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18 Oct, 2010 21:45

Breaking News: Mainstream media exaggerates truth

In the 24/7 cable news cycles, media channels are doing everything to attract viewers and beat their competitors.

As a result, many non-stories are dressed up with dramatic music and flashy graphics to portray drama, fear and capture the attention of American viewers. On a regular basis, in breaking news situations, channels get the facts wrong and make bold connections with little or no evidence.

Recently, Fox News reported that New Yorkers spotted a UFO flying over NYC. Hours later, it turns out the mysterious object was in fact a bunch of balloons.

In another recent breaking news incident, Fox News reported that the Brooklyn Bridge was shut down. The anchor then said that this was happening on the same day as the Pakistani Taliban had decided to target NYC again, after the failed Times Square bombing attempt. Minutes after linking the two unrelated incidents, Fox came back with a breaking news alert saying that the situation was all clear and the mysterious package had nothing to do with the Taliban – instead it was just a suspicious flashlight.

Christopher Chambers, a journalism professor at Georgetown University in Washington took a look at the story.

They can basically create their own experts who can back up whatever kind of thin level of corroboration there is and they can then link it to this story. Journalistically even in a 24 hour news cycle that linkage is probably the last thing they should say,” Chambers said.

The list of examples of Fox News and other media outlets exaggerating breaking news events goes on. Recently mainstream channels reported that a Qatari diplomat had lit explosives on an airplane when in fact the man was smoking in the bathroom.

I think with Fox it’s about the eyeballs, it’s about the hits on their website, it’s about the ratings,” Chambers said.

In addition last year after the failed Christmas Day attempted bombing in Detroit’s airport, Fox News reported there could be an additional incident on the same airplane. Minutes later the channel reported that it was actually “no big deal”, according to their sources.

Roger Ailes who runs Fox News started off in TV entertainment and he knows that the best way to grab somebody is with a blonde, fear and conflict and this is something that plays over and over again,” said Chambers.