I don’t normally do this because, even if FOX News is the victim in some essay or argument, I figure, “Heck, they had it coming.” And they do. But because partisanship just for the sake of partisanship gets us nowhere as a country, I reference this article posted today by mediamatters.org, which is a watchdog group that scopes out “conservative misinformation — news or commentary that is not accurate, reliable, or credible and that forwards the conservative agenda.”
The organization typically gives folks like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and the like a pretty hard time — and deservedly so.
Today, the Web site claimed a list of seven FOXfacts, informative bits of information given by the channel during its news segments and interviews, were nearly identical to points made by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) in a Wall Street Journal column.
Here’s the seven points from Ryan’s column and the accompanying FOXfact from a recent interview with Ryan in parenthesis:
- “The Republican budget achieves lower deficits than the Democratic plan in every year.” (GOP budget: Achieves lower deficits than Dem budget in every year)
- “Under our plan, debt held by the public is $3.6 trillion less during the budget period.” (GOP budget: Debt held by public $3.6 trillion less during budget period)
- “Our budget gives priority to national defense and veterans’ health care.” (GOP budget gives priority to natl defense and vet health care)
- “We do these things by rejecting the president’s cap-and-trade scheme.” (GOP budget rejects the president’s cap-and-trade scheme)
- “Our budget does not raise taxes, and makes permanent the 2001 and 2003 tax laws.” (GOP budget doesn’t raise taxes; makes permanent ’01 & ’03 tax laws)
- “Capital gains and dividends are taxed at 15%, and the death tax is repealed.” (GOP budget: Capital gains and dividents taxed at 15% and death tax repealed)
- “The budget permanently cuts the uncompetitive corporate income tax rate.” (GOP budget permanently cuts corporate income tax rate)
So, here’s the rub. Either Media Matters doesn’t understand what colons mean when writing headlines on news stories or FOX News doesn’t. When a headline, for instance, says, “Bush: Mission accomplished.” That means Bush said the mission was completed. So, whatever is on the right side of the colon is supposed to be a very succinct summary of what the source actually said or thought. In the above example, colons seem to be used without rhyme or reason. Typically, a writer or editor would use them to tell the reader about some editorial point or opinion held by the source, like this: “Bush: Presidency was the best.” That would imply that Bush said he thought his presidency was tops.
In this example, it appears that points 1, 2 and possibly 3 and 4 have a twinge of opinion or contention to them, while 5-7 are likely quantifiable. Hence, points 1, 2 and possibly 3 and 4 should have all included colons after “GOP budget” to suggest that FOX wasn’t saying these things outright, but those were assertions of the GOP’s plan. But, point 3 has no colon, while point 6 has a colon for seemingly no reason. (In actuality, one could argue that all the points need colons because the budget is simply a plan and FOX has no way of knowing whether the GOP’s claims will actually come to pass or hold water. Thus, the channel can’t accurately state such claims as facts.)
Regardless, for Media Matters to claim that FOX was merely stating as fact what Ryan had previously written in an opinion piece is a little misleading because FOX did add the colons to a couple of the more editorial-leaning points. But neither is in the clear because neither seems to see the distinction between a news headline with a colon and one without. Details matter, even two vertical dots. And perhaps that makes the entire Media Matters post and the FOX News report null and void. Of course, of the latter, we knew that from the get-go.