Something Fox News Is Doing Right!

Today Fox News Channel, MSNBC, The Washington Post and others have positioned themselves and their coverage away from the middle. That puts them under the microscope as political opponents scour for weakness which can be used to embarrass them.

fnc-logo.jpgWelcome to journalism in the 21st Century. The ‘right down-the-middle’ mantra of the last half century is gone. We’re back to journalism practiced by partisans.

Yeah–back to. This is how it used to be.

Here’s a little Wikipedia refresher on William Randolph Hearst. I suspect you’ll be surprised!

As Martin Lee and Norman Solomon noted in their 1990 book Unreliable Sources, Hearst “routinely invented sensational stories, faked interviews, ran phony pictures and distorted real events.” This approach came to be known as yellow journalism, named after the Yellow Kid, a character in the New York Journal’s color comic strip Hogan’s Alley.

Hearst’s use of yellow journalism techniques in his New York Journal to whip up popular support for U.S. military adventurism in Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines in 1898 was also criticized in Upton Sinclair’s 1919 book, The Brass Check: A Study of American Journalism. According to Sinclair, Hearst’s newspaper employees were “willing by deliberate and shameful lies, made out of whole cloth, to stir nations to enmity and drive them to murderous war.” Sinclair also asserted that in the early 20th century Hearst’s newspapers lied “remorselessly about radicals,” excluded “the word Socialist from their columns” and obeyed “a standing order in all Hearst offices that American Socialism shall never be mentioned favorably.” In addition, Sinclair charged that Hearst’s “Universal News Bureau” re-wrote the news of the London morning papers in the Hearst office in New York and then fraudulently sent it out to American afternoon newspapers under the by-lines of imaginary names of non-existent “Hearst correspondents” in London, Paris, Venice, Rome, Berlin, etc.

Hearst is just the easiest example of what’s certainly a long list. Rupert Murdoch is a lot less of an outlier than he’s portrayed.

Today Fox News Channel, MSNBC, The Washington Times, New York Post and others have positioned themselves and their coverage away from the middle. That puts them increasingly under the microscope as political opponents scour for weakness which can be used to embarrass them.

Jon Stewart has mastered the art. He often shows FNC on both sides of the same argument, depending on the political winds at any given moment. Recently he showed Fox using video from one event as coverage of another more sparsely attended event.

Last week Fox did it again. Sarah Palin video from the presidential campaign was used as B-roll for a book signing appearance. An anchor talked about the “huge crowds.” Oops.

Maybe, even for Fox, enough is enough. Here’s an internal memo passed along by MediaBistro’s FishbowlDC.

Subject: Quality Control We had a mistake on Newsroom today when a wrong book cover went on screen during a guest segment, the kind of thing that can fall through the cracks on any day with any story given the large amount of elements and editorial we run through our broadcasts. Unfortunately, it is the latest in a series of mistakes on FNC in recent months. We have to all improve our performance in terms of ensuring error-free broadcasts. To that end, there was a meeting this afternoon between senior managers and the folks who run the daytime shows in which expectations were reviewed, and the following results were announced: Effective immediately, there is zero tolerance for on-screen errors. Mistakes by any member of the show team that end up on air may result in immediate disciplinary action against those who played significant roles in the “mistake chain,” and those who supervise them. That may include warning letters to personnel files, suspensions, and other possible actions up to and including termination, and this will all obviously play a role in performance reviews. So we now face a great opportunity to review and improve on our workflow and quality control efforts. To make the most of that opportunity, effective immediately, Newsroom is going to “zero base” our newscast production. That means we will start by going to air with only the most essential, basic, and manageable elements. To share a key quote from today’s meeting: “It is more important to get it right, than it is to get it on.” We may then build up again slowly as deadlines and workloads allow so that we can be sure we can quality check everything before it makes air, and we never having to explain, retract, qualify or apologize again. Please know that jobs are on the line here. I can not stress that enough. I will review again during our Monday editorial meeting, and in the days and weeks ahead. This experience should make us stronger editorially, and I encourage everyone to invest themselves one hundred and ten percent in this effort.

The memo has a message for all newsrooms of all political persuassions: Content trumps presentation.

If the reason for these most recent screw-ups is a rush to make the broadcast look pretty or flashy the emphasis is wrong. Facts need to be correct before worrying about production values.

