It began with an article posted on the Fox News website -- With Revolutionaries 'Looking On,' Teachers Take Kids on a Protest Trip to Arizona -- and soon spiraled into a slugging match between the far, far left and the far, far right. Anything involving the SB 1070 law has a tendency to do that, especially when it also happens to involve teachers, students and South Central.
The Fox story implied that Santee Education Complex teacher Jose Lara had led students on a "field trip" to Arizona to protest the SB 1070 law. The set up of the piece was obviously designed to raise questions about indoctrination: should teachers air opinions in front of students, potentially encouraging them to follow suit, or simply keep their mouths shut and teach?
But Lara wasn't shocked by the content of the story. He was disturbed by the journalistic process by which it had come about.
Lara, whose staunch social justice activism is captured through his FLIP camera and distributed via a handful of social networking accounts, was not directly quoted in the article, but both his Facebook and YouTube accounts were used as sources. Being that his first encounter with the story was after its publication, the situation raised questions for Lara about the validity of journalists sourcing social networking accounts rather than actual people.
If they had spoken to him directly, Lara says, they would have realized that they were publishing a factually incorrect account of events.
Lara has composed a response to the Fox news article and the questions it raised for him about "fair and balanced" journalism:
Fox News does it again
By Jose Lara
In a recent article, Fox took another swing at immigrant rights activists, teachers, and our public school system by misreporting and misleading the public.
According to Fox, three teachers took a Los Angeles School District sponsored field trip to Arizona to protest the new law, SB 1070. However, nothing can be further from the truth. Instead of fact checking and conducting authentic journalism, Fox decided to look to YouTube and Facebook for their "fair and balanced" news report, and without establishing actual contact with the subjects of the story, published it anyway.
Here is the truth: Firstly, teachers did not take any students on a field trip. The Los Angeles Unified School District would not have approved of such a trip. Secondly, the high school student quoted in the Fox article went on the Arizona protest trip with her mother, who is also a teacher. All of Fox's sources appear to come from Facebook, YouTube and online discussion groups.
I have a few questions for Fox:
Is a journalist who gets all their information from YouTube and Facebook without fact checking really a journalist at all?
Shouldn't Fox retract this story if they know it to be false?
Who benefits from stories like this?
Perhaps Fox News does not intend to produce authentic journalism, but yellow journalism instead. That is to say that Fox uses eye-catching headlines and over-sensationalized stories with little to no authentic research in order to gain ratings.
And, unfortunately, it is a successful method of attracting eyeballs. It also increases hate and division among people. The Fox News message board is filled with hateful rants - comments such as "Deport them all now", "Bring it on beano", and "America is being invaded!!!!" Fox fuels the fire by attempting to pass off opinion pieces as authentic journalism.
There is a lesson to be learned here for both active Internet users and journalists. Abundant forms of information sharing mean abundant opportunities for bad, unethical journalism. Beware. On the one hand, using a social networking site feels like a personal experience. On the other, that is a downright lie. It seems that anything accessible on the Internet is now fair game (despite what points one and two of the SPJ Code of Ethics clearly state.) Your status feed might as well be a press release. An opinionated update can become a story, and a story can become a horde of angry emails, tweets and blog comments.
Lara quickly felt the effects of his Internet ambush. One Twitter user called him an "idiot" - adding that it's "no wonder California has some of the worst schools in the nation." Another emailed directly to say that "homeland security should put him on the terrorist list."
Hoping, somewhat naively, for a chance to respond, Lara accepted an invitation to the Bill O'Reilly show last week. Within minutes of the show airing, the comments on his blog entries became a war of two worlds: pro-immigrant activists versus anti-immigrant conservatives, straying to the far reaches of the immigration debate.