When David Carr penned a New York Times article that complained of aggressive PR tactics from Fox News Channel, it set off a round of head-nodding in newsrooms. New York Magazine's Daily Intel blog responded with a post entitled, "David Carr Stands Up to Fox." Michael Calderone, Politico's media reporter, called Fox's PR "the most aggressive of media companies," but allowed that "there is something reporters often admire in Fox's tenacity."
Every reporter has an industry source or two that invariably calls before, during, and after the reporting process in order to check in, argue, and persuade the reporter to write in a certain manner. Carr wrote, "Whenever I type seven letters - Fox News - a series of alarms begins to whoop in my head: Danger. Warning. Much mayhem ahead." The problem with a heavy-handed PR approach, Carr points out, is that it can make the press less inclined to cover that group for fear of certain headaches to follow.
"Fox News' amazing coup d'etat in the cable news war has very likely been undercovered because the organization is such a handful to deal with," Carr writes.
While war-room-style PR might be effective in political campaigns, it has considerable negative effects in a corporate media relations environment. PR teams who get a reputation as difficult to work with do the people that they are paid to promote no favors.
Fox News' PR head, Brian Lewis, told the Times he maintains "an aggressive department in a passive industry, and believe me, the executives and talent appreciate it."
Yet, Fox News, which has enjoyed a rise to the top of the cable news chart, risks having its accomplishments over-shadowed by others if reporters feel writing about the outlet carries the same thrill as testing out an electric fence.