This isn’t going to change FNC’s slant. They’ll continue to cover news from a right-of-center perspective. I actually have little problem with that. It just looks like the effort will be made to sell their points from a more factual base.

Of course it’s also possible the memo was leaked to provide easy political cover while nothing changes! We’ll have to wait and see.

All My Geoff Foxes

This isn’t my first run-in with another Geoff Fox. There’s a writer in Brooklyn. The guy who started Fox Racing is also Geoff Fox. Then there are the professors who share my name (or maybe it’s the other way around).

Helaine and I were leaving the movie theater Saturday when I looked down at my phone and saw I’d gotten email from Geoff Fox. That’s not unusual. There are a number of warning services associated with this website and some weather data that comes with me as the return address.

When I came home and looked it was obviously not me–though it was from Geoff Fox!

Just found your web site, and thought I would say hello (from England)

Geoff Fox

GeoffFox-uk.jpgThis isn’t my first run-in with another Geoff Fox. There’s a writer in Brooklyn. The guy who started Fox Racing is also Geoff Fox. Then there are the professors who share my name (or maybe it’s the other way around).

In each case I feel a little inadequate. The Geoff’s I know of are all accomplished. The English Geoff is no different.

I run a renewable energy company called SolarUK. We design, manufacturer and install solar thermal collectors.

I used to run a software house in the City of London, but 10 years ago got fed up with London and started again.

We are currently building our second factory (which we have recycled) which will be a 17 sided R&D centre in Battle (near Hasting 1066 and all that)

In what little spare time I have, my wife (Sabine) and I have built a new house on our 50 acre farm near Ashdown Forest. The old house in the background has now been knocked down.

We have 1 dog (Joule), 2 cats, 7 horses and 1 helicopter. I have been flying my own helicopter for about 16 years, and never get enough time.

DSC00847.JPGYeah–he’s green, he’s tech and he flies a chopper he built himself!

Geoff suggested a Geoff Fox convention. Wouldn’t that be cool? I wonder if we have anything in common besides our name. Growing up I thought it was an unusual name and assumed I was the only one. How wrong I was.

On the other hand, I’m glad I bought geofffox.com while it was available and apologize for being the first Geoff Fox you get in Google. OK–maybe not.

What Goes Up Must Come Down

Here’s the problem. When you’ve got an object as big as this 10-ton satellite, some of it will survive the plunge to Earth. That’s especially true when there are hardened pieces.

mir_atmosphere.jpgIt looks like a US spy satellite is out-of-control and will soon plunge back into the Earth’s atmosphere. It’s happened before.

I remember when Mir plunged to Earth. The photo on the left shows what was left as the debris passed over Fiji.

Back in 1979 pieces of Skylab fell on Australia. No one was injured.

The question is, is this dangerous? Uh… yeah. Though there is some conflict in that opinion.

I just checked Google’s news site and found “Falling US satellite is not dangerous – NASA” from Russia’s Interfax news agency. That’s a relief.

Oops. Hold on. Here’s what the Times of London says: “Threat as 10-ton satellite set to crash back to Earth”

So, it’s either not dangerous or a threat. Got it?

Here’s the problem. When you’ve got an object as big as this 10-ton satellite, some of it will survive the plunge to Earth. That’s especially true when there are hardened pieces.

From the New York Times:

John E. Pike, the director of Globalsecurity.org in Alexandria, Va., said that if the satellite in question was a spy satellite, it was unlikely to have any kind of nuclear fuel, but that it could contain toxins, including beryllium, which is often used as a rigid frame for optical components.

The speculation is this is a spy satellite, launched in 2006 and quickly lost. It probably went up with hydrazine for thrusters. That’s really nasty stuff.

When properly used in space:

The catalyst chamber can reach 800° C&#185 in a matter of milliseconds, and they produce large volumes of hot gas from a small volume of liquid hydrazine, making it an efficient thruster propellant.” – Wikipedia

When improperly encountered on the ground:

Hydrazine is highly toxic and dangerously unstable, especially in the anhydrous form. Symptoms of acute exposure to high levels of hydrazine in humans may include irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, dizziness, headache, nausea, pulmonary edema, seizures, coma, and it can also damage the liver, kidneys, and central nervous system. The liquid is corrosive and may produce dermatitis from skin contact in humans and animals. Effects to the lungs, liver, spleen, and thyroid have been reported in animals chronically exposed to hydrazine via inhalation. Increased incidences of lung, nasal cavity, and liver tumors have been observed in rodents exposed to hydrazine. – Wikipedia

The Earth is mainly covered by water. Even the land portion of Earth is sparsely populated in most spots. The odds of anyone getting hurt is small.

