Vox -- or Fox -- populi?
Voice of the People or Fox People's Voices?
Select the one you think registers louder on local stations carrying that lightning-rod label of "F-O-X." Merely the word enrages left-leaning viewers convinced even the smallest Fox news outposts are infested with right-wing warriors bent on building a Glenn Beck-oning, Bill O'Reilly-ized America, an unfair assumption that doesn't spare mainstream Fox affiliates -- such as, say, our own KVVU-TV, Channel 5, i.e. "Fox-5."
"We're as fair and balanced as they're not," news director Adam P. Bradshaw told this column last January, referring to their braying cable cousin, Fox News Channel, but still noting an ideological guilt-by-association that haunts affiliates: "Some viewers draw that connection. ... I'll get on a plane in my Fox-5 jacket and somebody goes, 'I love (FNC's) Shepard Smith!' Or hate him. But it doesn't have any impact on our coverage."
Given our ultra-acrimonious Reid-Angle race, however -- arguably the most eyeballed in the country snowballing toward Tuesday's climax -- our Fox folks' approach is ripe for a random check, and spot coverage did raise some curiosity.
Fans of FNC -- which averages 1.5 million weekday viewers, topping CNN and MSNBC combined -- passionately reject charges of blatant boosterism in straight coverage, insisting it only surfaces on opinion programs. Bias, though, can arise from what isn't included: equal exposure for opposing views. FNC has been accused of allocating only minutes to President Obama press conferences and speeches, compared to competitors' lengthier coverage warranted because, whatever his political party, he's still the chief exec.
Detecting lopsided coverage in local newscasts is a subtler challenge as, unlike cable nets with spacious 24-hour news cycles, they glancingly hit stories like stones skipping off a pond, 15 to 20 over 23 minutes. Mere seconds of exposure matter.
Last week, partially owing to Newt Gingrich's stumping for Sharron Angle, Fox-5 led a newscast with twin campaign pieces.
Quotation quotient: Angle scored 45 seconds split into four clips. Harry Reid? Three seconds in one clip. Angle's touched on taxes, government regs, individual freedoms, federal spending, unemployment, Social Security, "Obamacare" and attacks on Reid, who "sacrifices his state." The incumbent? "We're not just creating jobs, we're creating jobs in the right places."
Granted, some speeches -- due to how they're structured and the speaker's delivery -- lend themselves to crisper editing and superior sound bites, a newscast's Holy Grail. The next night, Fox-5 did generously cover Obama's Reid rally -- a president's visit to a local market merits no less -- though the candidate was only briefly quoted and the visit characterized as a "last-ditch attempt to rally valley voters for Harry Reid," as if a drowning man grasped at his last life line.
Unintentionally uneven coverage assembled in the heat of a hot-as-hell race? Most likely. Yet, fairly or not, the polarizing Fox brand compels affiliates to carefully monitor coverage to combat notions of favoritism. Noted here previously, Fox-5 does have an overall record of even-handedness that its noisy cable cousin could only envy.
Assuming the latter ever coveted such antiquated journalism in the first place.
Contact reporter Steve Bornfeld at sbornfeld@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0256.