In anticipation of six weeks of lawyers bickering about defamation issues, I got a new easy chair, ordered a whole lot of popcorn and a broad range of adult beverages to facilitate day-drinking of the highest order. And then, fewer than two minutes before opening statements by lawyers from Dominion Voting Systems and Fox News, the latter entity being sued for defaming Dominion, a settlement was reached with Fox having to fork over $787.5 million. Not a bad haul for a $30 million company.
I wanted a trial. I wanted to watch Rupert Murdoch and his circus clowns squirm as the Dominion lawyers forced them to admit under oath that their whole operation was built on lies and deceptions. I also wanted Fox News to apologize to those Americans who were so mislead by an organization they apparently trusted. (Any apology from Fox, however, would be as disingenuous as if Pol Pot apologized for the Khmer Rouge.)
I wanted my own little schadenfreude festival. A celebration of shame and dishonor at the expense of the Fox broadcast team. I wanted to see Hannity, Carlson and the rest of them sweat until their stage makeup ran down their cheeks as they admitted to being frauds and liars—purposely misleading their viewers about the 2020 election.
“We acknowledge the Court’s rulings finding certain claims about Dominion to be false,” said a grammatically clumsy statement from Fox upon announcing the settlement.
Even in a press release, Fox can’t stop from lying: “This settlement reflects Fox’s continued commitment to the highest journalistic standards.”
It was a statement so ludicrous that CNN’s Jake Tapper could barely keep from laughing as he read it.
Fox continues its statement somewhat pompously: “We are hopeful that our decision to resolve this dispute with Dominion amicably, instead of the acrimony of a divisive trial, allows the country to move forward from these issues.”
I have little doubt that the country wouldn’t move forward no matter what might have been on Fox’s agenda.
The impact that broadcast, cable and the internet have on news content is undeniable. Google a news story and the print sites typically come after every electronic version. More often than not, we listen to the news; we don’t read it.
And speaking of CNN…What’s up with their new format? For as many years as I can remember, CNN has paraded out a team of news anchors who sat behind stylized desks to deliver the day’s headline stories and interview any number of experts in any number of fields. If a single story is deemed to be extremely important—like a lawyer nobody’s ever heard of who nonetheless kills his wife and son—that’s the only story viewers can witness for three or four days. This, despite the plethora of current events occurring currently.
Last week, CNN took away the desks and gave a new roster of news talent a paper script (how retro) that is to be read standing in front of multi-screen displays of the images of newsworthy places and people. The co-anchors present the stories as they wander around the multi-colored set. It comes across like the blocking rehearsal of a high school play.
The new format is called something like News Central, which makes it sound a bit like a railroad or subway station.
Television news anchors, to my way of thinking, belong sitting behind a desk in front of a busy newsroom—typewriters clicking and wire service bells ringing.
Walter Cronkite comes to mind. The veteran print journalist, who began his career with the United Press International (UPI) covering World War II and became part of the CBS Television news program at the behest of the legendary broadcaster Edward R. Murrow, was anchor of the CBS Evening News for 19 years. His closing line, “And that’s the way it is,” was a no-nonsense expression of the journalistic truth we expected.
Although there were variances in the opening of Cronkite’s program, I remember it basically as scrolling the reporters’ names and their locations. From there, the stories played out. If Eric Sevareid was on the evening’s broadcast, he was introduced as one with an opinion. That, along with Charles Kuralt’s “On the Road” segments, was about as far as bias became a part of the evening news.
Cronkite liked to characterize his broadcasts not as an end-all to an event but an index that would guide the viewer to finding the more complete story in a newspaper. He, along with the rest of the CBS news team, knew that the few seconds devoted to most any story could only scratch the surface.
While Fox creates its news content like articles of fiction, CNN, despite its own left-leaning slant, will ignore 35 stories in favor of beating to death a single story.
I can’t think that Walter Cronkite would have found much value in either of those enterprises. “And that’s the way it is” devolves from journalist truth to an apology.
Photo illustration by Courtney A. Liska
GRILLED HALIBUT A LA MALIBU
This is the only fish that Geri will eat. That’s because it doesn’t taste like fish. But it is delicious.
4, 6-oz. halibut fillets
1 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbs. soy sauce
1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbs. teriyaki sauce
Mix until smooth the mayonnaise with the soy, Worcestershire and teriyaki sauces. Slather the fish fillets on both sides with the mixture and allow to sit.
Light a charcoal or gas grill. Grill over medium-high heat to desired doneness.
Serve with wild rice and a Caesar Salad.