However, the more stuff that falls down, the worse those odds get.

&#185 – Here in the US, we use Fahrenheit. 800&#176 C is about 1,500&#176 F.

For perspective, aluminum melts at 1218&#176 F. Most other ‘substantial’ metals have significantly higher melt points.

Write And They Will Respond

I never know how, or if, what I ‘blog’ will be valued. It never ceases to amaze me that my words are read at all.

I seem to have become some sort of London Lee expert, though I’ve never met him. I get emails asking about London all the time.

It’s been at least 30 years since I’ve even seen him on TV!

Ditto for the somewhat more contemporary John Mayer. I wrote about him and how we met. Now people who want to meet him write me. Sorry, no contact. I can tell you he’s a nice guy.

He seemed very bright. I value that. He was close to his folks. I value that too.

He might be the best guitarist I’ve ever heard – really.

Today I got an email asking if Darlene Love was going to make her yearly appearance with Letterman. I hope so, but how would I know?

Sure, I write about it every year, but Dave’s not confessing to me.

Finally, this weekend I wrote about Playboy Playmates. Wouldn’t you know it; a note came concerning that.

Observation: about the Playboy thing: my little sister was a Playmate in Feb of

The Poisoned Spy – It Happened Before

Former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko died overnight. The AP says:

Britain’s Health Protection Agency said Friday the radioactive element polonium-210 had been found in Litvinenko’s urine and police said traces of radiation were found at his home and a ritzy hotel bar and sushi restaurant he visited the day he became ill.

Police said they were treating the case as an “unexplained death” – but not yet as a murder.

It’s so spylike… So James Bondian. And though it seems incredibly strange, I remember something like this happening before.

It was the late ’70s, also in London. Georgy Markov wasn’t a spy, but he was a dissident, speaking out against the then communist government in Bulgaria.

I’ll let the BBC pick up the story.

Mr Markov was killed by a poisoned umbrella-tip while he waited at a bus stop near Bush House, where he worked for the BBC Bulgarian Service.

The recent release of state papers in Bulgaria confirmed that Mr Markov was regarded as a dangerous dissident by the former communist secret service.

But prosecutors say they’re closing their investigation over who killed him, under legislation allowing a case to be dropped if more than twenty-years have elapsed.

If memory serves me, 60 Minutes did a story about this murder, going so far as to show the tiny ball filled with ricin which was jabbed into his leg from the point of an umbrella.

There’s not much I can add to either story, except to say, there are some people it pays not to tick off.

I’ve Become The London Lee Repository

There must not be a lot written about London Lee, because when people search his name, they often end up here. Most notes begin by acknowledging he was drop dead funny. I’ve heard from his friends, relatives, a few folks who despise him (London, trust me, stay clear of your cousin in Boca) and a woman who claims to have known him in Europe.

A while ago, I wrote about London Lee, the iconic young Jewish comic of the mid and late 60s. I’m afraid for those just a few years younger than me, his name means nothing.

London Lee was huge. He was on Sullivan. He was on the Tonight Show. He was a comic on a meteoric rise… and then… you know… stuff happens.

There must not be a lot written about London Lee, because when people search his name, they often end up here. Most notes begin by acknowledging he was drop dead funny. I’ve heard from his friends, relatives, a few folks who despise him (London, trust me, stay clear of your cousin in Boca) and a woman who claims to have known him in Europe.

It’s funny, but I was just thinking about “London Lee”. I did the search and found your site.

London Lee was really the son of a wealthy garment center guy. His real name was Alan Levine and he lived on Central Park South NYC. That was in 1960-1-2.

My boyfriend at the time, who was a hustler and pool sharp (later to be a heroin addict), was staying with London in his studio there and that was how I met Alan/London.

I was impressed when I first saw him on TV and surprised at how really funny he was. I guess it was because it was all true stories and insecurities.

Amazingly, he does seem to have fallen off the face of the earth. Would have been in his mid to late 70’s I wonder if he is still alive…….

Maybe Miami Beach?

Sondra

He’s alive. I believe it’s Broward County, just to the north of Miami Beach. By the way, isn’t it more than a little unnerving to read her boyfriend/heroin reference of 45 years ago!

Today I got this:

Just read about London Lee.

