The Sammon Memo

THE SAMMON MEMO…. Over the weekend, an interesting video emerged of a Fox News producer rallying a right-wing crowd for the cameras at the 9/12 event in D.C. Viewers at home, of course, were not told that a Fox News producer was encouraging the protestors to make some noise specifically for the viewing audience.

The footage has been embraced by other networks as evidence of the not-so-shocking fact that Fox News isn’t actually a journalistic outlet with professional standards. The video has apparently been so embarrassing to the network that Fox News managing editor Bill Sammon published a memo yesterday, sent to the network’s team.

The reminder to the Fox News staff was quite amusing, in an unintentional way. Sammon wrote that Fox News’ “journalists … must always be careful to cover the story without becoming part of the story. At news events, we’re supposed to function as dispassionate observers, not active participants.” Fortunately, this was in an email, so there was no way for anyone to watch Sammon struggle to keep a straight face while writing it.

The memo went on to say that Fox News must ask questions in a “fair, impartial matter.” Fox News, which was practically a co-sponsor of Tea Party rallies, must not “cheerlead for one cause or another.” Sammon added, “We do not rile up a crowd. If a crowd happens to be boisterous when we show it on TV, so be it. If it happens to be quiet, that’s fine, too. It’s not our job to affect the crowd’s behavior one way or the other. Again, we’re journalists, not participants — and certainly not performers.”

Sammon concluded that Fox News’ “legitimate journalistic role as detached eyewitnesses” must be protected. If the Republican network strays from being “honest brokers,” Fox News will have violated its “sacred trust.”

Ben Dimiero published an annotated, corrected version of the Sammon memo that’s worth checking out.

Media Matters also put together this video, which cleverly matched up Sammon’s reminders with actual Fox News broadcasts.