When Fox News Is Not a Bad Choice

Misinformation is an asymmetrical phenomenon, occurring more in sources followed by Republicans than Democrats. There are historical reasons that explain this: the creation of a right-wing media system was heavily funded and subsidized by corporations and donors in a way that left-wing media never has been. This isn’t to say that the left couldn’t become much like the right in this respect, and there are indications it may go that way in time. It just isn’t there yet.

This asymmetry puts educators in a bit of a bind, since skills training presented to students can come off as partisan, even when it isn’t. And if it is perceived as partisan, many students will dismiss it. No one wants to learn a set of skills that seem to threaten their core identity. Not conservatives, not liberals, not leftists, not centrists. As such, it’s important to look for examples that demonstrate the lessons students need to learn but that at least occasionally upend partisan expectations.

Here’s an example of something along these lines. In this set of Google results, to a person not knowing these sources, Fox News is the best choice:


Can you see why? Here’s a close up:


We can see in the snippet that there are sources to this story, called out by name (or at least position). Now I wouldn’t trust that headline (you should never trust headlines from anybody, really) and I wouldn’t take the Navy’s word for it. But it’s clear here from the snippet that this article will give you some sources you can follow up on (or, as we say, allow you to go upstream to the source).

And when you click on that article, you do find it is well sourced, and that it draws most of its info from a McClatchy news service article.


And you can take that information and find the article Fox is using (which apparently it finds a valid source since it is citing it) and find it with a simple search modification (adding McClatchy to the search):


And it turns out the McClatchy article that Fox is quoting has a great deal of research behind it (and, notably, contradicts what the Navy is saying). But what Fox News’s print articles do (at least a portion of the time) is follow some of the journalistic norms which allow you to understand where information is coming from and, if possible, track it to its source.

I’ll repeat, before I get slammed in the comments. This is not meant to be a defense of Fox News. But if you want to help people get better at navigating their information environments, you have to start where they are. And part of that might be talking about times when Fox might be a decent choice for a click, and how tracing Fox News claims to the source can provide a deeper, more informed reading experience.

3 thoughts on “When Fox News Is Not a Bad Choice

  1. Interesting example.

    But let me ask, are you talking about Fox News’ web presence, or its entire output? I freely admit to not watching any tv news, so I’m not sure if that network’s tv stories reach this level of sourcing and decent quality.

    • They don’t and the editorial of Fox is unbearably reckless. But to be fair, almost all TV news is more poorly checked and less transparent with sourcing. Print/web reporting is still the gold standard.

      Fox News online has major problems too, but the conventions of reporting and the form save it. I think that’s one of the major takeaways as well — the form, conventions, and process can often trump bias, as long as one sticks with it.

      • “almost all TV news is more poorly checked and less transparent with sourcing” – that’s my understanding so far, and one reason I abhor it.

        Fascinating to think of the web being the gold standard in comparison to broadcast/cable/satellite tv.

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