Both John Oliver and FOX Misled People

PREFACE

When I was in undergrad I had a professor that ran around to different colleges teaching communications. No, not the lame learn-nothing classes. We’re talking serious business here. This professor knew everything from archaic forms of radio and television to contemporary cinema. He wasn’t a filmmaker, but he knew how things worked. He wasn’t a disc jockey, but he did appear on radio frequently. Most of his time was spent on the ground reporting for massive television stations contributing important news stories of the past fifty years.

Before 2011, this man would come into class and express his distaste for blogging. At the time, as a filmmaker, I didn’t think I’d ever help operate a blog. The professor would come in week after week explaining in great detail to the class that blogging was not journalism. In short? Blogging isn’t news.

For the time at which he was sharing the definitions of journalism, he was not wrong. In fact, it wasn’t until 2011 that legal matters occurred in the United States of America that gave bloggers the same rights as traditional journalists. These new rights would protect bloggers and give them opportunities to acquire news through traditional news gathering methods, such as being safely on scene while live reporting. Before that time, blogs were considered nothing more than websites offering glorified editorials guised as news. In some ways, it was misleading.
I mean check out this writing style for a second. In my opinion, there isn’t anything at all professional about it. It’s nice. It’s conversationalist. It’s a blog. I can curse if I want and there isn’t shit you can do about it. It might be trashy or shocking. I don’t know. I can get away with a typo or “to” and that’d be okay. Blog readers understand that sometimes writers have a deadline and editors are expensive. Times are tough, right?

As my professor always pointed out, I or anyone remotely interested in this industry (this was before blogs were legally considered reliable news sources) should grab an AP style book. It pains me that I’m not able to use it, because frankly not one reader reading this would care, sans few of you. There’s one thing I can’t do though, and that is lie or mislead readers. I can persuade. That’s ok. But lying? Well, I should lose all credibility for that. Anyone who misleads or lies deserves any and all loss of integrity.

What if I accidentally misinform you though? It happens on social media all the time. Things are shared again and again without checks of facts and often out of context. It also happens on TV, but not in the same ways. It especially happens on satirical news shows that I watch to laugh uncontrollably at.  That’s gray area.

If someone accidentally misinforms then their credibility shouldn’t be completely lost. What should happen is a loss of dependability however. Accidental misinformation is spread when companies force their reporters to report on stories that are underdeveloped and incomplete in order to hook as many readers or viewers as possible. As my professor in the past would often state, “this is the reason why traditional dependable journalism is dead.”

THE PLAYERS

If you didn’t read the preface, this next part may grind a gear.

Blogging is now considered journalism. Unless an editorial, you better demand that any news portions of a blog are faithful to truths. The only way I can see otherwise is if you’re satisfying a fetish for being lied to. If that’s the case, you might want to use a search engine to discover some pages that cater to those kinds of lusts. I assure you, they exist.

The news, like FOX or CNN are considered journalism. They might have their own twist on things, but that doesn’t mean they’re lying. If you disagree, it’s because social media has you twisted or because you don’t believe in the specific agendas of each channel, if such agendas exist.
If you’ve ever been behind the scenes of a television network, you’ll know that things are anarchic. Everyone is running around like chickens with their heads guillotined off. Because of the 24/7 news cycle, these stations do what they can to retain viewership. There have been times that both said companies have screwed up their news and consequentially admit fault or at the very least discuss their misreporting. Both news sources have used politically incorrect (gross, I hate that term) language that landed them in hot water globally just this year.

A CNN anchor made a quip about terrorism in an African nation while a FOX anchor rolled eyes at a famous transgender person after sharing views on them. Both situations weren’t taken well – by social media.

I just realized something. I watch way more television than I like to admit. Woah. See what’s going on here? I’m talking to myself, or you, the reader. I couldn’t do this if I was writing for a big non blog website. Crazy! Not really. Moving on.

Now, we’re not going to get political. If you want to be political, I suggest you please visit websites that deliver or discuss politics. I don’t. We don’t. I watch tv and this is tv related.

Last week, FOX news was reporting on the Syrian refugee crisis and the possibility that terrorists may be lurking in the midst of these immigrants. While that may or may not be true, I immediately remind readers once again, that’s not the point of this written material. While FOX was engaging their audience, they happened to have a lower third (graphic or text on the bottom of a screen) that suggested terrorists are amidst the immigrants. They showed the graphic while a video of people on a train in Europe were chanting “God is great,” in Arabic. If you’ve followed any news over the years, you might recognize that those words are usually followed by extreme foul play. This is NOT always the case. That ALSO MUST BE NOTED.

While that’s all going on, the anchor for the show claimed that she wasn’t calling anyone a terrorist. Bring in John Oliver.

johniver

John Oliver is a British American satirical comedian. He runs a show on a HBO called Last Week Tonight that focuses on major news from a week prior. Think of it as an aggregate television show that makes up for you not paying attention for an entire week of news. As a comedian, he pokes fun at serious things that have happened over the past seven days. His goal is to bring attention to matters that some of us turn blind eyes to in satirical fashion to make us laugh. Importantly, it creates dialogue. He’s proven that his proposed hashtags create awareness on social media platforms. He does a great job (it’s a blog and that’s an opinion and you can’t see that anywhere else!) alerting the average person on things that could be hurting them or loved ones.

