Doctored Photos Row: In Viewership, Fox Goes Down with a Fight

" ... Fox ran modified pictures of both men. Mr. Steinberg's teeth had been yellowed, his nose and chin made more bulbous, and his ears jugged. Mr. Reddicliffe was given black bags under his eyes, and his hairline was pulled back. ... "

Images taken from Fox News screen shots next to actual images of New York Times staffers. (mediamatters.org)

SINCLAIR STEWART
Globe and Mail Update
July 9, 2008

NEW YORK — Forget about that quadrennial blood feud known as the U.S. presidential election. In New York, at least, the most intriguing tussle between left and right in recent days doesn't centre on Barack Obama or John McCain, but on a pair of media organizations – The New York Times and Fox News – that wield considerable political clout in their own right.

Detractors of Fox, America's No. 1 cable news network, have always complained that it twists the truth, refracting people and events through a conservative prism until they acquire the distortions of a fun house mirror.

These criticisms, of course, are metaphors – or at least they were until a week ago, when a Fox program aired unflatteringly altered photographs of two New York Times staffers whose work had raised the broadcaster's hackles.

The doctored pictures, which weren't identified as such to viewers, have stirred a froth about journalistic ethics in media circles here, pitting liberal-minded broadsheet against populist network in a conflict that bears all the scars and sniping of a political race.

The seeds of the dispute were sown last week, when Times reporter Jacques Steinberg wrote a story on cable news ratings. The piece acknowledged that while Fox remained the most popular news destination for prime-time viewers in the coveted 25-54 demographic, its once dominant lead had eroded, with rivals CNN and MSNBC adding viewers at a faster clip.

A few days later, on the morning show Fox and Friends, co-anchor Steve Doocy described the article as a “hit piece” and averred that Mr. Steinberg had been doing a “bunch of attack stories” on the network.

Further, he added, Mr. Steinberg's boss, Steven Reddicliffe, was a former employee of the Fox media empire and reportedly had “an axe to grind” with the company.

At the same time, Fox ran modified pictures of both men. Mr. Steinberg's teeth had been yellowed, his nose and chin made more bulbous, and his ears jugged. Mr. Reddicliffe was given black bags under his eyes, and his hairline was pulled back. ...

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