Credibility in journalism is key to surviving, and I am deeply concerned that some of the craziness going on over at the television news could eventually sink us all. To start with, a lot of people think what they see on television is journalism. On the local stations, that is true, and overall they seem to be doing a good job. But this Fox News has me worried.
I don't watch much television anymore, but on vacation I ended up watching a lot of it.
During the bride disappearance, they say they are bringing in this expert to comment. Who is it? Mark Furhman, former LAPD homicide cop. For a second, I say: How inappropriate to bring in a homicide detective since it would imply we think she is dead. And then the mother of all alarms goes off in my head. What? Mark Furhman! THE Mark Furhman of the O.J. trial?
I say this out loud even though no one else is in my hotel room, "I cannot believe that any news organization with any credibility would use Mark Furhman as an expert."
The nation is filled with police experts, sheriffs who have dealt with disappearances, police academy experts on that very subject, and the best that Fox can find is Mark Furhman. Then it occurs to me that they are doing it on purpose. They are rallying their base. They are thumbing their nose at those who are not true believers.
News on television used to be easy to understand and it still is on the local level. Something catches on fire. You get good video, you interview the fire chief and neighbors and you put it on the air. You hear about corruption or some problem locally and you go out and investigate it. Just the same way we in the print media do.
But now these 24-hour news networks like Fox can't find enough news to fill up 24 hours or what they consider news (because they have determined that Europe and the rest of the world can go to hell and doesn't matter, and complicated issues are too hard or boring to pursue). So now they have different programs with personalities and they have commentators and "experts" commenting on the news.
So too lazy to get up and change the channel, I keep watching this Fox News Channel. One of these personality segments, Bill O'Reilly, I believe, does a segment on ABC's investigation into how pop star Paula Abdul slept with and gave music advice to one of the contestants on "American Idol" while being a judge over that same contestant.
First the Fox segment has to point out that ABC once wanted a show like this and how it is probably just sour grapes that they are investigating Fox's program. Remember, this is Fox news commenting on Fox entertainment. Then they bring in an entertainment writer for a New York newspaper who says she sees nothing wrong with Abdul sleeping with the guy since she likes everyone on the show and the viewing public is really the judge of who wins.
But who owns the newspaper that this writer works for? Two guesses, and the parent company of Fox is the right answer. So now you have Fox News Channel doing a segment on ABC's sour grape coverage of a Fox entertainment program and it bolsters its argument by bringing in a newspaper columnist who works for the same company as Fox. Wow, this is so slimy.
And they begin these slimy programs by popping on the screen the words: "fair and balanced." A network that has to keep trying to convince its viewers it is fair and balanced has probably got problems with being fair and balanced.
So journalism on television, or what many perceive as journalism, is now mired in all this entertainment mess and all of these conflicts and sniping with other networks.
When I was in Europe last year I watched the 24-hour news channels over there and they did like the old days. They reported the news. But they took the position that other countries, including the United States, were important. That gave them plenty of news to report without having to sit around and comment on the news. But the Fox News Channel, I am sure, would take the position that those issues would bore the devil out of American television viewers.
I am back from vacation and between work and reading books I have turned off the television and luckily don't see any more of this mess. I am one of the lucky ones.
Bob Paslay is assistant managing editor of the News Daily and Daily Herald. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753 Ext. 257 or at firstname.lastname@example.org .