His first season was great and mostly unbiased. He never really picked a political affiliation, from what I could tell. Because of this, many people I know, myself included, were able to watch him and laugh together in harmony. The season stopped, he came back, and his writing changed. All of a sudden the tone changed and slight bias slipped into the writing. It was okay for me though, since I take comedy as comedy.

The issue is that John Oliver doesn’t realize how powerful a voice he is now. Highlights from Last Week Tonight are available on YouTube through HBO. People are watching him – a lot of people! More people than ever have access to HBO since accounts are pretty much handed out these days. Oh, you didn’t, watch the Emmys? They literally gave an account away for everyone to use. Mr. Oliver has tons of viewers on multiple platforms. His reach is humongous and people act as his personal social media army, for better or worse. He might not realize it, but his writers sure do.

What is the point of all this? Am I not a fan? Am I randomly defending a broadcast station that is normally bashed on social media although it has the most viewers in the states? Huh?

I am a fan. I have no specific reason to defend a brand I have zero affiliation to, except this one time.

THE STORY

John Oliver uses media from FOX and CNN on Last Week Tonight to make fun of the things they say. Ever since the new season started, the writers seem to have taken a Comedy Central approach, perhaps because the audience isn’t as broad as originally anticipated. What ever the reason, nothing excuses what happened next.

John Oliver’s writers re-aired the controversial imagery that FOX news shared. I bring your attention to the following video. To stay relevant with this article and this article only, I ask that you start at 1:59 and stop at 3:33.

The comedy was cleverly placed at the end of the video to put a stop to any rational thought you were about to have. That still is not the point.

The point is that Last Week Tonight tried to dethrone a channel that rakes in millions of viewers daily by attempting to kill its reputation making the claim that his team found out that the video FOX played was uploaded in 2010. While that is probably true and worth reporting, what is failed to be mentioned is how behind-the-scenes works. Remember what I mentioned before about anarchic production studios? It doesn’t magically change here because Oliver wishes it so. It’s clear that the train video was given or shared with FOX and they wanted to share it with viewers quickly. The only bad thing that FOX did was play the video without fact-checking the source and discovering that it is simply a re-upload of an irrelevant video posted many years ago.

Before your vein pops in your throat, think about it. Approximately 300 hours of information is uploaded to YouTube every 60 seconds. That’s a ton of footage. Often times these videos are titled in different ways and in different languages. The advantage Last Week Tonight has over the FOX news show was that it had days and days of time to sift through the footage, whereas a channel that is expected to report immediately had hours, if not minutes.

We didn’t see the original title of the video on FOX. The source could have been made to look real when given to FOX. It may have even been shared by another credible source on YouTube. Finally, Oliver shares with us a version of the video that is in French. When researching the video, it could have taken hours to finally find the original source, more so if the conduction took place in the States, which it likely did. During the original time of research, that might have proven impossible if researching out of a French speaking country, as YouTube delivers results in a country’s native, official, or most used language. Researching the video now as opposed to the time of the original reporting could prove useless since a video’s search result will change place as it receives more clicks, likes, dislikes, and shares.

I’m not sure what the beef John Oliver and his writers have with the FNC to create such distortion, but it must be serious if they’re willing to ruin their credibility while ruining their own. In the past, John has made no mistake to defend situations alike in nature by stating “They’re right,” at which point the crowd gasps or remains mute. John usually then educates viewers on how and why strange and inexcusable occurrences like the one discussed in this article make way into our homes.

He didn’t. He failed. It was gross.

NAIL IN THE COFFIN

I’m going to chalk up the unusual mishap to intern writers. Later on, in the same episode, preaching the same important issue, Mr. Oliver says this from 11:06 to 11:20.

He’s making some interesting points worth studying, however fails to do something he rarely didn’t do in the past, which is why I’m pointing fingers to writers and their ineptitude. Mr. Oliver, confident in his citation, should have shared exactly which 19 out of 20 “industrialized” countries were included in the article. As a concerned citizen of the world, I for one wouldn’t have minded if he took the time to speak of each country individually. By not doing so, they’re just numbers and words that don’t mean anything in the grand scheme of his things. I want to listen to him. I want him to be right. I do listen to him. I do think he’s right a lot of times, but that’s because of the immense research he and his team once went through. It’s just not the case anymore. The context has dissipated. They want viewers to believe them on good graces alone. That’s not cool and we shouldn’t let that happen. Shit, if he does it, then the mainstream will do it – more.

Courtesy of giphy.com
Courtesy of giphy.com

FEATURED IMAGE CREDIT: www.hbo.com

Walter Winchester
JFinnegan45@yahoo.com