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War takes up less time on Fox News

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070611/ap_en_tv/ap_on_tv_fox_s_war;_ylt=AnQeGAA0QN4v6QRZYTVcU2snHL8C War takes up less time on Fox News By DAVID BAUDER, AP
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 11, 2007
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      War takes up less time on Fox News

      By DAVID BAUDER, AP Television Writer 2 hours, 28
      minutes ago

      NEW YORK - On a winter day when bomb blasts at an
      Iraqi university killed dozens and the United Nations
      estimated that 34,000 civilians in Iraq had died in
      2006, MSNBC spent nearly nine minutes on the stories
      during the 1 p.m. hour. A CNN correspondent in Iraq
      did a three-minute report about the bombings.

      Neither story merited a mention on Fox News Channel
      that hour.

      That wasn't unusual. Fox spent half as much time
      covering the Iraq war than MSNBC during the first
      three months of the year, and considerably less than
      CNN, according to the Project for Excellence in

      The difference was more stark during daytime news
      hours than in prime-time opinion shows. The Iraq war
      occupied 20 percent of CNN's daytime news hole and 18
      percent of MSNBC's. On Fox, the war was talked about
      only 6 percent of the time.

      The independent think tank's report freshens a debate
      over whether ideology drives news agendas, and it
      comes at a delicate time for Fox. Top Democratic
      presidential candidates have refused to appear at
      debates sponsored by Fox. Liberals find attacking Fox
      is a way to fire up their base.

      "It illustrates the danger of cheerleading for one
      particular point or another because they were
      obviously cheerleaders for the war," said Jon Klein,
      CNN U.S. president. "When the war went badly they had
      to dial back coverage because it didn't fit their
      preconceived story lines."

      Fox wouldn't respond to repeated requests to make an
      executive available to talk about its war coverage.

      So how to explain the divergent priorities? Different
      opinions on what is newsworthy? A business decision?

      A mere coincidence?

      Fox News Channel viewers argue that their favorite
      network is simply the most fair. Fox has long objected
      to suggestions that its newscasts go through a
      conservative filter. Surveys have shown its audience
      is dominated by Republicans.

      There are no similar differences in priorities among
      the broadcast evening-news programs, where Iraq was
      the top story between January and the end of March.
      NBC's "Nightly News" spent 269 minutes on Iraq, ABC
      had 251 and CBS 238, according to news consultant
      Andrew Tyndall.

      Another story that has reflected poorly on the Bush
      administration, the controversy over U.S. attorney
      firings, also received more attention on MSNBC (8
      percent of the newshole) and CNN (4 percent) than on
      Fox (2 percent), the Project for Excellence in
      Journalism found.

      Tim Graham of the conservative Media Research Center,
      said Fox has always claimed to report from an American
      perspective and to not follow the pack. While Graham
      said he may have questions about the PEJ's
      methodology, he doesn't dispute the results.

      His group published its own study last year about the
      content of coverage. Fox didn't have its head in the
      sand; there were more negative stories about what was
      happening in Iraq than positive. But his group's view
      was that Fox was more balanced while CNN and MSNBC
      were relentlessly pessimistic. Between May 15 and July
      21 of last year, Fox aired nearly twice as many
      stories about successes in Iraq as CNN and MSNBC
      combined, he said.

      Most coverage of Iraq focuses on what gets blown up,
      he said.

      "The problem we have with the media elite is that they
      clearly see Fox as pandering to an audience and they
      don't see CNN as pandering to an audience," Graham
      said. "That's where I think the double standard sets

      While polls say its size is diminishing, there's
      clearly an audience that resists the general tenor of
      war coverage. GOP presidential candidate Rudolph
      Giuliani was applauded during last week's debate when
      he wondered aloud what would happen if the American
      war effort succeeds over the next few months. "Are we
      going to report that with the same amount of attention
      that we would report the negative news?" he said.

      Klein disputed the idea that CNN doesn't give a
      complete picture of what is happening in Iraq.

      "Certain folks don't want to see any bad news," he
      said. "It's our job to report all of the news."

      The project's findings surprised MSNBC chief executive
      Dan Abrams, who has been pushing his network to
      concentrate on politics and inside-the-Beltway issues

      "I'm not going to get on a high horse and judge our
      competition based on the numbers," he said. "We are
      looking for the right balance."

      Fox's business interests may depend on less negative
      news about Iraq.

      If Fox's audience is dominated by Republicans who are
      disgusted about hearing bad news on Iraq, it would
      stand to reason that you'd want to feed them less of
      it. Bill O'Reilly touched upon that idea on the air
      one night last December, telling viewers that the
      lowest-rated segment of his show the previous night
      was when Iraq was discussed. Ratings jumped at talk
      Britney Spears, he said.

      The danger is whether those concerns eat away at
      journalistic credibility.

      They're a news network, said CNN's Klein, "so it is
      surprising that they're not covering the biggest story
      in the country and the world."

      The Project for Excellence in Journalism steered clear
      of questions about what its findings proved. "We just
      wanted to tell people that it does make a difference
      where you go for the news," said the group's Mark

      So with less on-air attention being paid to Iraq
      during the first few months of the year, what filled
      the void for Fox? PEJ's report said the network gave
      the death of
      Anna Nicole Smith significantly more air time than its


      Fox News Channel is owned by News Corp.


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      EDITOR'S NOTE — David Bauder can be reached at dbauder(at)ap.org
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