Fox News execs cracking down on mistakes

The network's been caught in some embarrassing errors recently; its brass is trying to put a stop to that

Published November 24, 2009 1:32AM (EST)

With the eyes of the chattering class upon Fox News due to the White House's "war" on the network, now is not the time for its employees to be making glaring errors. But that's what's happened in several instances recently, and the channel's been embarrassed by it. So now network executives are cracking down, and according to an internal memo obtained by FishbowlDC, "jobs are on the line."

Perhaps the most embarrassing of the recent errors -- certainly the most high-profile -- was the use of footage from a conservative protest held on the Capitol lawn this September during a story about another protest that took place earlier this month. The clip, which made the November rally appear larger than it really was, aired on Sean Hannity's program, and was caught by "The Daily Show," leading to much mocking from Jon Stewart and an on-air apology from Hannity.

That wasn't the only mistake of that kind, though. A week later, there was another mix-up with old footage used for a new story: This time, it was video of Sarah Palin from the 2008 presidential campaign in a piece about her book tour. Again, the clip used made the crowd appear larger than it was. 

Not all of the mistakes have favored the right, though. The network has repeatedly shown the cover of "Going Rouge," a parody of Palin's memoir "Going Rogue," when the actual memoir was the subject of discussion. That, apparently, was the last straw, and the network is going back to basics until it can start getting things right.

From the memo:

We had a mistake on Newsroom today when a wrong book cover went on screen during a guest segment, the kind of thing that can fall through the cracks on any day with any story given the large amount of elements and editorial we run through our broadcasts. Unfortunately, it is the latest in a series of mistakes on FNC in recent months .... Effective immediately, there is zero tolerance for on-screen errors. Mistakes by any member of the show team that end up on air may result in immediate disciplinary action against those who played significant roles in the "mistake chain," and those who supervise them. That may include warning letters to personnel files, suspensions, and other possible actions up to and including termination, and this will all obviously play a role in performance reviews. So we now face a great opportunity to review and improve on our workflow and quality control efforts. To make the most of that opportunity, effective immediately, Newsroom is going to "zero base" our newscast production. That means we will start by going to air with only the most essential, basic, and manageable elements. To share a key quote from today's meeting: "It is more important to get it right, than it is to get it on." We may then build up again slowly as deadlines and workloads allow so that we can be sure we can quality check everything before it makes air, and we never having to explain, retract, qualify or apologize again. Please know that jobs are on the line here. I can not stress that enough.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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