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Thursday, February 01, 2007


The Basis for the RTNDF to Rescind Roger Ailes' First Amendment Award: The RTNDF's Own Code of Ethics

Next month, The Radio and Television News Directors Foundation (RTNDF) plans to give Fox News CEO and Chairman Roger Ailes a First Amendment Leadership Award for his supposed "work on behalf of press freedom." I called Barbara Cochran, the president of the RTNDF, to determine what specific criteria was use to decide to give the award to Ailes. She did not return my call (Anyone out there who wants to follow up on this can call her at (202)467-5205 and e-mail me her response).

However, when I look at the The Radio-Television News Directors Association own code of ethics and professional conduct, it is difficult to find a broadcast media outlet that violates the spirit of the code more than Ailes' Fox News. I don't have the time to go through all the violations of journalistic ethics by Fox News employees (but if you are interested, Media Matters for America is a good place to start).

I can think of no person who violates the spirit of the code more than Ailes. Let's look at one particularly egregious example of journalistic misconduct by Ailes: A peer-reviewed study by the University of Maryland's prestigious Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) found that Fox News viewers were less informed about the Iraq War than those who received their news from other sources. The study amazingly found that on the question of whether weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq, the study found that those who watched Fox News very closely had a higher rate of misconception than more casual Fox News viewers! The upshot is that as people watch more Fox News programming, they become more ignorant--hardly the goal of any journalistic outlet.

Rather than engaging in soul-searching regarding the sobering findings of the study, Ailes went on the attack (not surprising considering that fellow GOP operative Lee Atwater once approvingly said that Ailes had "two speeds: attack and destroy"). In a Wall Street Journal column, Ailes referred to the study as "an old push poll." This was a lie and Ailes knew it when he wrote it. Ailes knows that the PIPA survey was not a push poll. Having been a colleague of Republican operative Lee Atwater (who is largely credited with developing the push poll as a political dirty trick), Ailes could not have used the term out of naivete. The PIPA study was conducted by highly-regarded researchers whose research does not even faintly resemble a push poll; had the researchers engaged in push-polling, it would have been a serious breach of professional ethics. Accordingly, Ailes' accusation knowingly false, defamatory, and a serious breach of the RTNDA's code of ethics and professional conduct.

The RTNDF is scheduled to give the award to Ailes on March 8 in Washington. What are the national Democrats going to do about it? My guess: jack shit. Why is this my guess? Because the national Democrats are clueless and don't know the score.


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