NARDI: Servin’ up heaps of … information?

Tom Nardi

Proving that one never turns down a good story, FOX’s morning show “Fox and Friends” reported on an “anti-ham movement” last Tuesday. The actual story was that a couple of grade-school students in Lewistown, Maine, threw a ham steak at a group of Somali Muslim students. School officials reported the incident as a hate crime, which it was, because Muslims are not allowed to consume meat that isn’t hal?l.

That is where the incident ended. What “Fox and Friends” reported, however, went further. They exclaimed, in surprised indignation, that the school district was working with the Center for Prevention of Hate Violence to create an “anti-ham response plan.” Of course, that would be a waste of time, “Fox and Friends” quite logically assumed.

The only problem is the story wasn’t real. It was a parody devised by a Web site called Associated Content, similar to The Onion. Yet, our beloved morning show reported the story at length, ironically assuring the audience, “We’re not making this up!”

The rush to report a story, because of the palpable fear that someone else will break it first, drives journalists to report anything and everything they feel might generate some kind of guttural response. Indeed, according to the Maine Sun-Journal, after the FOX report the school district “received dozens of angry phone calls and profanity-laced e-mails, made and sent by people all over the country.”

We see another fault in political reporting. During the recent Democratic Primary Debate, Brian Williams asked candidate Mike Gravel why he bothered attending the debate, as he was assuredly not going to win. That question implicitly assumes that only candidates who might win have anything worthwhile to say.

Never mind that he flayed Hillary Clinton rightly for her tacit endorsement of war against Iran. Never mind that he helped stop the Vietnam War and can offer great insight to this Congress as to how to stop Iraq. Because he isn’t winning the horserace, his opinions are meaningless. Unbelievable.

Williams showed the ineptness of the media again in the same debate, when he asked John Edwards a question about his $400 haircut. Who cares? The man could become the leader of the free world, and you expect me to believe the most important question you could devise is about his haircut? I thought Edwards answered well: he has the money to do it, so frankly it doesn’t matter. (Never mind whether Edwards actually knew the cost, or if staffers hid the pricetag from him.)

The mainstream media are absolutely useless because they rush to report the first scandalous piece of information they find. Every outlet scours for the “gotcha” moment, like when Bill Clinton got caught with his pants down. They don’t think critically about whether or not a topic even matters or, as we see with FOX, whether it is even real. The drive to sell matters more than the drive to inform.

We can see this folly in reporting even now. Should we know up-to-the-minute details on the Anna Nicole Smith saga? No. Is Edwards’ haircut more important than his policy platform? No. Should Gravel be dismissed because he likely won’t win? No. But this is how the media reports the news, and we are the worse for it.

The mainstream media do not have a conservative bias or a liberal bias. They have a bias toward being non-offensive. So we receive superficial stories geared to gain viewers, not inform them. As long as profits drive production, we will continue to receive meaningless news.


Tom Nardi is a junior political science major from Philadelphia, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected].