Bill Sammon's memo to Fox, edited for accuracy

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As Eric mentioned earlier, Mediaite obtained an internal memo written by Fox News managing editor Bill Sammon this afternoon. Sammon was responding to the embarrassing video of a Fox producer encouraging the 9/12 protestors prior to a live report.

While Mr. Sammon's memo is mostly on-point, I wanted to take the opportunity to revise it slightly. My additions are in bolded italics throughout.


From: Sammon, Bill
Sent: Monday, September 21, 2009 2:25 PM
To: 005 -Washington
Subject: standards

For those of us who have only been at Fox for a relatively short period of time, it's useful to remind ourselves that, as journalists, we must always be careful to cover the story without becoming part of the story. Occasionally, however, the story is totally about us. At news events, we're supposed to function as dispassionate observers, not active participants. We are there to chronicle the news, not create it. Unless other outlets are ignoring super-important stories.

That means we ask questions in a fair, impartial manner. For example, Obama's health care plan is not necessarily worse than cancer, which is why we must simply ask if it is. When approaching interviewees, we identify ourselves, by both name and news organization, up front. This is especially important when we ambush them on vacation. We seek out a variety of voices and views. Sometimes these can be hard to find, so don't stress too much about it. We take note of the scene in order to bring color and context to our viewers. For example, take stock of a scene by asking tax day protesters when "are we going to wake up and start fighting the fascism that seems to be permeating this country?"

We do not cheerlead for one cause or another. When celebrating the defeat of various Democratic proposals and ideas, use, at most, one exclamation point proclaiming "Victory!" We do not rile up a crowd. If a crowd happens to be boisterous when we show it on TV, so be it. If it happens to be quiet, that's fine, too. It's not our job to affect the crowd's behavior one way or the other. If the crowd we spent months encouraging to show up happens to be angry, then we should respect their display of grassroots anger. Again, we're journalists, not participants -- and certainly not performers. Note: Exceptions granted to rodeo clowns.

Indeed, any effort to affect the crowd's behavior only serves to undermine our legitimate journalistic role as detached eyewitnesses. Remember, our viewers are counting on us to be honest brokers when it comes to reporting -- not altering -the important events of the day. If these important events of the day are eerily similar to GOP press releases and websites, so be it. That is nothing less than a sacred trust. We must always take pains to preserve that trust. I cannot stress this enough: always.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss this further, please stop by. I'll be working with Sean on our upcoming video editing ethics seminar.

Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Bill Sammon
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