Fox News drew anger and protest this week after it posted a story juxtaposing a suicide at George Washington University with President Barack Obama's speech there on Wednesday.
The move also sparked criticism from several veteran newsroom leaders, including one who called it "ham-handed." The editor of the student newspaper said it "jarred" many students.
The negative fallout, which included a Facebook page created to protest the report, forced Fox to remove the story Thursday afternoon, according to the student paper, The GW Hatchet:
Fox News removed the story just before 4 p.m., and the link now goes to a "not found" page.
University spokeswoman Candace Smith said the University reached out to Fox News about the story.
"We contacted Fox News to express our concern that the story drew conclusions that were not accurate," Smith said. "It was their decision to take the story down, and we believe it was a wise one."
According to a Fox News employee, who spoke on background because they were not permitted to speak in an official capacity, Fox removed the story due to student and University reaction, even though nothing in the story was factually inaccurate.
HuffingtonPost.com has posted an image of the original Fox story, which stated:
GWU Suicide Tragically Coincides with Obama Speech
George Washington University students in Washington, D.C. learned of a tragic coincidence of timing on their campus Wednesday. As President Obama delivered a speech on deficit reduction in the Jack Morton Auditorium, one of the university's students committed suicide in his dorm room across campus.
Fox News has learned that the male student was likely a junior at the school.
"I am deeply saddened to report that the university has been notified of the death of one of our students," GW President Steven Knapp said in a message to his students, faculty and staff. "The student was found in his room this afternoon at the City Hall residence hall," he said.
GW officials tell Fox that the incident took place around 2pm, which happened to be at the same time that President Obama was speaking. As of this writing, Fox has not been able to obtain reaction from the White House.
"The Metropolitan Police Department is investigating the student's death in coordination with the GW Police Department," Knapp wrote. "At this time, we have no indication that the death was the result of a criminal act. We will release more information when it becomes available."
DC police officials tell Fox that the death has, in fact, been ruled a suicide.
Knapp took note of solemn moment, adding, "On behalf of the entire university community, I would like to express our sorrow and extend my condolences to the student's family and friends."
Conservative writer Jennifer Rubin isn't sad that Glenn Beck's Fox show is ending.
Rubin, who writes The Washington Post's Right Turn column, toldMedia Matters in an email: "It is good news for the conservative movement, especially at a time when serious and innovative individuals like Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio are demonstrating leadership and far-sightedness while maintaining a tone of civility."
Other conservative and libertarian journalists contacted by Media Matters reacted similarly.
Jesse Walker, managing editor of Reason magazine, pointed to Beck's repeated falsehoods, as well as his loss of viewers and advertisers:
"Beck was always someone who went off the reservation and he got criticism from other conservatives," Walker noted, saying he liked Beck's independence, but not his inaccuracies: "he got a lot of his facts wrong."
Further speculating on why Beck was dropped by Fox, Walker suggested that in Fox's view, "Controversy is fine when you are bringing in a lot of viewers, but controversy is not fine when you are losing viewers and dropping advertisers."
Daniel McCarthy, editor of The American Conservative, said Beck's departure "is certainly good for the intellectual integrity of conservatism."
"On the other hand," McCarthy added, "Beck was the only fellow on Fox News who did not seem to be scripted by the RNC."
W. James Antle, III, associate editor of The American Spectator, said Beck's act might have lost its impact in recent months.
"When Obama was elected and the Democrats controlled everything, you had conservatives feel disenfranchised," Antle said. "You did not feel like you were involved in a serious level. That creates a market for very outspoken conservative commentators. That created a market for guys like Beck.
"Then the market for that kind of cools a little bit when the Republicans take the house and you feel like you have a little more leverage."
Antle also said Beck's focus steered away from some of the more important conservative issues:
"If you look at what conservatives are focused on now, spending has become all consuming, the size of government. That wasn't the case a few years ago.
"I wonder if [Beck's] interests in personalities and their relationship to one another and broader conspiracies are just not what conservatives are looking for right now."
This post has been edited for clarity.
Several September 11 victims' relatives are speaking out against the conspiracy theories espoused by Judge Andrew Napolitano, who is apparently a contender to replace Glenn Beck.
Napolitano, who Beck suggested as his replacement just last night on Fox Business Network, has a history of promoting conspiracy theories, including the belief that the government is lying about the 9/11 attacks. While Beck has condemned so-called "Truthers," Napolitano has regularly filled in for Beck.
Napolitano currently hosts a show on Fox Business, and the New York Daily News reported yesterday that he is one of several "potential long-term replacements" for Beck.
