mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“TV Channel Or Cult?”: Fox News’ Conspiratorial Paranoia On The Screen Reflects That In The Offices

Fox News fired its head of PR recently, an act that would’ve been a dry bit of news of interest only to cable news junkies and media reporters were it not for Fox News’s scorched-earth style of PR. Thanks to Fox’s own efforts, the story of the firing of a guy you’ve never heard of became proper news, discussed and analyzed by people who’d never notice if CNN fired some random suit. At Fox News, the conspiratorial paranoia on the screen often seems like a reflection of the conspiratorial paranoia in the offices.

Brian Lewis had been with Fox News for 17 years, with his final title being executive vice president of corporate communications. On July 25, he was “terminated for cause,” according to Fox News corporate communications, and escorted from the building. Fox cited “financial issues” and did not elaborate. New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman, whose forthcoming biography of Roger Ailes has caused the already nutty Ailes to act nuttier than usual, said the firing would further isolate Ailes from dissenting viewpoints. Sherman referred to Lewis as a “moderating influence” on Ailes, and one of his most trusted advisers since Fox News was first launched.

Sherman’s short piece led to the sort of coordinated “push-back” effort that Lewis pioneered in his years at Fox, with multiple Fox personalities insisting that Lewis had never been important to anyone, least of all Ailes. “Lewis and Gabriel Sherman are the only two who believe that Lewis was actually the right-hand man to Roger Ailes,” someone told Mediaite. (In fact, “right-hand man” was how the Hollywood Reporter referred to Lewis, before Sherman’s piece even was published. Similar language was used by the L.A. Times, the New York Times, and… a bunch of other places. Good zing, though, Fox PR!) Ailes even asked Donald Trump to trash Sherman’s piece on Twitter, and Trump complied.

The story of Lewis’ firing seems to have something to do with Sherman’s forthcoming book, and Ailes’ suspicion that Lewis was one of Sherman’s sources. “Brian was operating outside the culture of the company, and thus violated his contract, so Roger let him go,” an executive told Mike Allen, who has published Fox News executive rebuttals (and prebuttals) to other journalists’ reporting on Fox in the past. “The culture of the company,” at Fox News, is basically paranoia, omerta, and vicious retribution.

The person now solely in charge of public relations for Fox News is Irena Briganti, a person whose relationship with journalists has been described as “vindictive” and “ruthless.” Most reporters who’ve had to deal with her have horror stories of threats, accusations, and blacklisting. Briganti and the Fox PR shop have been known to perform campaign-style “opposition research” on journalists they perceive as unfriendly.

We all know that Fox is deeply worried about the demographics of its viewers — they’re really old — and that Roger Ailes is “shaking up” the network in order to appeal to a newer, more diverse generation of Americans. (His moves so far: Putting Megyn “The New Black Panther Party are coming to get you” Kelly in prime time and putting Elisabeth “Great AmerMcCain Hero” Hasselbeck on in the mornings.)

The problem isn’t Sean Hannity, though. Or Bill O’Reilly. The problem is Ailes. As long as he’s running the network — and he’ll be running the network as long as Rupert Murdoch is alive — the network will fail to appeal to most people under 40. As Jordan Chariton wrote at Salon earlier this month, Fox’s demographics problem is simple: Ailes is committed to creating conservative content, and young people are getting more and more liberal. But it’s not just that the content is conservative, it’s that it reflects the mindset of the post-sixties white backlash, something people born after the 1960s can’t relate to at all.

Part of Ailes’ great success is simply great timing. He got in the game, alongside Richard Nixon, at the start of the great conservative backlash. He is a master at appealing to and manipulating the pissed-off American white man. He began his career selling Nixon to worried white people and now he’s selling older, even more worried white people reverse mortgages and #BENGHAZI. But that generational tantrum is currently in its rampaging hysterical death throes. The next generation is not quite as panicky about the endangered state of white supremacy.

So the Fox problem isn’t just partisanship. It’s in the culture of the company. Fox will continue to have trouble appealing to a wider variety of people as long as its leader, the person who embodies everything Fox News, is a paranoid, angry old man who handles staff issues like a Stalinist, erasing disfavored former deputies from history and ordering all who seek to remain in his good graces to denounce their former comrade as a traitor.

My question, and this question is basically directed at the people above Ailes in the News Corp corporate hierarchy, is this: Does Fox actually need a culture of secrecy, or a political campaign-style PR apparatus that regularly plants smears against its critics? Is this a cable television news channel or Scientology? What is even the point of going to great lengths to discredit a forthcoming biography of Ailes by planting stories in the conservative blogosphere? How many Breitbart.com readers were going to read Sherman’s biography? How many of them would’ve turned against Ailes were it not for the constant, ridiculous anti-Sherman smears Ailes is planting?

It’s not just that Fox’s war on enemy journalists is unethical and unprofessional, it’s that it’s frequently embarrassing for Fox. Every time they go to war against someone who wrote something they don’t like, they simply create more stores about unhinged Ailes and his strange and petty retributions. If Roger Ailes wants people to stop claiming he’s paranoid and crazy, he needs to stop acting paranoid and crazy. If Fox wants journalists to stop treating their channel like a cult run by a madman, well, maybe someone should consider convincing the madman to retire.

 

By: Alex Pareene, Salon, August 26, 2013

August 29, 2013 Posted by | Fox News | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Missing Word: News “Corp” vs It’s Critics

Today’s Wall Street Journal editorial has the title “News and its Critics”—obviously, it’s missing a word. The piece’s real title should be “News Corp and its Critics,” or even better, “News Corp vs. its Critics.” It’s a piece by News Corp, for News Corp. The problem is, the ugly 1044-word attack on the company’s “competitor-critics” alternates between catty defensiveness, a drunk beat poet, and utter incomprehensibility. One can only stand in awe of a conglomerate that would mass print an “aw-shucks” apology across one country while sending the Journal to do its dirty work in another. Some of the editorial’s phrases are almost self-parodying:

The overnight turn toward righteous independence recalls an eternal truth: Never trust a politician.

