About News

A Speculative Top 10 List of Fox News’ “Journalistic Processes”

Fox Corp. via Wikimedia

Fox News may not be capable of shame, but the public humiliation of it from the Dominion Voting Systems defamation lawsuit just keeps getting better.

Dominion claims Fox News damaged it by knowingly broadcasting false claims that Dominion engaged in vote fraud in the 2020 presidential election. Among the current legal contests in the case is whether to protect or reveal some internal Fox communications that are currently blacked out in legal filings.

On March 10, Fox lawyers argued for continued secrecy because “prematurely disclosing these other details on Fox’s internal and proprietary journalistic processes may allow competitors to appropriate these processes for their own competitive advantage.”

Just goes to show that you can find good comedy anywhere.

It’s hard to conceive that whatever Fox wants to keep hidden could be worse than the journalistic malpractice that other internal Fox correspondence in the case has already revealed. (For honest observers of Fox, confirmed is a better word.) Even harder to conceive is that Fox has some trade secrets that competitors might want. Newsmax, maybe. Anyone credible, never.

I tried to envision Fox’s “proprietary journalistic processes.” I imagine it’s a Top 10 list something like this:

1) Decide stories based on ratings. Same with opinions. Doesn’t matter what you really believe.

2) Distort truths that our audience won’t like. Make up claims that they will.

3) On matters of life or health (e.g. pandemics), exceptions to No. 2 are not required.

4) Appeal to fear and racism (e.g. crime, immigration). They go hand in hand.

5) Attack vulnerable people. They don’t have enough money to buy ads.

6) Hammer on topics that hurt our political opposition before an election. Then forget about them.

7) Accompany all unsubstantiated statements with “we’re only raising questions” or “we don’t know that this isn’t true.” Or invite guests who will say them for you.

8) Treat all guests with respect. Don’t challenge them on anything.

9) Inform supervisors of any Fox journalist who deviates from an agreed-upon narrative.

10) Support powerful people who want to trash free speech and libel protections. But not too much. We may need those things if we get in legal trouble.

Fox, which I have written about before, is not a bad, dangerous news organization. It’s not even a news organization. It’s a political propaganda channel. The current litigation against it is a rare case in which to root against the media.

Tom Arenberg

Tom Arenberg is an instructor of news media at the University of Alabama. He worked for The Birmingham News and the Alabama Media Group for 30 years. He published this commentary originally as a post on his blog, The Arenblog.

About News is a BirminghamWatch feature that publishes commentary by those who teach the craft and think about the values and performance of today’s journalism, a civic flashpoint. BirminghamWatch is a member of the Institute for Nonprofit News whose members generally rely on individual gifts, foundation grants and sponsorships to support their work. It also publishes About News articles on Facebook and Twitter and invites readers to join the conversation about their news in those forums.