Roger Ailes

Journalism Professors Unite

April 4, 2020

Every pandemic in history has been followed by a cultural and social blossoming. This one can too, but only if we use this time to reflect on what that blossoming might look like. In the midst of the darkness that’s our slice of light.

~Marianne Williamson

From Journalists and Teachers of Journalism

“Americans consistently rate the Fox News Channel as one of the most trusted TV channels. The average age of Fox News viewers is 65. It is well established that this population incurs the greatest risk from the COVID-19 pandemic. In other words, Fox News viewers are at special risk from the coronavirus.

But viewers of Fox News, including the president of the United States, have been regularly subjected to misinformation relayed by the network — false statements downplaying the prevalence of COVID-19 and its harms; misleading recommendations of activities that people should undertake to protect themselves and others, including casual recommendations of untested drugs; false assessments of the value of measures urged upon the public by their elected political leadership and public health authorities.

The misinformation that reaches the Fox News audience is a danger to public health. Indeed, it is not an overstatement to say that your misreporting endangers your own viewers — and not only them, for in a pandemic, individual behavior affects significant numbers of other people as well.

Yet by commission as well as omission — direct, uncontested misinformation as well as failure to report the true dimensions of the crisis — Fox News has been derelict in its duty to provide clear and accurate information about COVID-19. As the virus spread across the world, Fox News hosts and guests minimized the dangers, accusing Democrats and the media of inflating the dangers (in Sean Hannity’s words) to “bludgeon Trump with this new hoax.” Such commentary encouraged President Trump to trivialize the threat and helped obstruct national, state, and local efforts to limit the coronavirus.

The network’s delinquency was effective. According to a YouGov/Economist poll conducted March 15–17, Americans who pay the most attention to Fox News are much less likely than others to say they are worried about the coronavirus. A Pew Research poll found that 79% of Fox News viewers surveyed believed the media had exaggerated the risks of the virus. 63% of Fox viewers said they believed the virus posed a minor threat to the health of the country. As recently as Sunday, March 22, Fox News host Steve Hilton deplored accurate views of the pandemic, which he attributed to “our ruling class and their TV mouthpieces — whipping up fear over this virus.”

Fox News reporters have done some solid reporting. And the network has recently given some screen time to medical and public health professionals. But Fox News does not clearly distinguish between the authority that should accrue to trained experts, on the one hand, and the authority viewers grant to pundits and politicians for reasons of ideological loyalty. There is a tendency to accept (or reject) them all indiscriminately, for after all, they are talking heads who appear on Fox News, a trusted source of news. When the statements of knowledgeable experts are surrounded by false claims made by pundits and politicians, including President Trump — claims that are not rebutted by knowledgeable people in real time — the overall effect is to mislead a vulnerable public about risks and harms. Misinformation furthers the reach and the dangers of the pandemic. For example, the day after Tucker Carlson touted a flimsy French study on the use of two drugs to treat COVID-19, President Trump touted “very, very encouraging early results” from those drugs, and promoted a third as a possible “game changer.”

The basic purpose of news organizations is to discover and tell the truth. This is especially necessary, and obvious, amid a public health crisis. Television bears a particular responsibility because even more millions than usual look there for reliable information.

Inexcusably, Fox News has violated elementary canons of journalism. In so doing, it has contributed to the spread of a grave pandemic. Urgently, therefore, in the name of both good journalism and public health, we call upon you to help protect the lives of all Americans — including your elderly viewers — by ensuring that the information you deliver is based on scientific facts.”

Signed*,

(If you are a journalist or teacher of journalism and would like to add your name, click here.)

Todd Gitlin, Professor, Chair, Ph. D. Program in Communications, Columbia Journalism School

Mark Feldstein, Eaton Chair of Broadcast Journalism, University of Maryland

Frances FitzGerald, Pulitzer Prize-winning author

Adam Hochschild, Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley

Edward Wasserman, Dean, Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley

Lisa R. Cohen; Columbia Journalism School

Gerald Johnson, Texas Student Media

Susan Moeller, Professor, Merrill College of Journalism, UMD, College Park

Maurine Beasley, University of Maryland College Park

Michael Deas, Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University

Ivan Meyers, Medill School at Northwestern University

Helen Benedict, Professor, Graduate School of Journalism, Columbia University

Hendrik Hertzberg, longtime staff writer and editor, The New Yorker

Lewis Friedland, Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor, School of Journalism and Mass Com, UW-Madison

Dr. Tom Mascaro, Ph.D. Bowling Green State University, School of Media & Communication

Tom Bettag, Visiting Fellow, University of Maryland

Betty H Winfield University of Missouri Curators’ Professor Emerita

Frank D. Durham, University of Iowa

Dennis Darling Professor, School of Journalism, The University of Texas at Austin

Jonathan Weiner, Maxwell M. Geffen Professor of Medical and Scientific Journalism Columbia Journalism School

Ari L. Goldman, professor, Columba University Graduate School of Journalism

Jennifer Kahn, Narrative Program Lead, Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley

Meenakshi Gigi Durham, Professor, School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Iowa

Deirdre English, Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley

Rosental C Alves, University of Texas at Austin

Pauline Dakin, Ass. Professor, University of King’s College, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Nina Alvarez, Assistant Professor, Columbia Journalism School

