Falling short of its own low standards

FALLING SHORT OF ITS OWN LOW STANDARDS…. Highlighting examples of ridiculous journalism on Fox News is usually unnecessary. Anyone who takes standards seriously probably realizes that the partisan network is already a joke.

But this week offered an especially interesting example. Fox News ran a segment on Monday, hoping to prove that Obama administration officials are contradicting themselves. On the one hand, they’re emphasizing the dire economic conditions. On the other, they’re trying to strike optimistic notes about the future.

As part of the segment, Fox News showed Vice President Biden saying, “The fundamentals of the economy are strong,” and suggested Biden had said this over the weekend. In our reality, the Biden line was uttered six months ago, and had the opposite meaning. Biden said at the time, “I believe that’s why John McCain could say with a straight face as recently as this morning and this is a quote, ‘the fundamentals of the economy are strong.'” The network, obviously, carefully removed the context.

Fox News apologized yesterday for deceiving its audience, describing this as an “inadvertent” error.

Christopher Orr had the same reaction I did.

[I]t’s hard not to wonder how the network could “inadvertently” take a six-month-old campaign clip, carefully trim out the context (i.e., that Biden was ridiculing McCain) to make it seem the speaker was saying exactly the opposite of the point he was making, and slip it into a montage about the Obama administration’s “mantra for the weekend.”

I assume [Fox News’] McCallum had no idea about this (it certainly did her career no good), but it’s hard to imagine that someone involved in putting the segment together — a producer, an archivist, an intern, someone — didn’t knowingly alter the Biden clip. I don’t think this necessarily suggests that Fox News is more nefarious than generally believed — it was a pretty harmless segment — but, along with last month’s GOP press release, it suggests a network culture that is abandoning the concept of journalism, even biased journalism, altogether.

That’s a good point. Biased journalism can be worthwhile. Fox News likes to maintain the fiction that it’s completely impartial — insulting even its own viewers’ intelligence — but the network’s obvious partisanship is only part of the problem.

The more painful shortcoming, as Orr explained, is that Fox News can’t even do biased journalism well. It sets embarrassingly low standards — literally running using Republican Party talking points as an on-air script, and then apologizing for the typo, was a unique humiliation — and then fails to even try to meet them.