If you read a story like this, what would you think?
“Famed global warming activist James Schneider and a journalist friend were both found frozen to death on Saturday, about 90 miles from South Pole Station, by the pilot of a ski plane practicing emergency evacuation procedures.
One friend of Prof. Schneider told ecoEnquirer that he had been planning a trip to an ice sheet to film the devastation brought on by global warming. His wife, Linda, said that she had heard him discussing the trip with his environmental activist friends, but she assumed that he was talking about the Greenland ice sheet, a much smaller ice sheet than Antarctica.
“He kept talking about when they ‘get down to chili’, and I thought they were talking about the order in which they would consume their food supplies”, Mrs. Schneider recounted. “I had no idea they were talking about Chile, the country from which you usually fly or sail in order to reach Antarctica.”
I would think, “This has got to be a gag.” Wouldn’t you? If I were a dyed-in-the-wool global warming skeptic, someone who was 100% convinced that the whole thing was an environmentalist/progressive scam to cripple American industry, however…no, I’d still think it was a gag. (The Chile bit is a dead giveaway.) But when someone on the Fox Nation staff saw this story—on a satire site!—he, she or it was so thrilled with its delicious irony that it got passed on , all the way to the website itself, where it was published as fact this week.
As Snopes.com, the web’s hoax-checker, explains:
“…the original source for the story (which is linked from the FOX site) was a 2006 article from ecoEnquirer.com, a satirical site featuring spoof articles such as “Court Orders Fisherman to Apologize to Eagle” and “Penguins ‘Fed Up’ with Media Attention.” Additionally, the site’s disclaimer notes that all the content on the ecoEnquirer site is satirical, not real news: “All content on this site, being a mixture of parody, satire, and lame humor, is for entertainment purposes only. If any content is found to be offensive or objectionable in any way, please accept our apologies … but we also suggest that you get a life.”
The ethical issue here is not dishonesty. The ethics breaches are in the realm of competence and bias. Fox has been unusually vocal, to the point of sounding ignorant, in its scorn for any scientific claims about climate change, even modest ones. Many of its cable personalities, like Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity, go so far as to declare climate science an international conspiracy. This mindset preconditions Fox to believe the worst about any irregularity in the climate change advocates’ position, and the truth of any hilariously ironic story about a “global warmist” freezing to death.
In other words, bias makes Fox stupid, as it does us all. The difference is that this is supposed to be a professional news organization, not a Middle School journalism club. Fox is professionally obligated to be aware of its biases (they are also called “shortcomings,” “flaws” or “weaknesses”) and guard against them compromising the quality of its reporting.
Posting as true a fake news story with a link to a humor site shows such abysmal quality controls, lack of competence, miserable judgment and minimal respect for readers that the Obama administration’s attacks on Fox as less than a legitimate news organization seem suddenly seem plausible, even reasonable. It just isn’t ethical journalism to run stories because you wish they were true.