Monday, July 07, 2008

The Media Equation
When Fox News Is the Story

Like most working journalists, whenever I type seven letters — Fox News — a series of alarms begins to whoop in my head: Danger. Warning. Much mayhem ahead.

Once the public relations apparatus at Fox News is engaged, there will be the calls to my editors, keening (and sometimes threatening) e-mail messages, and my requests for interviews will quickly turn into depositions about my intent or who else I am talking to.

And if all that stuff doesn’t slow me down and I actually end up writing something, there might be a large hangover: Phone calls full of rebuke for a dependent clause in the third to the last paragraph, a ritual spanking in the blogs with anonymous quotes that sound very familiar, and — if I really hit the jackpot — the specter of my ungainly headshot appearing on one of Fox News’s shows along with some stern copy about what an idiot I am. . .

. . . A little more than a week ago, Jacques Steinberg, a reporter at The New York Times who covers television, wrote a straight-up-the-middle ratings story about cable news. His article acknowledged that while CNN was using a dynamic election to push Fox News from behind, Fox was still No. 1. Despite repeated calls, the public relations people at Fox News did not return his requests for comment. (In a neat trick, while they were ignoring his calls, they e-mailed his boss asking why they had not heard from him.)

After the article ran, Brian Kilmeade and Steve Doocy of “Fox and Friends,” the reliable water carriers on the morning show on the cable network, did a segment suggesting that Mr. Steinberg’s editor was a disgruntled former employee — Steven V. Reddicliffe once edited TV Guide, which, like Fox News, is owned by the News Corporation — and that Mr. Steinberg was his trained attack dog. (The audience was undoubtedly wondering what the heck they were talking about.) . . .[Open in new window]


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