About a month ago, a journalism class at Bennington’s Mount Anthony Union High School posted a video on YouTube in which they systematically dismantled the integrity of Fox News “journalist” Jesse Watters. The video’s gotten 370,000 hits, and is well worth watching.
This has received quite a bit of notice outside Vermont, but not much within our borders. Probably something to do with Vermont media’s northern orientation; Bennington is a virtual black hole because it’s far away and not easy to get to.
A while ago, Watters ran a piece on “The O’Reilly Factor” in which he visited Vermont to confirm its reputation as a liberal hotbed. His visit was as pro forma as it could have been; he went to Bennington, the closest town to his NYC base, and did a handful of “man on the street” interviews with questions designed to prove his prefabricated point that Vermont is a haven of the far left. Questions like, “Why do you think the President has allowed terrorists to take over a third of Iraq?” (Pronounced eye-RACK.) His interview subjects were stereotypically flaky young people. (I doubt he considered asking anyone in a business suit to take part.)
The MAUHS students compared Watters’ report with the ethical standards of the Society of Professional Journalists, and found him guilty of “too many violations to count” resulting in a “wholesale distortion of truth.” As one student concludes, “By watching Fox News, we have learned buckets about journalism: what to do, and more importantly, what never to do.”
The conclusion isn’t a surprise, but what’s notable is the diligence and thoroughness of these students. Their work is worth noting and celebrating. Fox News didn’t see it that way, naturally; Bill O’Reilly referred to the students as “pinheads.” Stay classy, Loofah Man.
Oh, and just in case you want to stereotype these kids as loony liberals, the same class has taken the New York Times to task for its overheated reporting on drug abuse in Vermont, particularly the Times’ assertion that “the hallways of Mount Anthony Union High School… were littered with bags of heroin.”
Tweaking the noses of the powerful: one of the core functions of real journalism.