Journalist Ethics

When FoxNews reported on NewsCorp, the FoxNews anchor always says NewsCorp is the parent company of this network.

Likewise, when FoxNews reports on Rupert Murdoch, the anchor says, Rupert Murdoch is the CEO of NewsCorp, the parent company of this network.

So, when MSNB & NBC reporter discusses Barack Obama, when they talk about Tim Geithner, why do they not say Barack Obama is the President of the United States, a major investor in the parent company of this network?

When MSNBC & NBC report on the Pay Czar restricting the take-home pay of officials at Citi, Bank of America, and GM, why do they not say that officials at GE, which also was saved from bankruptcy by Treasury backstops, was not impacted?

15 thoughts on “Journalist Ethics”

  1. Silly point, Obama doesn’t own any shares of G&E (could possibly have a few shares via a 401k or IRA). Murdoch’s own money is invested in NewsCorp and Fox. The Treasury’s money is not Obama’s.

  2. doug,



    Not sure I understand your comment. Is your argument that the CEO of a large, institutional investor should be considered disinterested with the performance of both his company, and any subsidiaries, if he is compensated in cash and not in stock?

  3. A nonsense post. But what worries me is that you are too young to be so
    bitter. Get over it: your side lost the election.

  4. tdaxp,

    you’re welcome.


    “The Treasury’s money is not Obama’s.” he has substantial control over it.


    tdaxp’s point is that there needs to be a wall of separation between corporate entity and state, just as there is supposed to be between church and state (am i right dan?) just because “your side won” doesn’t mean we throw convention (and the law) overboard.

  5. doug,

    Thanks for the great follow-up!

    I don’t know about a wall of separation, but certainly we need to be wary of Establishing businesses, just as we do not Establish churches. Since last year we have radically changed the fundemental assumptions of business in America. This began under Bush-Paulson.

    But to the original post… even if we were comfortable with state ownership of media outlets, shouldn’t this ownership-based conflict of interest be disclosed like any other ownership-based conflict of interest is?

  6. Nice post!

    The death of news isn’t ad revenue. The death of news is due to the continued sacrifice of its only responsibility – journalism.

    The Fox News programming and opinion shows distort and corrupt nearly all of their straight information – it’s in their best interest to cite conflicts when possible as to assure the average viewer they do have the ability to provide unbiased news coverage, an effortless gesture toward that “fair and balanced” slogan.

    By comparison, NBC and MSNBC seem to maintain a less partisan (or perhaps less hostile) reputation with the average viewer. Although they also have partisan personalities and programming, the audience and influence is nowhere near that of Fox. It enables them to avoid ownership-based conflict citations, for now anyway.

  7. Tim,

    Thank you for your comment. I have a hard time understanding it — it appears to be a combination of impossible demands (a purely objective form of jouranlism), partisanship (a Kosoid attack on FoxNews), and incoherence (the last paragraph).

    On “journalism”:

    From 1945 to the late 1990s, the mainstream American media was entirely subsubmed by a postwar consensus, a combination of liberal internationalism abroad and welfare state politics at home. It is not surprising that this consensus collapsed in the newsmedia at about the same time in collapsed in politics — the mid to late 1990s.

    On bias:

    Currently, FoxNews is a media outlet that is generally pro-Republican, and MSBC is a media outlet that is generally (but less effectively) pro-Democrat. CNN seems content to be the party of our educated elite — hardly a bad market segment to be in.

  8. … But given that your affection for my original post seems to be high, perhaps I am just completely misunderstanding your comment!

  9. Dan,

    I think the Mythbusters should do a segment on the notion of ‘journalistic objectivity’. In OODA parlance, reporting is Acting, after Observing and Orienting. While the Orienting and Deciding may not be conscious, they ARE happening. Perhaps Fox News feels a higher duty to make these disclosures because they are more self-aware than their competitors?


  10. “why do they not say Barack Obama is the President of the United States, a major investor in the parent company of this network”

    Dumb question time: Did you intend to put another link in there? I clicked, but didn’t see anything about Barak Obama’s investments.

  11. Michael,

    Weak grammar, perhaps, but no missing link. Barack Obama is President of the USA, an institution that is an investor of GE (the parent company of MSNBC).


    Whether funny or tragic, the post-war mainstream media long imagined it had a ‘view from nowhere.’ Whatever the case, America was probably hurt for it.

  12. Hi TDAXP,
    I’m happy to have impossible demands when it comes to objective journalism!

    In my first post, I stated that it’s not surprising that Fox News cites ownership conflicts. Their partisan programming corrupts nearly all of their straight news, so it’s an effortless way for their straight news to be good on that “fair and balanced” tag.

    To refer to Fox as “generally pro-Republican” is a bit of an understatement. Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch have built an aggressively pro-Republican news platform. Because of their high ratings, they dictate the landscape. To compete, MSNBC has taken a progressive, pro-Democratic perspective (to a lesser effect, as you stated). CNN struggles at being the inoffensive alternative – hardly the choice of “educated elite”. It seems to me that CNN is in a perpetual identity crisis and often relies on impotent gimmickry that involve their viewers. All three networks sacrifice journalism for opinion/entertainment.

    I like this post, you’ve raised a great question – but I don’t imagine any President will ever be given an additional “investor of…” title, no matter how appropriate it may seem to do so.

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