Speaking in November on a leading conspiracist radio show, Napolitano said that it's "hard for me to believe that" World Trade Center Building 7 "came down by itself" -- a central tenet of 9-11 conspiracy theories -- and claimed that "twenty years from now, people will look at 9-11 the way we look at the assassination of JFK today. It couldn't possibly have been done the way the government told us."
Charles Wolf, whose wife, Katherine, died in the World Trade Center's North Tower, said Fox needs to be careful about promoting someone with such views.
"If he is going to be on there, I think there needs to be some control," he said of Napolitano. "There comes a point where the media can be irresponsible by what they do and don't do. There are sins of commission, and one of those sins of commission is allowing people like this on.
"I personally do not believe in any of these conspiracy theories. I think we are well past that stage. We don't need to be cluttering up people's time with bullshit."
Nancy Aronson, whose sister-in-law died aboard American Airlines Flight 11, is a board member of Families of September 11. She called the possibility of Napolitano taking over for Beck "disappointing."
"It is disappointing when a major network would put on someone who would espouse a view that is so involved in personal aggrandizement. I would be disappointed Fox would do that," she said. "I would hope [removing] Glenn Beck would mean stepping in the direction of having what they say is 'fair and balanced' coverage. That is certainly not a step in that direction. It does nothing to clarify the situation so many have worked to clarify."
Herb Ouida, whose son, Todd, was killed in the North Tower, said Napolitano may well be seeking attention. He said it may not be worth his time to watch.
"I have dismissed [such theories] so early on, I would probably turn it off," he said. "There are people in Dallas still looking for the other [JFK] gunman. There will always be people who promote themselves to be outlandish. I wonder how firm those viewpoints are held or if they are held to attract attention. There is no evidence here, and this guy is a lawyer."
He added, "That's Fox. I don't agree with them. Overall, I don't watch Fox. They have a right to broadcast, but I don't agree with it."
Elinor Stout, the mother of a Cantor Fitzgerald employee who died in the tower attacks, says such conspiracies take attention away from the important facts surrounding the tragedy.
"I feel that conspiracy theories are always going to be the case, look at what happened with JFK, what is happening now with the insane preacher burning the Koran," she said. "One has to keep a focus on what really happened."
She added when asked about Napolitano: "There will always be nutcases around. I don't know how much press we should give it. I think it is all part of the influence of media. If they just have him, it is like having Glenn Beck spewing all of his crazy stuff with no one to speak out about the other side."
The revelation that Fox News Washington managing editor Bill Sammon intentionally misled viewers in 2008 with speculation linking Barack Obama to socialism has drawn criticism from a handful of veteran Washington bureau chiefs.
Several former D.C. newsroom leaders told Media Matters that Sammon acted unethically when he publicly hinted several times in 2008 that Obama might have socialist tendencies, only to later admit that at the time, he "privately" believed the allegations were "far-fetched."
"At that time, I have to admit, that I went on TV on Fox News and publicly engaged in what I guess was some rather mischievous speculation about whether Barack Obama really advocated socialism," Sammon said in a 2009 speech that Media Matters publicized this week, "a premise that privately I found rather far-fetched."
Later in the speech, Sammon said his "mischievous speculation" was actually proven correct during the first months of Obama's presidency.
John Walcott, former McClatchy Washington bureau chief who stepped down in 2010 and ran the bureau during the 2008 election, criticized the actions.
"I don't think deception is ever acceptable in journalism," Walcott said. "I think there are times when we don't say everything we've learned for reasons of personal security and national security. But outright deception, saying something that you know to be untrue or have no basis for believing is true is not journalism, it is propaganda."
"This also reflects an increasing tendency to abandon the fourth estate's role of holding those in power -- political, economic, whatever -- accountable, regardless of their ideology, political party or social standing, in favor of taking sides."
Walcott added: "In theological terms, this is a sin of commission. This is more overt. This isn't journalism."
Frank Sesno, CNN Washington bureau chief from 1995 to 2001, said of Sammon: "Of course he's partisan. If Fox wants to define the role of its reporters and its bureau chief in a traditional journalistic capacity, then they have no business offering opinions or political speculation in any fashion.
"But if Fox wants to define itself differently, not as a traditional news organization but a news and opinion organization, then he is free to do that."
Marc Sandalow, San Francisco Chronicle bureau chief from 1996 to 2007, said Sammon's actions were not proper for a news person.
"Journalists should not be involved in mischievous speculation, journalists should not engage in mischievous speculation, they should be provocative and if they identify it, they can be analytic and opinionated," Sandalow said. "But mischief is not part of journalism."