Travis Vogan, University of Iowa

Ali Noor Mohamed, United Arab Emirates University

Linda Steiner, Acting Director, Ph.D. Studies; Professor, Phillip Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland, College Park

Lucas Graves, School of Journalism & Mass Communication, UW — Madison

Anna Everett, Professor Emeritus, University of California, Santa Barbara

Richard Appelbaum, Fielding Graduate University; UCSB Emeritus

Tom Collinger, Northwestern University, Medill School of Journalism

Wenhong Chen, Founding Co-director, Center for Entertainment and Media Industries Associate Professor ofMedia Studies and Sociology, Moody College of Communication The University of Texas at Austin

LynNell Hancock, Professor, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism

Donna DeCesare, Associate Professor, School of Journalism, University of Texas at Austin

Barbie Zelizer, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania

Michael Murray, UM Curators Distinguished Professor Emeritus, UM-St. Louis

Michael Schudson, Columbia University

Martin Kaplan, Norman Lear Chair in Entertainment, Media and Society, USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism

Brian Ekdale, University of Iowa

Gina Masullo, University of Texas at Austin

Krishnan Vasudevan, Assistant Professor, Philip Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland at College Park

Harold Evans, former editor Sunday Times and The Times, London

Chuck Howell, Librarian for Journalism & Communication Studies, University of Maryland

Clarke L. Caywood Ph.D, Professor Medill School of Journalism Media Integrated Marketing Communications

Andie Tucher, Director, PhD program in Communications, Columbia Journalism School

Kalyani Chadha, Associate Professor, University of Maryland

Denis P. Gorman, Freelance Journalist

Jon Marshall, Northwestern University

Kevin Lerner, Marist College

Joel Whitebook, Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research

Abe Peck, Prof. Emeritus in Service, Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications, Northwestern University

Carrie Lozano, Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley

Susie Linfield, Dept of Journalism, New York University

Charles Berret, University of British Columbia

Jay Rosen, Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, New York University

Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez, Professor of Journalism, The University of Texas at Austin

Joseph Straubhaar, Professor, School of Journalism, University of Texas, Austin

Edward C Malthouse, Haven Professor, Medill School of Journalism, Media and IMC, Northwestern University

Mitchell Stephens, Professor of Journalism, New York University

Patricia Loew, Ph.D. Professor, Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University

Richard Fine, Professor of English, Virginia Commonwealth University

John E. Newhagen Associate Prof. Emeritus University of Marylans

Caryn Ward, Northwestern University, Medill School of Journalism, Media and Integrated Marketing and Communication

David Hajdu, Professor, Columbia Graduate School of Journalism

Naeemul Hassan, Assistant Professor, University of Maryland

Stephen D. Reese, School of Journalism & Media, U of Texas at Austin

Kevin Klose, Professor, University of Maryland

John Vivian, Winona State University

Sue Robinson, Helen Firstbrook Franklin Professor of Journalism, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Thomas P. Oates, University of Iowa

Samuel Freedman, Columbia Journalism School

Susan Mango Curtis, Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University

Prof. Robert S. Boynton, Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at NYU

Leonard Steinhorn, Professor of Communication and Affiliate Professor of History, American University

J.A. Adande, Medill School, Northwestern

Victor Pickard, University of Pennsylvania

Summer Harlow, Assistant Professor, University of Houston

Danielle K. Kilgo, Ph.D., Indiana University

Jack Doppelt, Northwestern University

Gerry Lanosga, The Media School, Indiana University

Martin Riedl, PhD Candidate, School of Journalism, The University of Texas at Austin

Rich Shumate, School of Media, Western Kentucky University

Mac McKerral, School of Media, Western Kentucky University

Mel Coffee, University of Maryland

David J. Vergobbi, University of Utah

Tom Boll, part-time instructor, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Syracuse University

Dannagal G. Young, Associate Professor of Communication and Political Science, University of Delaware

Ken Light, Reva and David Logan Professor of Photojournalism, UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism

George Harmon, emeritus faculty, Medill School of Journalism

Rachel Young, University of Iowa

Carol M. Liebler, Professor, Newhouse School, Syracuse University

Kyu Ho Youm, University of Oregon

Julianne H Newton, University of Oregon

Bethany Swain, University of Maryland

Gi Woong Yun, Reynolds School of Journalism, University of Nevada, Reno

Thomas E. Winski, MJE Retired Assistant Professor of Journalism, Emporia State University

Roy L Moore, Professor (retired), Middle TN State University

Ira Chinoy, Philip Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland

Jay Edwin Gillette, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Information and Communication Sciences Center for Information and Communication Sciences, Ball State University

Michael Anderson, retired journalist

Kimberley Shoaf, Professor of Public Health, University of Utah

Erica Ciszek, University of Texas at Austin

Daniel C. Hallin, University of California, San Diego

Keith W. Strandberg, Webster University, Geneva

Sophie Furley, Editor

Frank Sesno, Director, George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs

Timothy V. Klein, Louisiana State University

*Affiliations listed for identification only.

 

https://medium.com/@journalismprofs/open-letter-to-the-murdochs-9334e775a992

 

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