Conservative Media Pay Little Attention to Revelations About Fox News – The New York Times
Even in today’s highly partisan media world, experts said, the lack of coverage about the private comments of Fox’s top executives and hosts stands out.
Fox News and its sister network, Fox Business, have avoided the story. Newsmax and One America News, Fox’s rivals on the right, have steered clear, too. So have a constellation of right-wing websites and podcasts.
Over the past two weeks, legal filings containing private messages and testimony from Fox hosts and executives revealed that many of them had serious doubts that Democrats stole the 2020 presidential election through widespread voter fraud, even as those claims were made repeatedly on Fox’s shows. The revelations, made public in a defamation lawsuit against Fox brought by Dominion Voting Systems, have generated headlines around the world.
But in the conservative media world? Mostly crickets.
On 26 of the most popular conservative television news networks, radio shows, podcasts and websites, only four — National Review, Townhall, The Federalist and Breitbart News — have mentioned the private messages from Fox News hosts that disparaged election fraud claims since Feb. 16, when the first batch of court filings were released publicly, according to a review by The New York Times.
The majority — 18 in all, including Fox News itself — did not cover the lawsuit at all with their own staff. (Some of those 18 published wire stories originally written by The Associated Press or other services.)
Four outlets mentioned the lawsuit in some way, but did not mention the comments from Fox News hosts. One of those, The Gateway Pundit, published three articles that included additional unfounded allegations about Dominion, including a suggestion that security vulnerabilities at one election site using Dominion machines could have led to some fraud, despite no evidence that votes were mismanaged.
“These results are shocking,” one article asserted.
The Gateway Pundit did not respond to requests for comment.
Even in a media world often divided along partisan lines, the paucity of coverage stands out, media experts said. And it means that many of the people who heard the conspiracy theories about election fraud on Fox’s networks may not be learning that Fox’s leaders and on-air stars privately dismissed those claims.
“Choosing not to do stories is a form of bias,” said Tom Rosenstiel, a veteran press critic and a journalism professor at the University of Maryland. “The things you ignore and the things you choose to highlight are an important part of how you show whether you are a serious news organization.”
Mainstream news organizations often report on themselves when they are at the center of a scandal, Mr. Rosenstiel said, because they get “much more credit when they expose the lens on themselves as aggressively as they would anyone else.”
Who Is Covering Dominion’s Lawsuit?
A review of 26 conservative news and opinion sources showed little coverage of Dominion Voting Systems’ defamation lawsuit against Fox News.
The court documents, released on Feb. 16 and Monday, contain evidence that Dominion uncovered in its discovery process. The filings include snippets of depositions, as well as emails, text messages and instant messages among Fox executives, such as Rupert Murdoch and his son Lachlan, and hosts like Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity.
Dominion, which makes voting technology, has accused Fox of repeatedly airing claims that its machines contributed to widespread fraud in the 2020 election despite knowing those claims were false. Dominion says Fox did that in a reckless pursuit of ratings and profit, and is asking for $1.6 billion in damages. The case is scheduled to go to trial in a Delaware state court in April.
Fox lawyers argued that its commentary and reporting after the election did not amount to defamation because its hosts had not endorsed falsehoods about Dominion and were, therefore, protected by the First Amendment.
Those dueling legal arguments, though, haven’t been aired on Fox’s networks.
The lone on-air mention of the case on Fox News has been by Howard Kurtz, who hosts the weekly Fox News show “MediaBuzz.” He addressed the Dominion case on the air this week, telling viewers: “I believe I should be covering it.”
“But,” he continued, “the company has decided as part of the organization being sued, I can’t talk about it or write about it, at least for now. I strongly disagree with that decision, but as an employee I have to abide by it.”
A Fox News spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.
There are no legal orders barring media organizations from covering lawsuits they are involved in. And Mr. Rosenstiel pointed to a long history of past suits and scandals covered by the news organizations involved. The Washington Post, for example, ran a deeply reported article on how and why a reporter had made up a character in an article that won a Pulitzer Prize in 1981. The prize had been withdrawn a few days earlier after the fraud was uncovered. In 1999, The Los Angeles Times ran an investigative report on a profit-sharing agreement the company had entered into with the Staples Center.
But Fox’s lawyers might fear that anything said on the air could be used against the company at the trial, said Jane Kirtley, a professor of media ethics and law at the University of Minnesota.
