Fox’s news deck fails to blast off

Credit: Braden Kelner/Forum Editor Credit: Braden Kelner/Forum Editor
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You would be forgiven for tuning into Fox News in the near future and thinking that the entire newsroom is en route to Mars. The cable news channel has rebuilt its newsroom into what it calls a News Deck. The News Deck has been equipped with a dizzying array of technology designed to help the station provide updates to the new non-linear viewer. Non-linear viewers don’t sit down and watch TV regularly, but rather “tune in on [their] time,” according to Fox News anchor Shepard Smith.

Combating the threat of the uninformed non-linear viewer requires employees to use “Big Area Touchscreens”, 55-inch screens that can be used to trawl social media for posts containing trending buzzwords. There is also now a 30-foot-long screen on which anchors can move photos around with a Wii Remote-like wand. The people operating the pointlessly large screens will be the journalists who would normally be at desks working on stories, who can now have their work stations broadcast to millions of viewers at a moment’s notice.

Why? Because there are tweets, Facebook posts, and a host of unvetted information out there to share with viewers. Because the viewer doesn’t tune into the news for accurate information. You tune in to hear what the Internet thinks, and the best way to do that is by putting the people who do the most important work in the organization on the bridge of the Enterprise so they can get sensory overload.

Sarcasm aside, Fox News is not alone in the “news as entertainment” movement on television. However, the station is taking this movement to new and ridiculous heights while eroding what bits of journalistic integrity it had left.

The station is aiming to provide even more coverage of frequently unreliable social media posts, despite recent embarrassments suffered by many major television news sources. It is selling these posts to viewers with flashing lights and unnecessary moving images.

No part of this revamped News Deck contributes to good reporting; None of it actually helps the viewer. News sources need to provide facts and, in the case of Fox News, right-leaning opinions. Trying to give viewers a seizure with more screens than you are likely to find on the bridge of a modern aircraft carrier is not the way to do it. This newsroom is perhaps the most visible example imaginable of favoring flash over substance, since Fox News stated that its intent is to do even less original coverage and, instead, let the Internet provide it with content.

In the video tour of the deck, Smith mentions that modern viewers have changed their preferences for learning about a story; they now follow the news on phones and computers. Instead of trying to provide something unique — offering a better or more effective in-depth story — the station is trying to offer more of the same. Fox News seems sure that others will imitate their News Deck, but with luck they will strike an asteroid instead.