Nothing surprising here. The organization’s mission statement, after all, declares that it comes at the world from an angle. “Media Matters for America is a Web-based, not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media.”
Yet the nonprofit’s media creation of the moment, a book titled “The Fox Effect: How Roger Ailes Turned a Network into a Propaganda Machine,” positions Media Matters as something else entirely. A mainstream news organization, that is.
It’s not that the “Fox Effect” seeks to steer a middle course on Fox News; it’s very critical of the network. No, what gives the “Fox Effect” the ring of a classic mainstream newspapering product are its cliches. Especially its trend-story cliches. They’re all over the place in the “Fox Effect,” which is authored by Media Matters founder David Brock, Executive Vice President Ari Rabin-Havt and the organization’s staff.
An explainer on trend-story cliches: Reporters seeking to mount a case against any target need to compile multiple examples of wrongdoing. The tradition is to start with one compelling case, detailing all the juicy ins and outs in narrative fashion. Once that first example is laid out, the reporter faces a common difficulty: How to introduce the second case?
It’s on that very question that Media Matters defaults to the lame language of regular old media entities. Early in the book, for instance, the “Fox Effect” takes a look at a Unviersity of Maryland study that found that Fox viewers were the “most misinformed audience of any major news network.” After detailing the study’s findings, the “Fox Effect” makes this familiar turn:
”But this was hardly the first time Fox’s viewers had been revealed to be conspicuously misinformed.” (p. 14)
And that wouldn’t be the first time that the “Fox Effect” would deploy its trend-story cliches!
*”Sammon’s e-mails were not the first time Fox News’s partisan bias had been exposed in leaked internal memorandums.” (p. 90)
*”Overexcited hosts were not the only source of Tea Party hype on Fox.” (p. 110)
*”This wasn’t the only instance in which Beck’s rhetoric was linked to violent acts.” (p. 152)
*”The Shirley Sherrod story simply followed in line with these despicable incidents. However, she was not alone.” (p. 187)
*”Furthermore, the New Black Panther Party case was not the only incident of alleged voter intimidation in which the Justice Department had recently declined to pursue criminal charges.” (p. 190)
*”O’Donnell wasn’t the only Republican canddiate who understood the benefits of Sean Hannity’s support.” (p. 226)
*”Fox News was not the only venue for Hannity’s political efforts.” (p. 229)
*”But it wasn’t only conservative commentators who recognized the problem with Beck.” (p. 251)
*”It was not the first time Fox’s hosts had singled us out for attack.” (p. 257)
*”Perry was not the only Republican candidate who was given guidance by Ailes.” (p. 281)
Those may not be the only instances of trend-story cliches in the “Fox Effect.” Who knows how many I missed?