Asked what it means for Sammon's newsroom leadership role, Sandalow added: "That's a problem, he is overseeing the news operation. For news gatherers, credibility is everything. You should never deceive viewers or readers."
Max Frankel, former executive editor of The New York Times and its Washington bureau chief from 1968 to 1972, called Sammon's actions "clear partisanship."
"In our politics, the word socialist is a curse word," Frankel said. "Especially when hurled at the Democrats, it is a clear case of partisanship and I don't believe that anybody who is calling Obama a socialist to this very day, really believes that."
"It is obviously name-calling, and partisanship of that sort has no place in fair journalism," he said. "The only surprising thing about the episode is that he would go so far as to admit it."
Marvin Kalb, a former NBC News chief diplomatic correspondent and one-time Meet The Press host, said Sammon went too far:
"I believe that Bill Sammon crossed a line between reporting and editorializing in his 2008 coverage of candidate Obama," Kalb said, later adding, "Decades ago, his campaign commentary would have been unacceptable. Reporters reported and did not offer personal critiques."
Steve Goldstein, former Washington Bureau chief for The Philadelphia Inquirer, e-mailed this view:
"If I'm not mistaken, Sammon also wrote a column for the Examiner. In any event, that's where his work came to my attention. After reading some pieces by him, it was abundantly clear that he was writing as some sort of party apparatchik and not as a journalist."
Dean Baquet, the current Washington bureau chief for The New York Times, told Media Matters: "Come on, it is Fox. So no surprise, right?"
A radio chain that dropped Glenn Beck from five of its stations since January did so, in part, because the show's content was hurting ratings, the company's president said Monday.
"He bounces around pretty radically, I think he confuses people, they're not sure where he is coming from," said Rick Buckley, president of Buckley Radio of Greenwich, Conn., who spoke with Media Matters. "It can change day to day, hour to hour. Consistency is, I think, the path to success in broadcasting, in radio for sure, whether it be music or talk. Glenn is sort of all over the park from time to time."
Buckley spoke just days after his company announced it would pull Beck's show from four stations in Connecticut. -- WDRC-AM, WWCO-AM, WSNG-AM, and WMMW-AM. Those stations simulcast programming and will no longer air Beck's morning show, replacing it with two local personalities.
"Some of his direction has changed over the last year and a half," Buckley said. "He is preaching a lot more than entertaining."
The move comes just months after WOR Radio, the chain's flagship station in New York, replaced Beck with a local host in January.
"In the last six months or so, he has tended to be more and more taking a religious point of view ... It didn't do well here in the east," Buckley said. "It has not gotten real traction. If you want a religious point of view, we've got plenty of religious stations. You can get it 24/7."
Buckley, whose father started the company in the 1950s, said Beck's show had changed and taken on more of a religious tone since his August 2010 rally in Washington, D.C.
"There is no question I think he had a big change after his Washington conclave. Something hit him down there. His show changed after that," Buckley said. "In its basic elements that he had been doing for a long, long time. He got much more into the doomsday and a lot more talking of the religious aspects of people's lives and stuff like that. For us in New York and in Hartford, we just felt that a local program would be better."
In recent months, Beck's show has frequently veered into apocalyptic religiosity.
Asked about the WOR change, Buckley said he had expected Beck's ratings to improve in that market, but they did not after two years on the air.
"WOR ... we gave it a two-year shot, it just didn't seem to get traction, it didn't get the traction we thought it would, especially with all the publicity and P.R. he's had, you'd have thought it would be a runaway. It was going the other way," Buckley said. "I don't know whether he is a little off the reservation in trying to prove his point for the masses ... the listening audience."
Citing the WOR ratings in New York, Buckley said: "They weren't down, but they weren't up. We'd thought they'd go up. The other talk station in New York, WABC, had gone through a lot of changes and you would have thought consistency would have helped [Beck]. We'd have thought we'd see some movement, but we didn't see anything."
Beck's show will remain on one Buckley station, KNZR-AM in Bakersfield, Calif. The company owns 17 stations in three states.
Several veteran foreign correspondents were critical of Fox News' misleading claims on Monday that reporters from other U.S. outlets, but not from Fox, were lured to Muamar Gadhafi's compound in Tripoli and successfully used as human shields.
Fox had to "clarify" the story later that evening when it turned out that someone from Fox News was also at Gadhafi's compound. At least one reporter, Nic Robertson of CNN, lashed out at Fox's reporting, calling it "outrageous and hypocritical."
Other military affairs reporters and war correspondents have since weighed in with criticism of Fox's actions, with some suggesting such misleading reports can hurt news efforts in the combat zone.