“From an ethical perspective, I’d say it’s a real disservice to their viewers on Fox not to be covering this,” she said.
Another publication in the Murdoch media empire, The New York Post, has also not covered the recent filings. (A Post spokeswoman declined to comment.) The Wall Street Journal, which the Murdochs also own, covered both filings in February and ran an article on Thursday examining whether Dominion’s evidence can meet the high bar needed to win defamation cases against media outlets.
Newsmax and The Washington Examiner — two of the four outlets reviewed by The Times that mentioned Dominion’s lawsuit but not the specific comments by Fox News’s hosts — have focused on Rupert Murdoch’s private messages, including that he saw Newsmax as a potential threat to Fox News. The Western Journal, another one of the four, mentioned the lawsuit in an article about Keith Olbermann, the former MSNBC anchor, a regular critic of Fox News.
The hosts’ comments have also not been a focus of users on right-wing social media. Instead, many users on sites like Gab and Truth Social accused Mr. Murdoch of disloyalty to former President Donald J. Trump. One of the articles by The Gateway Pundit that advanced voter fraud narratives about Dominion was the most-shared story about the case on right-wing social media, according to data from Pyrra Technologies, a company that monitors the right-wing internet.
When users on right-wing social networks discussed the Fox News hosts, many criticized Mr. Carlson, Mr. Hannity and others for not fully believing the election fraud lies they appeared to endorse, Pyrra found.
Media Keep Stifling the Covid Debate – WSJ – The Wall Street Journal
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Facebook users consume more fake news than users of Twitter, other social media sites: Study – CTV News
When it comes to election misinformation on social media, Facebook takes the cake, according to a new study which found heavy Facebook users were far more likely to consume fake news than Twitter or other social media sites.
The study, published earlier this month in the peer-reviewed journal Government Information Quarterly, found Facebook users read the most fake news about the 2020 U.S. presidential election and reported the most concern about votes not being counted properly.
They also found the biggest factor in whether a person reported being suspicious about the election results was their level of fake news consumption, not their method of casting their vote.
According to the study, a big part of the problem with relying on social media for news is that these sites have algorithms designed to keep you scrolling and engaged, meaning that they’re likely to keep serving you the same content you’re engaging with and make it harder to climb out of a disinformation hole once you are in it.
“What we saw in this study is that if you aren’t careful, the bias that you bring into your news consumption can be absolutely confirmed and supported if you are in a place like Facebook where the algorithms feed into that,” Robert Crossler, study co-author and an associate professor in the WSU Carson College of Business, said in a press release.
Those who got their news about the 2020 election primarily by navigating directly on a news website were less likely to consume fake news, the study found, and were more likely to believe that the election had unfolded the way it did.
U.S. President Joe Biden’s win in 2020 was accompanied with unproven allegations pushed by former U.S. President Donald Trump that the election had been stolen from him and that many votes for him had gone uncounted. Allegations of voter fraud with mail-in ballots and with Dominion voting machines were spread after the election, but none of these claims stood up in court, and few legal experts supported this position.
However, the lack of factual support didn’t stop the story from spreading widely on social media.
It’s not new that Facebook and other social media sites can be drivers of disinformation and fake news, but it’s trickier to measure how consuming fake news affects a person’s perception of reality.
In order to get a better understanding of this, the Washington State University-led study designed three surveys relating to how political alignment, fake news consumption and voting method each individually impacted a person’s perception of the election.
In the study, “fake news” was defined as articles and sites spreading disinformation that was provably incorrect, not articles or sites with information perceived to be false from a partisan standpoint.
The first two surveys were given to different groups of voters prior to the election, both containing hypothetical scenarios for participants to react to.
The first posited a scenario where the participant would either be voting in-person, through the mail or online. Once the participant had read the scenario of their voting method, they were asked questions about how concerned they were about votes being counted properly, and how much news they got from various news organizations.
The second survey gave the scenario of all voters needing to use mail-in ballots that would be counted either by a government official, a neutral party or by a voting machine. They were then asked again about their concerns regarding votes being counted and their news sources.
The third survey was presented to a group of actual voters after the election. Participants filled out what their voting method had been, and then answered the same questions presented in the previous two surveys. They then reported what percentage of their news they got from direct navigation, Twitter, Facebook, or other social media sites.
Researchers were surprised to find the voting method — whether people voted by mail or in-person — had no measurable impact on how likely participants were to be worried about votes not being counted properly.
