MEDIA: Fox News Channel: making TV headlines of its own - After a rocky start in 1995, Rupert Murdoch’s Fox has gained a lot more respect in the local TV media. Claire Atkinson tells you how to get a New York news minute or two

Take the escalator to the basement of 1211 Avenue of the Americas, turn left at fast food joint Wendy’s and you’ll find a huge news generator.

Take the escalator to the basement of 1211 Avenue of the Americas, turn left at fast food joint Wendy’s and you’ll find a huge news generator.

Take the escalator to the basement of 1211 Avenue of the Americas,

turn left at fast food joint Wendy’s and you’ll find a huge news


It is powered by the 400 staff members who - 24/7 - put together Fox


The light from a string of TV monitors bathe the underground newsroom in

soft blue. It is a calm backdrop to a frantic environment, buzzing with

the sound of assignment editors barking out instructions to bureau

chiefs across the nation.

Rupert Murdoch’s empire rises up on the floors above. That empire

includes media outlets ranging from Fox Sports to the New York Post. The

Post has an informal alliance with Fox News; the station gets to know

what’s going on tomorrow’s front page and tips off the newspaper about

its own scoops.

Murdoch is often hard at work in the same building but ’very

hands-off,’according to news director Janet Alshouse. She says the view

that the station is a Murdoch mouthpiece is one held by the media


The Fox News Channel stands apart from the pack by leaning right of


’The majority of the American people think the news media is liberal and

they don’t enjoy that,’ Alshouse says. ’We don’t always assume that big

business is bad.’

For example, Fox questioned a teaching method in California called the

self-esteem program, which shies away from telling children when they

are wrong. Alshouse says Fox ran a story critical of it. ’That wasn’t

the PC thing to do,’ she adds.

When Fox launched in 1995, it got a frosty reception - New York’s Time

Warner Cable refused to carry it. Murdoch went nuclear and with the help

of the Post enlisted the support of Mayor Rudy Guiliani and other local

politicos. The cable operator finally caved and put the channel

alongside CNN.

Perhaps the fact that the Fox News Channel was born brawling has made it

all the tougher. It is currently embroiled in a legal row with

Paramount’s Entertainment Tonight, which used unauthorized Fox footage

of the late John F. Kennedy, Jr.

Alshouse says she is proud of the station’s coverage of the Kennedy

disappearance and death, which presented numerous challenges. Fox is not

as well resourced as rivals such as CNN and MSNBC, which can tap into

NBC News resources.

However, having only 10 reporters on a story makes you more competitive

and inventive, Alshouse says. When the news director first heard the

story she held an impromptu conference call from her car dispatching

reporters to the couple’s apartment in TriBeCa.

’We were always accurate in our coverage, others were not,’ she


Later that week, Fox sent a reporter to Senator Ted Kennedy’s Washington

office to get a copy of the eulogy and then brought in a priest to read

the moving tribute on the air.

Fox News is still a cost center for the Murdoch empire, but according to

annual results released in August, the channel is now in 41 million

homes; it added nine million during the period. Revenues also rose by


Ratings for July, the month of the Kennedy tragedy, put Fox News on par

with MSNBC. Both stations attracted an average viewership of 234,000

households, or a 0.6 rating, which for Fox was a 200% increase over July

1998. CNN led the pack with a one rating.

Some PR pros claim The Cavuto Business Report has brought Fox much

needed gravitas, offering an alternative to CNN’s Moneyline, which has

new anchors.

Karen Gibbs, a senior business reporter with Fox News, explains what’s

different about the channel’s approach to interviews. Gibbs shocked the

33-year-old chief of InfoSeek, which Disney had just acquired, by asking

the young entrepreneur what has next job move was likely to be. While

unorthodox questions may scare PR pros, Gibbs says, ’I am willing to

entertain any idea as long as it’s driven by daily events.’ She suggests

that pitches be faxed to the business desk at (212) 301 5091.

Gibbs says Fox has a broader agenda than its business-obsessed rivals

CNBC, MSNBC and CNN. ’We don’t strictly focus on the market, but if it

has been a record day on Wall Street, we’d talk about that.’

PR executives who complain they are often knocked off the schedule when

big news breaks need to apply some lateral thinking. Alshouse says that

Fox News is often eager to get new sidebar material on big stories. By

the third or fourth day of an event, the network is thirsty for new


Alshouse adds that PR-produced VNRs are often used for news stories,

such as a new color for M&M’s. Alshouse has her first news meeting of

the day at around 8:30 am and begins planning the next day’s agenda at

around 4:30 pm.

Fox News, which feeds many of the Fox Network affiliates, is looking to

add more celebrities to its daytime show, says Alshouse. She wants to

make the channel ’edgier and fun.’

If you get no luck with any of the news-oriented debate and interview

shows on Fox, there is a last resort. Fox and Friends - the daily

morning show - has a segment in which people are given 90 seconds to

make their pitch, no matter how shameless. Alshouse says, ’It’s very




Hearst Magazines

224 West 57th Street

New York, NY 10019

Tel: (212) 301 3000

Assignment desk fax : (212) 301 4229

Newsroom fax: (212) 301 4224



News director: Janet Alshouse

Manager, assignment desk: Richard Diefenbach

Bureau chiefs: New York: Steve Katz

Chicago: Justine Schmidt

Dallas: John Roper

Los Angeles: Ken LaCorte

South East: Jim Southerland

Washington: Kim Schiller Hume

Fox and Friends (breakfast show)

Patrick McLaughlin, senior producer

Fox News Now (news program)

Thom Bird, senior producer

David Clark, senior producer

The Cavuto Business Report

Neil Shapiro, senior producer

O’Reilly Factor (debate/talk show)

Dave Brown, producer

Hannity and Colmes (political debate)

Peter Zorich, producer

The Edge with Paula Zahn (newsmaker interviews)

Jean McMahon, producer.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in