"Those war situations are always full of confusion about what dangers lurk, and I think the CNN team and other journalists probably did the right thing by taking a look at Gadhafi's compound," said Tim Johnson, a veteran McClatchy foreign correspondent, now based in Mexico. "Certainly, there were plenty of important aspects of the military campaign the Fox News team could have covered rather than choosing to cover what other reporters were doing. But if the goal was to make a splashy headline using the emotionally laden phrase of 'human shields,' they succeeded, whether accurate or not."
Otto Kreisher, a former U.S. Marine and Copley Newspaper foreign correspondent who covered U.S. forces in Grenada, Panama, and Iraq, said Fox News' actions were "not surprising from the 'fair & balanced' network."
Don North, a veteran photojournalist who has covered wars from Vietnam to Iraq and serves as vice president of Military Reporters and Editors -- an association of those who cover the military -- also criticized Fox:
"When news organizations try to make their journalists part of the story, it's a sorry way to use your people and resources, isn't it?" he asked. "The Gadhafi people can certainly be expected to show air strike damage in Tripoli to the foreign press and if there is a bus and you're our man in Tripoli, you better be on it. But as Nic Robertson of CNN, a very experienced hand in this type of situation observed, 'they didn't force us to hang around and be hostages.' "
Buckley Radio, a small national chain that aired Glenn Beck's program on six stations in three states at the beginning of 2011, will soon have him on only one.
Four of Buckley's five Connecticut stations are the latest to dump Beck's radio show. This week, the chain announced Beck would be removed from WDRC-AM, WWCO-AM, WSNG-AM, and WMMW-AM, which simulcast the same programs.
The fifth Connecticut station, WDRC-FM, plays classic rock music and did not air Beck's show.
"I am making the change in programming to address the Talk of Connecticut listener's desire for more locally originated program that feature Connecticut issues," Eric Fanhoe, Vice President/General Manager, Buckley Radio of Connecticut, wrote in an e-mail Thursday.
Grahame Winters, the Connecticut division's program director, also confirmed the need for more local programming in an e-mail:
"Quite simply, we are making the change in our programming lineup because our TALK of Connecticut listeners have expressed a desire for more locally originated programming featuring issues important to us here at home. This change will more closely align us with that goal."
The move comes nearly three months after WOR Radio, Buckley's flagship station in New York, dropped Beck in early January. At that time, WOR executives replaced Beck with a local veteran host.
WOR Program Director Scott Lakefield told the Daily News of New York at the time that, "The reason is ratings. Somewhat to our surprise, the show wasn't getting what we wanted."
Buckley, which has 17 stations nationwide and 11 in California, will apparently continue to broadcast Beck only on its lone California talk station, KNZR-AM in Bakersfield.
Buckley corporate executives and KNZR officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Beck's future there.
From coverage of the housing market meltdown to foreign war reporting, public radio and television have offered significant and groundbreaking coverage, according to top media critics and observers.
In the wake of the recent controversy over secret videotapes of top NPR officials -- and proposals to cut federal funding for NPR and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting -- Media Matters asked those who cover the media and opine on it what they consider the most impactful public broadcasting offerings of the past.
David Zurawik, TV critic for The Baltimore Sun, cited the NewsHour on PBS and its overseas coverage of Egypt and other recent tragedies as notable.
"They were doing really imaginative coverage, providing context," he said of the foreign reports. He also noted PBS's Frontline: "the number of great productions I have seen on Frontline is huge."
Zurawik pointed to the February 2009 Frontline program, "Inside the Meltdown," about the housing crisis.
"It showed us the deals that were made between the government and Wall Street at the time. Frontline goes where 60 Minutes won't, into the deeply-ingrained economic problems. And Frontline is not fat and happy, they are always looking for people to partner with."
Alex S. Jones, executive director of the Shorenstein Center on The Press, Politics and Public Policy and a former media writer for The New York Times, said: "I can give you a humdinger -- Laura Sullivan's series on bail bondsmen -- absolutely spectacular."
He referred to the three-part report on NPR this past January that just won an Alfred I duPont Award from Columbia University.
"It brought something to my attention that was utterly unexpected and utterly unknown, that more than two-thirds of the population that are in jail are there because they can't afford bail," he said.
"The bail bond business does not want people to be freed on their own recognizance. They contribute mightily to the organizations that would or would not make those changes in law."
Jones also cited the "ongoing, superb reportage over the years of [senior European correspondent] Sylvia Poggioli, based in Rome. She is one of many of the jewels of NPR."