Instead, the more a person reported receiving their news from social media, particularly Facebook, the more likely they were to be heavily concerned about votes not being counted.
This suggested to researchers that Facebook, more so than other social media sites, was elevating sources spreading these fears.
“I don’t think that Facebook is deliberately directing people towards fake news but something about how their algorithm is designed compared to other algorithms is actually moving people towards that type of content,” Stachofsky said. “It was surprising how hard it was to find the websites Facebook was directing people to when we looked for them in a web browser. The research shows that not all social media platforms are created equal when it comes to propagating intentionally misleading information.”
The study also found there was no age group more likely to read fake news, which is different from other studies, suggesting that there could be a higher proportion of younger adults consuming fake news than had been previously thought.
Authors noted that more research needs to be done to understand how disinformation spreads and how it can be combatted, particularly in a political climate where the partisan divide in the U.S. is increasing the distrust in mainstream media. They’re hoping that this study could spur social media sites to think more about how their algorithms impact their users.
“This supports the argument that people need to be encouraged to be information or news literate,” Crossler said. “Right now, we are talking about the elections, but there are a lot of other issues, such as the war in Ukraine, that directing people to misinformation is not only misleading but also potentially dangerous.”
2023 Media Layoff Tracker: Rough Year For Journalism Marked By Increasing Layoffs
Board members of the Texas Democracy Foundation reportedly voted to put the progressive Texas Observer on hiatus and lay off its 17-person staff following prolonged economic woes and shrinking readership, marking the latest in a brutal series of closures and layoffs rocking the media industry in 2023.
reportedly heard about the impending layoffs from a Texas Tribune article, writes a letter to the Foundation’s board asking them to reconsider the decision to close the paper and sets up an emergency GoFundMe page in a last ditch effort to find funding.The Texas Observer’s staff, who
cancels four podcasts—Invisibilia, Louder Than a Riot, Rough Translation and Everyone and Their Mom—and begins laying off 100 employees as part of a push to reduce a reported budget deficit of $30 million.NPR
tells Boston public radio.NPR affiliate New England Public Media announces it will lay off 17 employees—20% of its staff—by March 31 after facing “serious financial headwinds during the last three years,” New England Public Media management
lay off 34 people and close a printing press in Portsmouth, New Hampshire as part of Gannet’s efforts to reduce the number of operating presses and prioritize digital platforms.Sea Coast Media and Gannett, a media conglomerate with hundreds of papers and Sea Coast Media’s parent company,
told NPR.Three Alabama newspapers—The Birmingham News, The Huntsville Times and the Press-Register—become fully digital publications and reportedly lay off 100 people following a prolonged decrease in print paper circulation, Alabama Media Group President Tom Bates
reportedly became too expensive to produce amid a declining audience—an unspecified number of people are laid off.New York public radio station WNYC cancels radio show The Takeaway after 15 years on air after the show
reportedly told investors following compounding declines in profit.News Corp, which owns the Wall Street Journal and HarperCollins publishers, among others, expects to lay off 1,250 people across all businesses by the end of 2023, Chief Executive Robert Thomson
stops publishing its video game and kids sections, leaving 20 people unemployed a little over a month after publisher Fred Ryan foreshadowed layoffs in 2023—executive editor Sally Buzbee reportedly tells employees the layoffs were geared toward staying competitive and no more are scheduled.The Washington Post
reportedly tells staff.Vox Media, which owns The Verge, SB Nation and New York Magazine, lays off 133 people—7% of the media conglomerate’s staff— in anticipation of a declining economy, chief executive Jim Bankoff
reports, mere months after Fandom acquired the four outlets, among others, for $55 million.Entertainment company and fan platform Fandom lays off less than 50 people at affiliated GameSpot, Giant Bomb, Metacritic and TV Guide, Variety
according to publisher and chief executive Steven Saslow—an undisclosed number of people are laid off and severance packages depend on signing a non-disclosure agreement, the Oregonian reports.The Medford, Oregon-based Mail Tribune shuts down their digital publication after hiring difficulties and declining advertising sales,
lay off 75 employees as part of a broader corporate reorganization.NBC News and MSNBC
closes a printing press in Greece, New York, as part of an increased focus on online journalism, resulting in the layoffs of 108 people.Gannett
lays off 50 employees at an Indiana printing press to “adapt to industry conditions,” a spokesperson told the Indiana Star—the press remains open and the layoffs aren’t expected to affect newspaper employees.Gannett
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