Dear Commons Community,
Dozens of professors of journalism and communications signed a scathing open letter yesterday criticizing Fox News’ coverage of the coronavirus pandemic for presenting “a danger to public health.”
The letter (see below), which was addressed to Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch, criticizes Fox News for “false statements downplaying the prevalence of COVID-19 and its harms; misleading recommendations of activities that people should undertake to protect themselves and others, including casual recommendations of untested drugs; false assessments of the value of measures urged upon the public by their elected political leadership and public health authorities.”
The letter adds that “it is not an overstatement to say that your misreporting endangers your own viewers” as it accused the network of being “derelict in its duty to provide clear and accurate information about COVID-19.”
It also points out that “the network’s delinquency was effective,” citing recent polls from YouGov/Economist and Pew Research which found that Fox News viewers “are much less likely than others to say they are worried about the coronavirus” and are more likely to believe that the mainstream media has exaggerated the danger posed by COVID-19.
“Fox News reporters have done some solid reporting,” the letter states. “And the network has recently given some screen time to medical and public health professionals. But Fox News does not clearly distinguish between the authority that should accrue to trained experts, on the one hand, and the authority viewers grant to pundits and politicians for reasons of ideological loyalty.”
Prominently featured signatories of the letter include Todd Gitlin of the Columbia Journalism School, Mark Feldstein of the University of Maryland, Adam Hochschild and Edward Wasserman of University of California — Berkeley and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Frances FitzGerald. Gitlin told the Times of San Diego by email that he “got the initial signatories and sent the letter with the sign-up link to folks I know at J-schools around the country” and planned to post it to Medium.
The Murdochs and Fox News have provided a great disservice to its viewers especially the vulnerable aged population.