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR.), founder and chairman of the Congressional Public Broadcasting Caucus, issued a statement Thursday slamming the proposal to stop federal funding for National Public Radio, H.R. 1076.
He also criticized James O'Keefe directly, describing his recent videos as a "dishonest hatchet job."
His statement is below:
Washington - Today Rep. Earl Blumenauer, founder and chairman of the bipartisan Congressional Public Broadcasting Caucus, condemned H.R. 1076, a bill to prohibit federal funding for National Public Radio and block local public broadcasting stations from buying any radio programming with federal funds.
"The majority is breaking its own rules on transparency to rush this bill to the floor before the American people have time to make their voices heard," said Blumenauer. "Polls show that a vast majority of Americans, including two-thirds of Republicans, want funding for public broadcasting to remain in place or even increase. This bill clearly goes against their wishes.
"What is particularly disappointing is the role being played by a dishonest, doctored video that is very clearly edited to trick viewers into thinking NPR is a partisan news outlet. James O'Keefe's dishonest hatchet job has no place in this discussion over the future of one of America's most important national treasures.
"The bill does not save a penny from the deficit, but it does hurt every single small, locally-owned public broadcasting station in America. Public broadcasting reaches over 30 million listeners a week, and now is the worst possible time to attack a successful enterprise that is growing and supports 21,000 jobs at local stations across this country. The notion that these small local stations can create their own content to replace what this bill takes away betrays a shocking lack of knowledge about the media business. No local outlet has the capacity to replicate the high-quality programming that is supported by federal funding."
Nine public radio general managers today issued a joint letter urging Congress to vote down H.R. 1076, the proposal to stop federal funding for NPR.
The letter, being sent to an undisclosed number of House members, is below:
As General Managers of Public Radio stations that serve millions of Americans in communities large and small, urban and rural and; As Producers of local, regional and national content aired by stations throughout the nation committed to telling the evolving story of America, its proud history, and its committed citizens;
We are writing to express our grave concern regarding the House legislation that would prohibit stations from using any Federal funds to pay for national programming and would eliminate CPB's Program Fund.
By prohibiting the use of Federal funds in any national programming, and in particular, by eliminating the CPB Program Fund, millions of Americans will be deprived of critical national and international news, information and cultural programming that cannot be found elsewhere. Local public radio stations will no longer reliably provide the community information and context so necessary to cities and towns challenged by change and faltering economies.
Institutions and projects at risk include:
- Radio Bilingüe's national program service, public radio's principal source of Latino programming.
- Koahnik Public Media' Native Voice 1, public radio's principal source of Native American programming.
- Youth Media, the California-based media network of young audio and video producers and a key source of a youth voice in the mass media.
- The Public Insight Network, American Public media's expanding project to bring citizen experts into public radio journalism.
- Independent producers who depend upon the Program Fund for money to support production of series such as StoryCorps and This I Believe.
- Independent organizations dedicated to innovation, training, and excellence in journalism such as the Public Radio Exchange and the Association of Independents in Radio.
The loss of the CPB Program Fund would cut producers off from a critical source of seed funding, in many cases the only source. Many projects fueled by the fund have gone on to attract large audiences, become financially self-sufficient, and represent the best in American journalism and programming.
Programs such as Radiolab, This American Life, Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me, The Tavis Smiley Show, Marketplace, and The World were all undertaken with the support of CPB, support that triggered other grants and funding.
Each production is, in essence, a small business in need of modest investment to ramp up on the way to fiscal independence.
Prohibiting local stations from using federal funds to acquire or produce local / national programming will interfere with the operating independence fundamental to the American's public radio system.
Removing our ability to acquire or produce programming would create a cascade effect that could ultimately undermine the entire public radio financial model.
Thousands of jobs will be eliminated and programs and entire services will be cancelled. We will lose listeners, members, and donors and the private money they contribute to keep us healthy and functioning.
These funding restrictions will devastate the public radio economy and eviscerate local stations' ability to attract audience, develop stable local revenue bases and, most importantly, continue to produce local programming including local/regional news.
David Isay, Founder and President, StoryCorps
Jeff Nelson, Managing Director, Public Strategy, Minnesota Public Radio
Torey Malatia, President and CEO, Chicago Public Media
Alisa Miller, President and CEO, Public Radio International (PRI)
Hugo Morales, Executive Director, Radio Bilingüe
Sue Schardt, Executive Director, Association of Independents in Radio, Inc. (AIR)
Jake Shapiro, CEO, Public Radio Exchange (PRX)
Laura Walker, President and CEO, New York Public Radio
Steve Yasko, General Manager, WTMD - Baltimore
Public Radio General Managers & Producers of Public Radio Programming