Never Underestimate Fox (Updated)

[See UPDATES below, including links to bio info.]

Late last night I mentioned the shocking, still unexplained news that John P "Jack" Wheeler, a graduate of West Point -- and Harvard Business School and Yale Law -- who had devoted his professional life to healing the after-effects of the Vietnam war, had been murdered in Delaware.

So how does FoxNews.Com decide to present this story?


This is beyond parody. Or shame.

Jack Wheeler cared deeply about public issues, his politics were increasingly conservative, and he held jobs with the federal government under various Bush (and Reagan) administrations. But he was a "Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Air Force" -- not some  White House aide -- in the GW Bush era, and, according to his personal CV (pdf here), was briefly part of the "Bush Transition Team to Create Earth Conservation Corps" for George HW Bush. That's his dossier in "politics." (FWIW, he also worked as a young lawyer at the SEC, starting when Jimmy Carter was in office.)

What he actually cared about was civic values and civic virtue; the health of the military; the welfare and self-respect of his fellow veterans; the future direction of great institutions where he had studied (West Point, Yale, Harvard); the long struggle to complete the Vietnam Veterans Memorial; the ongoing effort to restore ROTC programs at Harvard and other elite schools; the level of ethics in public discussion; a number of issues involving disabled children. And more. Recently he paid increasing attention to the nuances of the "cyberwar" threat, and the rise of China. He was a very complicated man, of many parts. But if you gave me ten hours to come up with a thousand descriptions of him, I still would not have thought of.... "Former Bush Aide."

That's the thought that came first to Fox. This tells me more than any number of critiques about the ways Fox differs from a "news" organization.

I am very saddened by Jack Wheeler's loss, but I'm angry that his life would be reduced to a little marker in the neverending partisan wars.

UPDATE: I see that New York Magazine, MSNBC, and some other outlets have also gone with variations on "Former Bush & Reagan Aide" headlines, but based on what I can tell from the Google News history, Fox was the first to use that ID.  

ALSO: Many people have asked where they can find out more about Jack Wheeler. Rick Atkinson's Long Grey Line is the obvious place to start, but this site has some of Jack's most recent writings, thoughts, activities, and so on.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


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