Fox News’ PR operation took a beating in today's New York Times piece by David Carr, who alleges that media relations at the network is “a kind of rolling opposition research operation intended to keep reporters in line by feeding and sometimes maiming them.”
Carr reports that the strategy is born from CEO Roger Ailes’ days as a political adviser for presidents Nixon, Reagan, and George HW Bush. Says Carr: “Once the [PR] 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.”
The back-story behind the article is that less than two weeks ago, Times reporter Jacques Steinberg wrote a story about how CNN is gaining on Fox, and the News Corp. network’s reaction to the tightening cable news race. The cable network’s morning show, Fox and Friends, ran a story claiming Steinberg’s editor is a disgruntled News Corp. employee, with accompanying – and severely distorted – headshots.
For Fox’s side, Brian Lewis, EVP, corporate communications, told Carr that the network’s PR staff does not alter photographs and has no control over editorial content on Fox and Friends or other shows. He added that such actions make the PR department’s job harder, and said there is no reporter blacklist. Lewis also told Carr that suggestions that the altering of Steinberg’s photo was anti-Semitic “vile and untrue.”
In other opinions about the Fox-New York Times controversy:
- “Well done, Mr. Carr, well done. Expect a horse’s head in your bed,” says FishbowlNY co-editor Noah Davis.
- Broadcasting & Cable’s Mike Malone says Carr did “a helluva job” with the column.
- Huffington Post media editor Rachel Sklar says Fox’s PR strategy scares off positive mentions.
- Radar’s Choire Sicha comments that dealing with CNN can be “difficult and uptight,” but working with Fox “can actually be frightening.”