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The Ave Herald

Serving the community of Ave Maria, Florida


Ave Maria Residents Weigh In on Fox 4 Coverage

Residents of Ave Maria who commented to The Ave Herald were strongly critical about the way Fox 4 has portrayed the university, the town and its students in a recent series of reports. The coverage was "biased," wrote many, and failed to live up to the station's "Viewer's Bill of Rights" that promises straight facts and truthful reporting.

The Ave Herald suggested readers look at three Fox 4 reports and offer opinions about whether the reports lived up to the station's "Viewer's Bill of Rights." The reports dealt with the university's decision to tell Marielena Stuart, a blogger who lives in the town, that she can't come on the campus.

"I find the segments violate the Fox 4 Bill of Rights on all counts," wrote one resident. "While there are strains of truth within the stories, for the most part they are sensationalism and the content minimal."

The aspect of Fox's coverage that drew the most comments was the station's third segment, when Fox 4 reporter Pooja Lodhia walked down the middle of Ave Maria Blvd. with Mrs. Stuart, supposedly to illustrate how the resident was unable to walk anywhere but down the center line. "Having to watch her standing in the middle of the street having a reporter asking her what is safe is ridiculous," wrote one resident who said he personally called Mrs. Stuart. "Marielena and everyone including the reporter know she can attend Mass at the Church."

That scene did not measure up to the "Bill of Rights" promise to avoid sensationalism, another commented, adding, "Interviewing Marielena on a dark street to determine which side of the street she could walk on was over the top."

Several people thought that overall, the reports were one-sided and did not live up to Fox 4's promise to report "straight facts."

"The broadcasts are obviously biased and edited to present a negative viewpoint," wrote one.

A few readers commented about how news days must have been slow for so much coverage to have been provided for a story they viewed as relatively unimportant. But at least one resident saw a silver lining in this: "I deduce that filling the news hole with this relatively weak story must mean there was not another family murder in Naples or gang rape in Immokalee. For that, I am grateful."

Some of the comments received from residents follow. Some have been edited for brevity.

I am new to SW Florida and have seen first hand through an interview I gave last year to another news station how the news media here are primarily interested in sensationalism rather than principles of ethical, unbiased journalism which so many of us naively believe our news outlets adhere to.

It seems that Fox 4 is no different.  It is too bad because I would like to be able to turn on the television and watch the News. But it seems that all we get is someone's version of entertainment--not News even according to Fox 4's own Bill of Rights.  I will definitely view any Fox 4 stories with skepticism after viewing the Ave Maria segments. While there are strains of truth within the stories, for the most part they are sensationalism and the content minimal.  I find the segments violate the Fox 4 bill of rights on all counts.

I suppose it was entertaining to watch Pooja Lodhia and Marielena Stuart walking down the middle of Ave Maria Blvd. with nowhere to go. But perhaps Lodhia could have stopped along the way to ask other residents for their viewpoint on Stuart's ban from the university. (Seek a wide variety of viewpoints) On what grounds do they continue to refer to Stuart as a journalist? Do they realize that by calling her a journalist they are elevating her to their own level? She has been published in a small newspaper with a very narrow readership and she recently started blogging. That qualifies her to be called a journalist? Really? (Distinguish fact from opinion)

The news broadcasts are obviously biased and edited to present a negative viewpoint. The reporter was aggressive toward the university spokesman. However, Ms. Stuart was given ample opportunity to make her point. It is undeniable. Where are the discussions with people like myself who have gone to the university at will and had no problems?

That said, I am concerned that the university solicited and/or accepted a significant grant from a public person who happens to be Catholic and happens to have endorsed a pro-choice (or at least, non-committal) position vis-à-vis abortion. However, that does not change the reality that I live here in Ave Maria, and I don't like the way the media has helped to tarnish the public image of my home town.

I listened to the recorded minutes [of the Stewardship Community District meeting] and it is clear to me that the news report was typical sensationalism. They aired some pertinent parts, but they left out other just as pertinent parts of the meeting. The moderator attempted to maintain order, and she did a good job overall--from what I heard. The only person ruled "out-of-order" was Ms. Stuart.

[Coverage of] the university is a different story . . . For the most part, coverage has been negative. The Fox broadcast is no different. There was no attempt to point out an alternative perspective. I, for one, would like to see more positive portrayals; and I would really like to see a concerted effort to present the good things about Ave Maria. I think Pulte and the Stewardship board should be forceful, and prompt about defending this community--regardless of how the university is perceived or operates.

Slow news cycles sometimes breed unfair reporting.!!!  I believe the negative reporting from Fox Local news about Ave Maria Town is either about anti-Catholic bias or just a very slow news's cycle.  I hope it's the latter. The story being covered about Marielena de Stuart is really not a news-worthy story and here's why.

I'm convinced this is just bad reporting [because] so many people have told her that she is able to attend mass at the Oratory and has free access to the chapel at any time she wants. I've even called her personally along with others to let her know, so to me, having to watch her standing in the middle of the street having a reporter asking her what is safe is ridiculous.  Marielena and everyone including the reporter know she can attend Mass at the Church.