He is performing at the Hillcrest Golf and Country Club in Hollywood, FL on Sunday October 29, 2006.

Thought your friend who e-mailed you might be interested.

Barry

So, obviously he is alive an well. There is quite a “Borscht Belt II” circuit playing for retirees in South Florida. He is in good company.

The real reason I’m posting this is this remarkable photo I got from Harry Watts. How lucky am I that Harry took it in August 1968, kept it safe all these years, digitized it and then sent it to me via email nearly 40 years after the fact?

The scene is the Boardwalk in pre-casino Atlantic City. This photo is looking north and the ocean is off camera to the right. Back then A.C. was a hopping resort town.

Steel Pier was, and is again, located at Virginia and Boardwalk. It was known for it’s diving horse (whether it was actually a free will diving horse is another story) and it’s big name acts.

Appearing along with London Lee was John Fred and his Playboy Band. Their hit, “Judy in Disguise” went to number one in January 1968. Also on the bill, somewhat incongruously, was Don Glasser’s Orchestra, a “smooth as glass” dance band.&#185

The photo is a one of a kind, and I’m deeply grateful to Harry for allowing me to post it.

Take a look at the people and what they’re wearing. Atlantic City was where you went, even on this gray summer day, to get away from the heat, forget about the rest of the world, and have a little fun.

&#185 – Amazingly, Don’s band still performs, though without Don.

Because this page is so often searched and found, it has been reopened for comments.

Woody Allen Instead of New York

My dad didn’t feel well last night. He’s fine now… in fact he was fine by the time I woke up. But not well last night was reason enough not to go to New York City. We’ll try again Monday.

That left us with a full day to fill and not much to fill it with. Helaine suggested going to the movies – specifically Scoop, the latest from Woody Allen.

That in and of itself is pretty amazing, because Helaine feels there’s something inherently wrong with patronizing an auteur&#185 who sleeps with his former stepdaughter. Point well taken. It’s tough not to find that skeevy.

At one point I was enough of a Woody Allen fan that when I saw Love and Death and didn’t enjoy it, I returned the next night to find out what was wrong with me!

This movie was a somewhat predictable, mainly enjoyable, little film shot in London and the English countryside. A de-glamorized Scarlett Johansson was wickedly sexy.

I had to ask ‘who he’ about Hugh Jackman. Give me an “L” for loser on that.

The story begins with Johansson’s trip to the stage – an audience member called to be magician’s assistant for The Great Splendini (Woody Allen). While ‘inside’ the magic trick she meets the freshly dead newspaper reporter Joe Strombel (Ian McShane).

He’s looking for a reporter, but Scarlett’s a journalism student – close enough. She ends up the recipient of a huge story of murder and money. That’s the scoop in Scoop.

If that was all there was it would have been a cute little movie.

What upset me (and I’m using upset as opposed to bothered, because upset conveys deeper angst) was Allen playing his ‘standard’ character, now an older man… oh hell…now an old man.

I remember him with Janet Margolin in Take the Money and Run and with Diane Keaton in nearly everything else. He was nerdy, dweeby, unattractive, but always got the girl. In this movie, the only way he gets the attention of the ingenue is by assuming the role of her father!

Maybe I’m more concerned for me than Woody? There’s a tendency to use the lives of others as our own benchmarks. Even though he’s a good 15 years older than me, I somehow saw him as a contemporary.

All this aside, it was an afternoon well spent for my wife, mother, father, me and the one other person in the theater for the 3:40 PM showing.

&#185 – From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

The term auteur (French for author) is used to describe film directors (or, more rarely, producers or writers) who are considered to have a distinctive, recognizable vision, either because they repeatedly return to the same subject matter, or habitually address a particular psychological or moral theme, or employ a recurring style, or all of the above. In theory, an auteur’s films are identifiable regardless of their genre. The term was first applied in its cinematic sense in Fran

Over The Transom Photo Offer

The email came a few hours ago:

Hi Geoffox, I’m the design director of Verso Books, independent publisher based in London. We’re interested in using one of your pictures, seen here, on a book jacket. The title is ‘Age, Shock and Pension Power’, the synopsis for which is below.

Age Shock and Pension Power, Robin Blackburn

A searing look at the fiscal crisis of an ageing society, corporate corruption, fund skimming and tax breaks, with new proposals for pension provision.

