News staffers.

Those memos, shown to USA TODAY, remind correspondents to give equal emphasis to speeches by President Bush and his opponent, Sen. John Kerry.

Another memo says, “Let’s not overdo the appearances by Kerry swift boat mate John O’Neill,” a man who raised questions about the senator’s wartime record. “He represents one side of the 30-year recollections of what Kerry did, or didn’t do, in uniform. Other people have different recollections,” the memo says.

Thus the entire segment on the Moody memo’s is an exercise in rank hypocrisy as it attacks a news source for allegedly creating slanted coverage to conform to a partisan agenda, while operating under exactly that model to make the allegation.

Response: the Outfoxed creators released all 33 of the memos that were leaked to them. The consortium shows that director Robert Greenwald did indeed select unrepresentative memos to fit the agenda of his film.

Some highlights below, with assessment in bold by the now defunct CableNewser website:

Some of the statements in the memos are questionable:

6/3/03: “The national forest as pot field story is pure Fox.”

4/4/04: Fallujah: “We will cover this hour by hour today, explaining repeatedly why it is happening. It won’t be long before some people start to decry the use of ‘excessive force.’ We won’t be among that group.”

04/28/04: “Let’s refer to the US marines we see in the foreground as “sharpshooters” not snipers, which carries a negative connotation.”

But the memos also show a news organization committed to ferreting out facts, answering questions for viewers and getting the story straight.

3/18/03: “Resist the urge to make any assumption about the potential Al Zawahiri story. Pakistani reports are often confused, especially when they come to us secondhand. Report only what we know and attribute it.”
04/08/04: “A battle is more than a macabre statistics report.”

04/21/04: “If Michael Jackson is indicted on sex charges, it’s a big story for us, but PLEASE don’t turn it into a nonstop circus.”

04/28/04: “Do not ignore the Oil for Food story, please. Fox News is making steady progress in investigating what could be, without exaggeration, the biggest ripoff of all time.”

And the memos also offer insight into FOX’s operating procedures:

05/03/04: “We are all so used to using the AP wires that their (temporary) absence today provides not just a challenge, but an opportunity. Check websites (including AP) and pay special attention to the urgent queue until AP service is restored. But use the outage to check just how much we rely on one service, and figure out alternatives.”

03/26/04: “We have competing speeches from the candidates for president…We’ll take whichever one starts first, time how long we stay with it, then give the same time to the other.”

03/24/04: “For everyone’s information, the hotel where our Baghdad bureau is housed was hit by some kind of explosive device overnight. ALL FOX PERSONNEL ARE OK…Please offer a prayer of thanks for their safety to whatever God you revere (and let the ACLU stick it where the sun don’t shine).”


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