For her to call Mr. Monaghan and his organization fascist and accuse this administration of oppression is just not the truth.  I personally had issues with the University just recently and because I handled myself with professionalism and respect my opinion was heard by Mr. Monaghan personally, he made his decision which I disagreed with and we went on with our lives. There is nothing wrong with a private University making the final decision on issues. There is no question in my mind whatsoever that the Ave Maria administration are quality people and don't deserve to be treated this way on what one disgruntled woman has to say.

I'm almost certain that there have been many displeased people that have worked for Fox news that have had issues with Fox, and your company chose not to air this news, and that's ok, I don't need to hear about every dissatisfied  employee or student.

Clearly if Fox news had done their homework properly this story would have been about all the good this community is doing. Or about how this one very good man [Mr. Monaghan] has made a difference in saving souls, and not creating a lie to sensationalize an issue to try to hurt a very good man. Shame on all that are involved in this madness.

In the hopes of better reporting.

From all I could see in the videos I believe that Fox has not followed its own Viewers Bill of Rights.

1.       Seek truth - it should have pursued by research whether statements made by Marielena were truthful.  Is Golisano pro life or pro choice?

2.       Present full facts - which is also included in the above.

3.       Avoid sensationalism - interviewing Marielena on a dark street to determine which side of the street she could walk on, was "over the top".

According to Fox 4's "Viewers' Bill of Rights," we viewers have the right to ethical journalism and straight facts. Although Fox 4 pledges to provide the following, our score of Fox 4's actual performance, on a scale of Zero [0] to Ten [10], where Ten is TOTALLY RIGHT and Zero is TOTALLY WRONG, is: 

- Seek the truth - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - --Score = 0

- Present the full facts.  - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Score = 0

- Distinguish fact from opinion.  - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -  Score = 0

- Avoid sensationalism.  - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Score = 0

- Seek a wide variety of viewpoints.- -  - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Score = 0

- Promptly and prominently correct any mistakes.  - - - - - - -Score = 0

We have emailed comments to Fox News 4, but have not received a response. It looks to us a though Fox News 4 is operating at the same 'ultra-low' level as the gutter-sniping tabloids!

Based on my review of the News4 tapes, all I concluded was News4 was having a very slow news-day which means the editors at News4 needed to fill the airwaves with something.  In fact, given News4 did three pieces on this minor issue demonstrates to me that it must be a REALLY, REALLY slow news month in the local market.  I deduce that filling the news-hole with this relatively weak story must mean there was not another family murder in Naples or gang-rape in Immokalee.  For that, I am grateful.

In that context, I see nothing inherently wrong with how Fox presented the facts in the context of its entertainment/news.  News today has become entertainment.  That is something expected by the public.  To think it is not entertainment is wishful thinking and shows a lack of intellect on the part of the TV viewer.

More specific to the piece, to me the woman came across as an angry bitter woman with a chip on her shoulder.  Of course, Ave's representatives did not come across as highly competent either.  But that's simply Fox's editing.  After watching the three pieces, any reasonable person would conclude both sides look silly and the whole brouhaha was a waste of air time.  In the end, it simply came across as a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing.

"They will know that we are Christians by our love." I am less interested in whether Fox News 4 has lived up to their "Viewer's bill of rights" and more interested in finding a way for reconciliation between Mrs. Stuart and Ave Maria University.

[The Fox 4] stories paint the very false picture that the residents of Ave Maria are upset and living in fear. In fact, with the one exception [that Fox] focused on, the residents love life in our new town despite the imperfections that all towns have.

In fact, because of the faith most of claim to embrace, we overlook the flaws of our neighbors and hope they will do the same to us - and work hard together to make our community a blessed and joyful place. Sadly [the Fox 4] stories focus on the complaints of one person who has never been willing to do so.

When will Fox4 be fixing this unethical, irresponsible, non-factual, one-sided reporting to bring it in line with the standards in [its] Viewers' Bill of Rights?
Our family opinion is that Ave Maria University has the right to ban media from meeting and campus.

Fox news is trying to appear to be fair, but it is clear if you "read between the lines" Fox is siding with Ms. Stuart  to find fault with the University.

As a family we are tired of rude behavior and even more tired of the news media encouraging the rude behavior. We are disappointed to see Fox News "walking on the line" on fair and balanced.

As a side note, We would like the University to give the details on the "pro-choice" donor she mentioned.

From these 3 broadcasts alone, it is not clear to me what anyone’s complaint is. That’s just not good journalism.
Also, I don’t believe that Fox 4 is presenting an accurate portrait of Marielena. Why didn’t they talk more about her “journalism” and mention her article about colonizing Mars, whether or not she makes a living as a journalist, and the other disruptive behaviors (such as causing a scene about AMU videographers in her vicinity) that some of us have witnessed.


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