The Schadenfreude is so thick you can’t cut it with a chainsaw.

Especially redolent are lectures about journalistic standards from publications that give Julian Assange and WikiLeaks their moral imprimatur.

But, beyond redolence, imprimaturs, chainsaws, and Schadenfreude, the editorial’s argument—insofar as one is discernible—is so dishonest that it has the opposite of its intended effect. You come out of the piece trusting News Corp and the Journal far less than you might have before.

The first “point”:

Phone-hacking is illegal, and it is up to British authorities to enforce their laws. If Scotland Yard failed to do so adequately when the hacking was first uncovered several years ago, then that is more troubling than the hacking itself.

Of course, when “the hacking was first uncovered several years ago,” News Corp did a more than adequate job of bribing British authorities to keep them at bay. As David Carr pointed out yesterday, the company’s fondness of drowning legal problems in hush money has been pervasive, far from the domain of a single tabloid. “We didn’t get caught” is about as bad an excuse as they come, especially with the tactful omission of “…because we bribed the police.”

The second point is a dicey defense of resigned Journal publisher Les Hinton, which fails to mention the reason for his resignation: ostensibly, the two times he stood before the Houses of Parliament and said that only one News International journalist had ever hacked a phone.

The piece then moves inexplicably into self-defense mode, claiming that, well, even if News Corp is a bit unsavory, the company has improved the Wall Street Journal. Of course, a revitalized Journal must be of great consolation to hacking victims, who must also “shudder to think what the Journal would look like” under the dreary Bancrofts. And so we breeze right along to find the paper arguing for the legality of paying sources for information. But “the Wall Street Journal doesn’t pay sources for information.” So who does? Other News Corp outlets?

Again, we move on too fast to find out, and close with the same shoddy reasoning that Murdoch himself has already aired out in the Journal’s pages. Namely, that News of the World’s behavior constituted nothing more than journalistic overreach, and that cracking down on News Corp means inhibiting freedom of the press:

Do our media brethren really want to invite Congress and prosecutors to regulate how journalists gather the news?

News Corp outlets broke the law. And yet, the word “crime” is not mentioned once in the editorial. The Journal goes for a brazen euphemism, instead claiming that the tabloid’s “excesses” do not damage the reputation of its sister outlets:

The News of the World’s offense—fatal, as it turned out—was to violate the trust of its readers by not coming about its news honestly. We realize how precious that reader trust is, and our obligation is to re-earn it every day.

The News of the World’s “offense” was to commit crimes, then lie and bribe to cover them up. “Trust” is a convenient, slippery term for the Journal to use. But surely, a paper of such clout must realize that its readers know the difference between breaking trust and breaking the law. At any rate, it’s likely that News Corp is soon to find out for itself.

By: Alex Klein, Guest Columnist, The New Republic, July 18, 2011

July 19, 2011 Posted by | Corporations, Journalists, Media, Press, Public | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CNN Ignores Piers Morgan’s Connection To News Corp Scandal

Ex-News of the World Editors Piers Morgan, Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson (Brooks and Coulson have been arrested)

The ongoing News Corp. hacking scandal has given competitors a likely long-sought chance to tear into Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, with CNN leading the way. According to a Media Matters report, CNN reported on the scandal 107 timesover the same period of time MSNBC and Fox News reported on it 71 and 30 times, respectively. But while the Time Warner news network may smell blood, some may be emanating from their own studios.

Piers Morgan, the British journalist and talk show host who took over for CNN’s venerable Larry King earlier this year, is a former editor of the now-defunct News of the World, the tabloid at the center of the hacking scandal. Moreover, Morgan has been implicated in a separate celebrity phone hacking scandal while he was editor of the U.K’s Daily Mirror.

But so far, CNN has failed to report any of this. A ThinkProgress search covering the last 30 days of several media monitoring services and CNN’s own website, show the network has not so much as mentioned Morgan’s connection to the failed News Corp. tabloid, nor the separate Mirror allegation.

A CNN spokesperson confirmed the lack of coverage to Ad Week last week, “saying that the network hasn’t covered the matter because Morgan has not been officially called to testify in England.”

Morgan himself did address the issue on Monday, telling a CBS talk show that neither he nor his former publication have broken any laws.

The allegations are especially troubling given this passage from Morgan’s 2005 book, The Insider: The Private Diaries of a Scandalous Decade:

Apparently if you don’t change the standard security code that every phone comes with, then anyone can call your number and, if you don’t answer, tap in the standard four digit code to hear all your messages. I’ll change mine just in case, but it makes me wonder how many public figures and celebrities are aware of this little trick.

As Ad Week notes, “Morgan has been sounding a fairly sympathetic note about Murdoch.” In the CBS interview, he said, “I’m not going to join the Murdoch bashing. I’ve always been a big admirer of his. He gave me my first break in journalism. He made me editor of [News of the World] when I was 28 years old.”

Update

This afternoon (7/17) on CNN’s Reliable Source, Howie Kurtz briefly noted Morgan’s connection to News Corp. Kurtz said that the media should “be careful about some of these allegations” because Piers Morgan has “absolutely denied” knowing about the illegal conduct. Pressed by one of his guests if that was “an official company denial,” Kurtz said he’d be happy to speak with Morgan about it.

By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Think Progress, July 17, 2011

July 18, 2011 Posted by | Journalists, Media, Press, Pundits | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

%d bloggers like this: