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Fox: Civilian Casualties Not News

Network news outlets have reported stories about civilian casualties in Afghanistan with caution, often noting that Taliban claims are nearly impossible to verify. But many outlets show no inclination to be equally careful when evaluating the Pentagon's line on casualties.
ACTION ALERT:

Fox: Civilian Casualties Not News



November 8, 2001



Network news outlets have reported stories about civilian casualties in Afghanistan with caution, often noting that Taliban claims are nearly impossible to verify. But many outlets show no inclination to be equally careful when evaluating the Pentagon's line on casualties.



CNN, for example, has ordered reporters to frame reports of civilian deaths with reminders that "the Pentagon has repeatedly stressed that it is trying to minimize" such casualties, and that "the Taliban regime continues to harbor terrorists who are connected to the September 11 attacks that claimed thousands of innocent lives in the U.S." (See FAIR Action Alert, 11/1/01.)



The host of Fox News Channel's "Special Report with Brit Hume" (11/5/01) recently wondered why journalists should bother covering civilian deaths at all. "The question I have," said Hume, "is civilian casualties are historically, by definition, a part of war, really. Should they be as big news as they've been?"



The idea that civilian casualties have been "big news" in the U.S. is questionable, but the Fox pundits more or less agreed with Hume.



Mara Liasson from National Public Radio was direct: "No. Look, war is about killing people. Civilian casualties are unavoidable." Liasson added that she thought what was missing from television coverage was "a message from the U.S. government that says we are trying to minimize them, but the Taliban isn't, and is putting their tanks in mosques, and themselves among women and children." (Of course, anyone who has watched much TV news knows that this information is included in virtually every report.)



Fox pundit and U.S. News & World Report columnist Michael Barone echoed Hume's earlier remarks: "I think the real problem here is that this is poor news judgment on the part of some of these news organizations. Civilian casualties are not, as Mara says, news. The fact is that they accompany wars."



If journalists shouldn't cover civilian deaths because they are a normal part of war, does that principle apply to all war coverage? Dropping bombs is also standard procedure in a war; will Fox stop reporting airstrikes?



Fox's marketing slogan is "We report, you decide," but these Fox pundits have decided for you that some deaths aren't worth reporting. Then again, being honest journalists might not be the first order of business. As Hume told the New York Times, "Look, neutrality as a general principle is an appropriate concept for journalists who are covering institutions of some comparable quality.... This is a conflict between the United States and murdering barbarians."



With both Fox and CNN crusading against coverage of civilian deaths in Afghanistan, it's little wonder that self-censorship is taking place at smaller outlets. A memo circulated at the Panama City (Fla.) News Herald and leaked to Jim Romenesko's Media News warned editors:



"DO NOT USE photos on Page 1A showing civilian casualties from the U.S. war on Afghanistan. Our sister paper in Fort Walton Beach has done so and received hundreds and hundreds of threatening e-mails and the like.... DO NOT USE wire stories which lead with civilian casualties from the U.S. war on Afghanistan. They should be mentioned further down in the story. If the story needs rewriting to play down the civilian casualties, DO IT. The only exception is if the U.S. hits an orphanage, school or similar facility and kills scores or hundreds of children."



This policy of consistently burying the facts about the impact of the war on Afghanistan must make the pundits at Fox proud. But journalists who care about the principles of the profession should be embarrassed.





--------------------------------------------------------------------------------



ACTION: Please let Fox anchor Brit Hume know that the deaths of civilians in Afghanistan are worth covering-- just like the deaths of civilians in the World Trade Center were worth covering.



CONTACT:

Brit Hume

Managing Editor & Anchor, "Special Report with Brit Hume"

Phone: 1-888-369-4762

special (at) foxnews.com



As always, please remember that your comments are taken more seriously if you maintain a polite tone. Please cc fair (at) fair.org with your correspondence.

ACTION ALERT:

Fox: Civilian Casualties Not News



November 8, 2001



Network news outlets have reported stories about civilian casualties in Afghanistan with caution, often noting that Taliban claims are nearly impossible to verify. But many outlets show no inclination to be equally careful when evaluating the Pentagon's line on casualties.



CNN, for example, has ordered reporters to frame reports of civilian deaths with reminders that "the Pentagon has repeatedly stressed that it is trying to minimize" such casualties, and that "the Taliban regime continues to harbor terrorists who are connected to the September 11 attacks that claimed thousands of innocent lives in the U.S." (See FAIR Action Alert, 11/1/01.)



The host of Fox News Channel's "Special Report with Brit Hume" (11/5/01) recently wondered why journalists should bother covering civilian deaths at all. "The question I have," said Hume, "is civilian casualties are historically, by definition, a part of war, really. Should they be as big news as they've been?"



The idea that civilian casualties have been "big news" in the U.S. is questionable, but the Fox pundits more or less agreed with Hume.



Mara Liasson from National Public Radio was direct: "No. Look, war is about killing people. Civilian casualties are unavoidable." Liasson added that she thought what was missing from television coverage was "a message from the U.S. government that says we are trying to minimize them, but the Taliban isn't, and is putting their tanks in mosques, and themselves among women and children." (Of course, anyone who has watched much TV news knows that this information is included in virtually every report.)



Fox pundit and U.S. News & World Report columnist Michael Barone echoed Hume's earlier remarks: "I think the real problem here is that this is poor news judgment on the part of some of these news organizations. Civilian casualties are not, as Mara says, news. The fact is that they accompany wars."



If journalists shouldn't cover civilian deaths because they are a normal part of war, does that principle apply to all war coverage? Dropping bombs is also standard procedure in a war; will Fox stop reporting airstrikes?



Fox's marketing slogan is "We report, you decide," but these Fox pundits have decided for you that some deaths aren't worth reporting. Then again, being honest journalists might not be the first order of business. As Hume told the New York Times, "Look, neutrality as a general principle is an appropriate concept for journalists who are covering institutions of some comparable quality.... This is a conflict between the United States and murdering barbarians."



With both Fox and CNN crusading against coverage of civilian deaths in Afghanistan, it's little wonder that self-censorship is taking place at smaller outlets. A memo circulated at the Panama City (Fla.) News Herald and leaked to Jim Romenesko's Media News warned editors:



"DO NOT USE photos on Page 1A showing civilian casualties from the U.S. war on Afghanistan. Our sister paper in Fort Walton Beach has done so and received hundreds and hundreds of threatening e-mails and the like.... DO NOT USE wire stories which lead with civilian casualties from the U.S. war on Afghanistan. They should be mentioned further down in the story. If the story needs rewriting to play down the civilian casualties, DO IT. The only exception is if the U.S. hits an orphanage, school or similar facility and kills scores or hundreds of children."



This policy of consistently burying the facts about the impact of the war on Afghanistan must make the pundits at Fox proud. But journalists who care about the principles of the profession should be embarrassed.





--------------------------------------------------------------------------------



ACTION: Please let Fox anchor Brit Hume know that the deaths of civilians in Afghanistan are worth covering-- just like the deaths of civilians in the World Trade Center were worth covering.



CONTACT:

Brit Hume

Managing Editor & Anchor, "Special Report with Brit Hume"

Phone: 1-888-369-4762

special (at) foxnews.com



As always, please remember that your comments are taken more seriously if you maintain a polite tone. Please cc fair (at) fair.org with your correspondence.

www.fair.org


 
 

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