31 March 2010

Fantastic Mr. Fox

I was trotting away on the treadmill this morning and the other guy in the room was watching Fox News as he worked out, and so I got to hear a report about an Arizona rancher who was "brutally murdered" by "illegal aliens" who "left a trail of footprints" to the Mexican border.

My first though: have these people ever read a murder mystery? My second: how about journalistic integrity?

Way back in the last century, I was a newspaper reporter. The editor sent me to the scene of an explosion in a family home, where I saw the grey bones of the dead mother and child who had been in the building, flesh burned away. The father, who had been on his way over to pick up the child for his time with her, was found dazed, sitting outside the house, and the police told me he was a suspect. So I reported it.

The next day, they told me he was no longer a suspect; the house had been found full of gasoline, and the explosion, when the mother lit a match just as he opened the front door, sent him flying across the yard as it blew the doors and windows out of the house.

I reported that, too, but there was no retracting the original piece.

So, back to Fox News, and a veritable raft of unsubstantiated allegations they reported this morning as fact, along with insinuations that Obama is somehow to blame for the killing because he wants to change immigration law.

There's no suspect and no evidence to identify a killer, though the man's brother says he heard from him on a radio transmission from which all he could understand was "illegal alien" and "hurt." But the tracks lead to Mexico, and drug-smuggling activity was discovered on the ranch the previous day. The local paper, the Douglas Dispatch, reports various other details that don't add up to illegal immigrants, either.

None of those details made it onto the Fox "News" report. Why bother with mere facts, when ignoring them provides such a good opportunity to criticize the president?