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20 Questions for Fox News

Questions for the man at the helm of Fox's coverage -- from O'Connor and AlterNet readers.
 
 
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This is the second in a series of interviews with leading American newsmakers. As with the recent interview with CNN/US head Jonathan Klein, many of the questions are citizen-generated.

1. Do you think American media, generally speaking, is biased? If so, how so -- too liberal? too conservative? too corporate? too careerist? too driven by ratings and celebrity?

2. You oversee all story content for FOX News Channel and are responsible for its editorial direction. What is the present editorial direction of FOX News? Are there any plans to change that in the near future? If so, in what way? How are decisions made concerning the overall editorial direction of FOX News?

3. By most accounts, the majority of American journalists are not conservative in their personal political beliefs. Do you find that to be so? If so, how do you counter-balance that tendency in your newsroom? Do you take people's personal political beliefs into account when hiring -- i.e., do you look to hire more conservative voices throughout your newsroom?

4. What's the story with the infamous "morning memo" one former FOX producer decried? He claimed: "The roots of FNC's day-to-day on-air bias are actual and direct. They come in the form of an executive memo distributed electronically each morning, addressing what stories will be covered and, often, suggesting how they should be covered. To the newsroom personnel responsible for the channel's daytime programming, The Memo is the bible." He also said, "Editorially, the FNC newsroom is under the constant control and vigilance of management. The pressure ranges from subtle to direct. First of all, it's a news network run by one of the most high-profile political operatives of recent times. Everyone there understands that FNC is, to a large extent, "Roger's Revenge" -- against what he considers a liberal, pro-Democrat media establishment." What is your reaction?

5. Some observers say that your daytime news programming is more objective and balanced than the later programming featuring opinionated personalities like Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity. Do you agree? Do you consider them to be journalists delivering news or commentators subject to a different standard?

6. I was once invited to appear on Bill O'Reilly's program -- and then uninvited when I refused to call the BBC as "the Baghdad Broadcasting Corporation" and the New York Times "the Saddam News Service." While I am certainly critical of those news outlets at times, I thought the O'Reilly characterizations were, frankly, ludicrous. Who do you agree with -- me or O'Reilly?

7. Many Americans now believe that the media, generally speaking, was too accepting of the government's rationale for invading and occupying Iraq, that coverage in the run up to the war and beyond resembled cheerleading more than reporting, and that, in essence, the mainstream media was complicit in creating the awful conditions we see there now. How do you respond?

8. Prior to joining FOX News, you had a 14-year career at Time as both a writer and bureau chief. Before that you were a bureau chief for United Press International. Is FOX News as "fair and balanced" as those traditional news outlets, or is it more overtly conservative?

Reader-generated questions:

9. Why do you think people who watch FOX News, when polled, were disproportionately misinformed on Iraq's connection to 9/11? ( Tracy Minicucci )

10. It is not unpatriotic to disagree with a president or any other elected official. To support troops (and pray fervently they come home alive, are given the supplies they need to survive, and are prepared to understand the culture and the language) can also mean we want them home. We do not want them shipped off to illegal, immoral wars, encouraged to torture and break the Geneva Convention. To make sure they never are sent to fight unless it is truly to protect America is the biggest support we can give those who go to fight for us. Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, and those brave men and women should never have been sent there because of 9/11. Why didn't you ask questions in the news before it got to that stage? Why didn't you point out that the big majority of the perpetrators came from Saudi Arabia and ask why we weren't invading that country? Too many questions failed to be asked by all journalists in the media, and what a mess we have now because of that! Thank you for taking these things into consideration. ( Anne Sherwood, grandmother and patriot, Kansas City, Mo. )

11. I feel that television news is trapped by its need to produce interesting images. For example, the Natalee Holloway story is driven as much by her looks and status as the crime itself. I can believe that FOX is "fair and balanced" and the other cable nets are "liberally biased." What I cannot believe is that FOX News' attempt to correct that bias makes any difference as to what sorts of images are needed to fill up 24 hours of all-news coverage. CNN and MSNBC have spent as much time as FOX on Natalee Holloway, and their "liberal bias" hasn't made them shy away from covering her. Would you mind telling your audience, daily and hourly, that no amount of Fred Barnes can change the need for images to fill up airtime? Begin each broadcast hour by saying: "This next story is not to correct liberal media bias. It is simply what we have to do to get an audience this week." Then later in the hour, you say: "This next story is to correct the liberal media bias of CNN's "the Situation Room." Distinguish between the two. ( Bradley Laing )

12. How can FOX spend so much time on Aruba's investigations and so little on criminal investigations of the White House? ( Rich Monahan )

13. Most TV personalities can ask questions, and even dig deeper, without blatant and utter degradation of the guest. Why do you tolerate Sean Hannity's insufferable rudeness and self-righteous "ME, ME, ME, I am always right" attitude? I turn it off when he gets started. Colmes can get the same information and mature discussion without the egotistical hot-dogging. This nation needs more respect and tolerance, and Hannity does not have a clue. ( P.M. Quested )

14. Why does FOX News call itself "fair and balanced," yet pit such a weak "liberal" as Mr. Colmes against Mr. Hannity? Why not have a stronger individual --someone like Al Franken or Ann Richards -- or even Al Sharpton? Perhaps Mr. O'Connor? I might actually watch the program! ( Carol Lee Colombo )

15. Why did FOX News call the election for George Bush in 2000 before we had the results from Florida, and why did it just happen to be a Bush relative at FOX who made the call? ( Mike Jones )

16. With the premise that FOX NEWS makes SO much money during and including the time leading up to leading national elections Will you ever order your FOX News reporters, hosts and others to engage in a serious or ongoing discussion about REAL campaign finance reform? For example, instead of perhaps one hour of discussion in any given month or one hour per week of discussion why wouldn't you order one hour a day of serious and "balanced" discussion for a ONE YEAR period of time? ( Michael Ragsdale, New York City )

17. When talking about oil prices, why does FOX News refuse to mention that the oil companies reaped the largest profits for two quarters in a row in the history of the United States and the world? Could this not be a small inkling as to why gas prices are so high? Why is Colin Powell getting a free ride on the WMDs? If a TV show can show us the number on a license plate from a satellite, why in God's name did we let Colin Powell get away with using those cartoon pictures? This is the biggest joke of the Bush presidency! They showed better photos during the Cuban missile crisis and nobody caught it? ( Jerry Riley, CMSgt, USAF Retired )

18. Now that neoconservatism is collapsing, what will FOX do to switch to a growth market? Will FOX continue to base its market strategy on market segmentation by bias instead of quality journalism? Are we forever stuck with news-by-bias, or will there be a turn to objectivity? ( Kurt Lightfoot )

19. How often to you speak directly to the White House for information in the form of either talking points for on-air distribution and/or stories they want that support their agenda?

20. What are some ways you can increase the variety of perspectives and opinions given access on your news shows?

This and other articles by Rory O'Connor are available on his blog.