GetReligion readers, I have a question for you. Which news network has consistently shown a greater commitment to original reporting on religion events and trends, Fox News or Al Jazeera?
When answering this question, it might help to visit the Al Jazeera landing page for "Religion, Spirituality & Ethics" and then do the same for the "religion" search category at Fox News. What you are looking for is actual hands-on reporting work done by the personnel in these newsrooms, as opposed to pieces built totally on wire-service reports.
I raise this question because, year after year, people ask me why Fox News -- in light of its massive audience share among culturally conservative news consumers -- doesn't do more reporting on religion topics (as opposed to the usual commentary pieces and talk-show work). This also comes up in my classroom work, as I have mentioned before:
One of the most interesting discussions that I have with journalism students every semester is the moment when I ask them to identify the specific cultural and political philosophy that drives the editorial policies of Fox News and other giants associated with the world of Rupert Murdoch.
They always say, "Conservative" or "right wing."
Then I ask them this question: "What kind of conservatism?"
The answer, of course, is a kind of secular Libertarian stance that isn't comfortable with a conservatism rooted in moral and cultural values.
This brings me to that new Vanity Fair piece on Fox superstar Megyn Kelly, which -- right at the very end -- contains a major, major fumble when it comes to digging into a crucial statement linked to religious faith and moral issues.
But first, who is Megyn Kelly? This lively piece describes her as the "alpha girl at the dinner party" who is currently pulling down "a reported annual pay package of $6-$9 million." She is the IT lady on cable-TV news right now. As in:
Unnerving would-be leaders, blowhards, and didacts from both parties has become Kelly’s specialty, as the world learned in August. The first television journalist to call Trump out face-to-face on his obnoxiousness, she kicked off the first Republican debate by calmly cataloguing Trump’s sexism in a single question. To recall: “You’ve called women you don’t like fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals. ... You once told a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees. Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect as president, and how will you answer the charge from Hillary Clinton … that you are part of the war on women?” Trump tried to laugh it off mid-question, saying that those insults were directed only at Rosie O’Donnell, but Kelly wouldn’t let him off. He then complained, “Honestly, Megyn, if you don’t like it, I’m sorry. I’ve been very nice to you, although I could probably maybe not be based on the way you’ve treated me.” The following night, he suggested to Fox News’s rival network CNN that the reason she was so hostile was that she was probably menstruating: “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.” When that didn’t rattle her, Trump lashed out on Twitter, calling her a “lightweight,” re-tweeting that she was a “bimbo,” and stoking his supporters to boycott her show. Kelly took the high road and said on-air that she had no reason to apologize to Trump, and that she would “continue doing my job without fear or favor.” ...
However, when it comes to several hot-button moral issues in the news -- with religion looming in the background -- the Vanity Fair article zooms past key clues about its subject. For example, who played the key role in opening door for Kelly at Fox News? That would be Washington bureau chief Kim Hume and her husband, now semi-retired anchor Brit Hume -- one of the most public and articulate Christian believers in journalism inside the D.C. Beltway.
The article does dedicate a lot of time to Kelly's personal life and her family, including her views on issues linked to life as a working mother. And then there is this:
What with all the male bullies she’s put in their place, Kelly would be perfectly positioned to become a leader in women’s issues such as equal pay and reproductive rights. But Kelly, whose position on abortion, she says, is known only to her husband and herself, claims these issues actually divide women. “Why can’t there be an acknowledgment that, in some instances, women remove themselves from the workforce for a long time and when they come back of course they’re not going to get exactly equal pay?” she asks.
Then at the very end of this long cover story, there is this crucial passage, which contains an interesting signal pointing to deeper issues, possibly even tensions between Kelly and her Fox superiors. Let us attend:
In the smaller political arena within Fox News itself, Kelly, it seems, has taken the same, rather delicate tack in pursuing women’s empowerment: to fiercely pursue one’s needs while rejecting anything that sounds like lefty dogma. Her team is made up mainly of women, many of whom are pregnant or have just had a baby. “I’ve said to all of them, ‘If you feel overwhelmed, please come and talk to me and let’s try to find a solution.’ I don’t want all the young mothers to be driven off the show because they feel they have to choose between devotion to the show and devotion to their child.” According to a Fox News colleague, Happening Now host Jenna Lee, who has sought out Kelly’s advice on balancing children and work, “Megyn really owns who she is. When you see someone who really owns who they are, it inspires you to own who you are.”
In keeping with owning who she is, Kelly isn’t reticent about what she wants next: to do longer, more in-depth interviews, in the vein of Charlie Rose or Winfrey, which would be “less immersed in angry political exchanges.” She reports that some prime-time specials, featuring longer interviews, are coming down the pike at Fox News, but one senses that she’s already thinking one step ahead of this development, and restlessly pushing at the constraints. “Charlie Rose does it, and he does it very well. But that doesn’t mean nobody else can do it,” says Kelly. “I think that there’s a spiritual component to my personality that is completely unutilized in my current job.”
End of story? Seriously?
So the Vanity Fair team just drops that information on readers and walks away? Or was the follow-up question asked and Kelly could not afford to answer or simply elected not to do so?
Either way, I am sure many readers -- even Fox News viewers -- would want to know more.
A ghost in this story, to put this in GetReligion terms? I would say so.