The last few years have shown how badly the financial services industry performs as a custodian of savings and pension funds. The

Journalist By Luck… Bad Luck

Recently, I’ve been reading more and more about the idea of citizen journalist. These would be folks from the community who, by virtue of circumstance or desire, report on local news.

This blog, and others like it, are not examples of citizen journalist. Sorry Geoff.

In the past 24 hours there has been a shining example of citizen journalism, courtesy of a blogger who was on the Alaska Airlines flight that depressurized between Seattle and Burbank.

Not only did Jeremy Hermanns write about his experience, he took photos! There were others on board taking video on their cellphones. I’ve seen some of that footage on CNN and our air here in Connecticut.

Read the story from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and then Jeremy’s blog entry. In many ways they are complementary, as the PI story brings nuts, bolts and overview, while Jeremy’s blog entry lives the emotion.

It is likely we’ll be seeing more and more of this, as we did with the London subway bombings and the Boxing Day Tsunami.

One of my surprises are the comments below the entry (which Jeremy says he won’t edit). It is startling to read the vitriol from so many small and vindictive people. It also seems some of the negatives might be coming from Alaska Air!

Maybe The Revolution Will Be Televised After All

Gil Scott-Heron said “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” I’m not sure this was what he was talking about, but based on what’s come out of London with the subway and bus explosions, he needs to rewrite the song.

The advent of cellphones with still and video cameras and the proliferation of fixed security cameras has changed everything. Not only did we see still images from the tunnels of the London subway system, we saw video too. It won’t surprise me if, as was the case in Spain, higher quality images from security cameras come out later.

The quality of the hand held cameras isn’t all that great, but it will get better with time. Actually, the quality of the video is inconsequential. The mere fact that we’re all able to be eyewitnesses is what’s important. We saw that demonstrated during the Gulf War when jumpy, pixelated videophones were the only live way out.

This trend of every significant human event being documented was even more evident in the pictures that came out of Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand during the December tsunami. With many of the cameras connected to the Internet, these photos are available immediately.

Today convenience store robberies… gas station fires… even police traffic stops are all seen on TV – and seen often.

How will this affect us? Recently, while watching a baseball game on ESPN, a fan ran onto the field. The cameras immediately left the field so as not to encourage others.

Will all of this coverage encourage more terrorism? It’s possible.

On the other hand, there are many who believe the major factor in turning public opinion away from the Vietnam War was the constant images on the nightly news. Could images of carnage stop the violence we saw yesterday in England? That’s possible too. Or it just might serve to galvanize the resolve of those targeted.

This will be much easier to judge in hindsight. All I can say now is, things have changed. This genie is not going back in the bottle.

Cat Stevens and Me

Tonight we reported on a London – Washington jet diverted to Bangor, ME. Homeland Security called for the diversion because one of the passengers, Yusuf Islam, is on a US Watch List… a nice way of saying we think he is a danger to this country.

Many people know Yusuf Islam by his former name, Cat Stevens.

Back when I was a disk jockey, playing Moon Shadow and Morning Has Broken, I would often say his real name was Steven Katz. Hey – I was a disk jockey. Cheap humor was my stock in trade.

When I read the wire copy story tonight, I remembered that I had met Cat Stevens, probably back in 1970. I was a disk jockey at WMUM – FM in Palm Beach, Florida. I had been invited to a concert, which was the custom when record labels were trying to promote their artists.

At the time I was dating a girl named Barbara. That’s about all I remember about her – her name.

Barbara and I drove to Ft. Lauderdale for the concert, but before it started, she got sick. I’m not sure what it was, but I remember she had trouble standing. Today it would be scary. Then, I was so naive – I never would have thought it could have been anything serious.

We were with the promotion people from Cat Stevens’ record label and they had backstage access. They found a couch and Barbara laid down… in Cat Stevens’ dressing room.

We never got to see him perform, but after the show he came back. It was, after all, his room. He was as nice as could be – a gentle man (and I am using both words individually by design). He seemed genuinely concerned.

This was nearly 35 years ago, so my memory is somewhat hazy, but I know it happened pretty much as I’ve just said. This impression of Cat Stevens has stayed with me throughout the years.

I hope our government is wrong – that he is not a threat. Of course, I hope no one is a threat. But hope isn’t enough. There are threats and I understand the need for vigilance.

My real hope is he’s still that gentle man I met in Ft. Lauderdale – that tonight’s diversion was a mistake. There’s no way I will ever know.