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Thursday, August 18, 2005


Last night, I viewed the disturbing documentary about Fox News, "Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism." If you haven't seen it, I recommend that you do. Indeed, watch it as part of a double feature with "Control Room," the documentary about Arabic network, al-Jazeera.

Frankly, after seeing both films, I'd rather my cable company carry al-Jazeera than Fox News Channel.

This week, I'm hard at work on my syllabi for this fall's classes, which begin for me next Tuesday. While viewing "Outfoxed," I kept wondering if it would be acceptable to show it during classtime for the section on media in my American Foreign Policy course.

The first hour of the documentary is very good. The film relies heavily upon memos written by Fox News executives and interviews with former Fox News employees -- both behind-the-scenes producers and on-air figures. Some of the more analytical portions come from David Brock of Media Matters and Jeff Cohen of FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting).

A.O. Scott, writing in the NY Times gets it about right:
The story they tell is of the systematic and deliberate dismantling of journalistic norms, and of an outfit that has become not merely a voice of conservatism but a cheerleader for the Republican Party.
The film also shows a lot of snippets from Fox News broadcasts that demonstrate the veracity of the claims -- that Fox talking heads use "some say" to "report" rumor as news, for example, and they repeat (again and again and again) Republican talking points (such as, "John Kerry is a French-looking flip-flopper").

An awful lot of the film is about Fox's coverage of the Iraq war and the Bush administration. Given the importance of the presidency in American foreign policy, I think the documentary is on topic. Plus, a portion of the film speaks to the issue of corporate ownership of media and thereby extends the critique beyond Fox to GE (which owns NBC) and other news outlets.

The film's last 10 or 15 minutes, however, address a question central to director Robert Greenwald's politics: How can "we" fight back against Fox? Some of the respondents are overtly left-leaning and their analysis is as far to the left as Fox is to the right.

In any event, I think I'm going to use it this term, but would be eager to read feedback in the comments.

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