Amanda McLittle, coordinator of Diversity Education in University Housing, told the Daily in September that the program was an attempt to improve campus climate, after events last school year like Theta Xi’s “Hood Rachet Party” evidenced a serious need to do so. The program went into effect at the start of the Fall 2014 term.
Your coverage of the program was fantastic, managing to stir up controversy over an innocuous University program five months after it launched. Your video caption, “University is dictating what students can say,” met every standard for a click-worthy phrase — incite all of the drama, include none of the facts.
A public university “dictating” the speech of its students?! Now there’s a story that’ll rile up those First Amendment defenders.
And that’s how your business model works. You fill a niche in the market. As of January 2014, 38 percent of Americans self-identify as conservatives. Yet according to a 2002 study, 20 percent of journalists said that they leaned “a little to the right,” and just five percent “leaned pretty far to the right.” I wonder how many in that five percent work for you.
Your ideology-driven model is working. Forty-seven percent of conservatives list you as their main news source on all things political. Your median primetime viewership in 2013 was higher than those of both CNN and MSNBC combined, and was the only major cable network to see viewership grow between the first quarters of 2013 and 2014.
I’m writing to you because you’ve covered quite a few stories about my University recently, most of which centered on issues of speech freedoms. I can’t say they were terribly accurate.
Your recent coverage of the University’s Inclusive Language Campaign was shared on social media by students who were outraged by the University’s attempt to “stifle” their freedom of speech, as one student posted online.
And really, who cares that the initiative was based on student feedback and aimed at creating a more harmonious campus community? Painting the program as an absurd, double-think government plot to indoctrinate American students into not being
able-ist or homophobic assholes free to speak their mind is a much better way to ensure high web traffic.
All you had to do was splash “Trouble with Schools” across the screen in punchy graphics, and find a student eager to give an interview full of nice, quotable sound bites that corroborated your viewpoint. The end result was a well-packaged, social-media-friendly story likely to be shared by those already holding the views it promoted.
In a digital era where publications compete for continually diminishing advertising dollars, the most successful stories are those that generate the most attention, and consequently, page views. And so for that, Fox News, you deserve a gold star, a medal of distinction for your contributions to the industry.
And, if I were a liberal, I would also owe you a big thank you. The right gets more of their political news from you than from any other news source. There are several issues today that would strongly benefit from cohesive conservative policies and leadership. But because it is consuming the stories that your analysts and writers deem likely to help you retain your vast market power, the party is instead focused on meaningless, non-actionable items like fake free speech violations at a Midwestern university.
Eventually, your poor fact-checking and failure to adhere to journalism’s ethical standards might come back to haunt you. Maybe some other Republicans will start to realize that your manipulative tactics do more harm than good for our party. Maybe your faulty reporting will produce a story so big and inaccurate that it will create a scandal similar to the one experienced by Rolling Stone earlier this year. But hey, in the meantime, your antics are sure to drive profits, and that’s all you seem to care about anyway.
And so I commend you, Fox News, for your relentless effort to push journalism into an age of click-worthy content devoid of facts, and your unapologetic pursuit of profit at the expense of the party you appear to support. But, next time, would you mind doing it at the expense of someone else’s school?
Victoria Noble can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.