For Fox sake

hannity in california

Rallying: Hannity in California

Many pixels have been spilled (as well as a few quarts of ink) about the Obama administration aggressively snubbing Fox News.  Most commentators have chosen to use Nixonian analogies, typically concluding that presidencies rarely win in such conflicts.  This may be Obama’s fate as well.  I’m not smart enough to know.

But I think the analogy is the wrong one to use.  Obama’s people argue that Fox is the “research arm or communications arm of the Republican Party.”   To me, that’s not a problem.   The media is supposed to research what’s wrong with government.  If Fox unearths legitimate issues that undermine the administration’s agenda, so be it.

Likewise, if Fox approaches news from a conservative viewpoint, so be it.  From the dawn of the Republic, newspapers have been rooted in political viewpoints.  There’s no reason why Fox or MSNBC should be any different.

But for some reason, I never hear this argument:  Fox is a political organization in and of itself.  Fox crosses the line when it organizes and promotes issue-related rallies, like the Tea Parties or Sean Hannity’s water rally in California (wherein he decried what he claimed were environmentalists choosing endangered species over people).

Once a media organization becomes a political organization, then it loses its credibility.  You can’t do both.  You can’t actively rally folks to a viewpoint, then expect the other side (or anybody else, except for your amen chorus in the audience) to take you seriously as a news organization.

Jon Stewart also overlooks this argument.  But he makes some other good points, bolstered by Fox’s own spin.

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With Mike Daly in New Orleans, Sept. 2005

When I worked at WAGA,  folks loved to roll down their windows at stoplights when pulled up alongside marked “Fox 5 News” vehicles and holler passionate words of support for the Fox News Channel.  I always absorbed them with a friendly nod and a fake smile.  Sometimes I threw in a “hell yeah” for comic effect.

One time, a photog and I happened to drive by a small lefty-type protest at Ponce de Leon Ave. and North Highland.  One of the protesters scrunched up his face and spat on the windshield.  The loogie landed squarely in the drivers side.  It was a nice hit on a moving target.


Sleepless in KC, March 28 2003

He didn’t know that WAGA’s Fox 5 News occasionally uses Fox News Channel as a resource (and vice versa), but otherwise has very little to do them.   In 2007, a few weeks before I left WAGA, I did a live shot on Shepard Smith’s afternoon newscast.   In 2003, I did a live shot from Fox’s bureau in Kuwait City.  (It’s worth noting that as the US/Coalition was invading Iraq, Fox’s staff in Kuwait City showed no behind-the-scenes hint of ideology.  They seemed only interested in covering the story and doing it safely, like any other TV network.)

As of 2007, nobody from Roger Ailes’ office had ever tried to put a political spin on WAGA’s news coverage, to my knowledge.  I suspect WAGA is still a very, very distant blip on Ailes’ radar.  Most folks don’t know that WAGA also had a resources-sharing relationship with CNN until recently.

So the loogie gesture was a bit misplaced.  But I respected the protester’s power to spit accurately.  And I understood his confusion.

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Doug Richards is a reporter at WXIA-TV. This is his personal blog. WXIA-TV has nothing whatsoever to do with this blog, under any circumstances, in any form. For anything written herein, Doug accepts sole credit and full blame. Follow him on Twitter: @richardsdoug. All rights reserved. Thanks for visiting.

10 thoughts on “For Fox sake

  1. Esteban

    I despise Fox News Channel but like Fox5 News with the understanding WAGA has almost nothing to do with FNC (RNC?). I also enjoy Fox’s sports and entertainment programming. Its coverage of the NFL, major league baseball and NASCAR is unparalleled, in my view. If not for FNC, it would be a great company.

  2. arky

    That doesn’t surprise me about your experience in Kuwait. Almost all of Fox’s foreign correspondents are quite good and non-ideological. Which is probably why there aren’t very many of them. 🙂

  3. Brian

    I always get a kick at the people that hate Fox News, or CNN, or MSNBC, or heck even Lifetime. The truth of the matter is that all of these networks have one goal: keep you interested to sit through and watch commercials.

    Believe it or not this is the same goal a network has when it airs news, sports, or a wrestling match.

    Do I watch Fox News? Eh, a little. I enjoy Fox News Sunday. Do I watch CNN? Not really, it just doesn’t keep me interested. Do I watch MSNBC? No, because my cable package doesn’t have it (the very cheap Comcast package).

    I’m a 26 year old married guy who votes for people who are fiscally conservative and socially liberal. I guess my cynical nature is to not really get all up in arms over things that 1) I can’t control and 2) don’t really want to control if I could.

    To judge a network by someone they have on is just ridiculous. People don’t like O’Reilly, Hannity, Olbermann, Larry King, then just let them change the channel. I don’t think everyone at these organizations think like these people all the time.

    After all…I never thought WAGA was full of Leroy Powells either.

    Although if it were I would have always watched.

  4. arky

    “To judge a network by someone they have on is just ridiculous.”

    Uh… by what other standard should a network be judged?

  5. LBJ

    Another overlooked item: Rupert Murdoch, being born in Australia, couldn’t buy a U.S. TV station…until he became a naturalized citizen and the Reagan FCC approved his ownership. He had evidently tired of playing politics in Australia, after doing his Charles Foster Kane impression with the Austrialian Country Party and the Australian Labor Party. He wanted to move to the U.S. to be a player in our political system and have even more leverage with Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair.

    He has succeeded, probably beyond his wildest dreams. Did David Sarnoff and Bill Paley use their networks as an arm of a political party? Is a news divison tainted when the entire existance of a network is based on the desire of its owner to manipulate elections and public policy?

    Even Leni Riefenstahl didn’t have it this good.

  6. JeremyK

    Working for an ABC station, I once landed an interview simply because I was NOT a Fox station. The interview subject believed all Fox affiliates must be inherently biased toward conservatives because of the nature of the Fox News Channel.

  7. Photoggg

    When I was at WAGA my rule of thumb was to present myself as a Chanel 5 employee inside the perimeter and as Fox 5 news OTP. I was more than once verbally attacked while driving the branded news vehicle through Decatur and even spat at by a passing cyclist. OTP I would pretty much drive everywhere and be cheered, even blocked roads were promptly opened by law enforcement personnel when they saw the markings on the side of the white explorer.

  8. itpdude

    Fox News was much better before it became the Republican News-Giver. It seems that Fox was much better than CNN in the last years of the Clinton Administration when a close friend of Bill Clinton was in charge at CNN. But then 9/11 happened. That’s when Fox News became blatantly Republican.

    When I watched local news, my favorite was Fox 5 with Russ and Amanda and this guy who did fun stories about hunting conventions or the biggest clock in the world or whatever. My lefty friends all turned their noses even though they hadn’t a clue that Fox 5 and Fox News were completely different in that Fox 5 didn’t have a blatantly Republican spin.

    But it does illustrate how people can be so easily swayed by talking points and the like. “ALL Fox is evil!” is the ignorant lib version of the ignorant GOP cry of “they’re gonna have death panels!!!”


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