Skip to comments.Victory With a Swagger (Fox News)
Posted on 01/16/2005 5:29:37 AM PST by Dane
Victory With a Swagger
Fox News 'Smash-Mouth Journalism Has Resulted in Intense Attacks, Rising Ratings and a Loyal Base
By Michael Grebb
Its good to be the king . When touring Fox News Channels Manhattan headquarters, that famous Mel Brooks punch line seems to resonate.
In the basement of the News Corp. building in midtown Manhattan (known affectionately as the dungeon by those who work there), hundreds of Fox News staffers toil in blocks of cubicles. Yet they seem strangely ... happy .
People greet each other, back-slapping as they rush past. They eat lunch at their desks, eager to monitor the latest news event as they inhale deli sandwiches. The place just exudes a certain confidence. A certain swagger. A certain knowledge that what started in 1996 as a much-ridiculed alternative to the then-dominant Cable News Network has since become a major force in disseminating news to the American public.
Shepard Smith contemplates this reality as he leans back in his chair in the dungeon conference room. The anchor of Fox Newss signature evening newscast, The Fox Report, cant help noting how the channels early naysayers and current detractors are now faced with a hard truth: It is most definitely the cable news ratings leader.
Roger told us at the very beginning that this was going to happen, and he was right, says Smith, referring to Fox News Channel chairman Roger Ailes. He said, 'Not only is this going to work, but when you get to the top of the mountain, everyone down below you is going to be taking shots at you, and its going to be painful.
Indeed, Fox News has been the target of barbs since its inception. Its popular slate of opinion shows featuring hosts many peg as conservative-leaning has given ammunition to its critics. This year, the liberal group MoveOn.org even helped finance a film, Outfoxed , about what it perceives as the channels conservative bias.
Smith says that while some viewers may watch the network for conservative opinion not found elsewhere, Fox Newss detractors just dont understand the separation between opinion and news on the network.
The moment these people ever start telling me, 'You need to start skewing the news to an audience, is the last day I work here, Smith says. It would never happen.
As its enemies turn up the heat, Fox seems to grow only stronger, as its loyal base digs in and new viewers watch to find out what all the fuss is about. To the chagrin of its critics, many who find Fox News stick with it.
In December, the Nielsen Homevideo Index ranked the network No. 8 among all cable channels in total viewership, putting it far ahead of CNN and MSNBC, according to Nielsen data supplied by Fox News. In fact, CNN hasnt led Fox News in the overall cable-news ratings since December 2001.
The people who work at Fox News both on-air and behind-the-scenes talk about high morale and stability as keys to its ratings success in recent years. As competitors dealt with mergers and corporate meddling, some credit Ailes with largely protecting the channel from similar tinkering from News Corp. The theory is that happy employees make for a stronger newscast.
Because of the way the place is run, we all focus on our jobs, and I think that pushes out to the viewers, says Greta Van Susteren, host of Fox Newss On The Record . Roger has made us feel safe and that our jobs are safe, so we concentrate on our jobs.
Van Susteren says its quite a contrast from her last days at CNN. I dont spend any portion of my day wondering who I work for, listening to gossip, what shows going to get cancelled, whos getting fired, whos coming in.
Van Susteren, who works out of a modest office in Fox Newss Washington, D.C., bureau, says the camaraderie runs deep. She jokes about the time she sent an e-mail message to Shepard Smith when Nick Nolte was arrested for driving under the influence in September 2002, commenting that his mug shot resembled one of her bad hair days.
Smith read it on the air. (She shouldnt send me e-mails, Smith quips.)
Such joshing among friends is common at Fox News and often finds its way onto the screen, along with the kind of conflict and debate that keeps people watching.
Its a smash-mouth form of journalism thats very entertaining, says Matthew Felling, media director at the Center for Media and Public Affairs. Its aggressive, and its a lot of fun to watch. Whether it advances the debate at all is up for argument.
Whats not up for debate is that Fox News has found a formula that works when it comes to beating its cable competition in the ratings.
Its a lot of fun, Smith says. We dont make apologies for graphics and whooshes and excitement and all of that stuff because if that will bring you to the news that weve spent all day or all week or all month preparing, then more power to it. Ill put anything up there to get them to watch.
People will soon be listening as well: In December, Clear Channel Communications Inc., the No. 1 U.S. owner of radio stations, announced it would dump ABC News Radios newscasts in favor of Fox News Radio. Meanwhile, Fox News Channel continues to survey the landscape from the top of the mountain.
Ah, yes. Its good to be the king .
Of course Fox news isn't perfect, but just mention it's name and a liberals face turns beet red.
Good article. Thanks, Fox.......wouldn't watch anything else. Head and shoulders above the rest!!
If you remove the Bush-bashing and America-is-so-guilty from most other news networks, you are left with...the news. Add to that some colorful personalities who aren't afraid to express opinions, and there you have it.
Good article - thanks for posting.
I would add, IMHO, that Fox's contention that it plays it down the middle on its news coverage and reserves opinion to the opinion shows, is something of a fable. Listen to the asides of virtually any of the hosts and reporters, and there is a significant conservative slant. That's fine with me, but to suggest FNC plays it straight down the middle is simply not so, IMHO. It is as slanted to the right as the MSM is to the left.
then during break go to the ABC biased laden news report. I wondered how long it could go on.
I was surprised. I thought it was going to be a hit piece.
Actually, Fox News is a little too liberal for my tastes.
"Welcome to LNN - the Lazmataz News Network - for those who find FNC a fetid mass of liberal activism!"
"....and next up: Handgun Vending Machines in Airports..... Should they be constructed low enough to permit access by youngsters?"
I have to disagree, somewhat. Fox presents plenty of liberal commentators(such as Juan Williams, Elenor Clift, Ellis Henican, Susan Estrich etc.etc). The reason they may seem to slant to the right is because Fox gives the true loony left base a voice, and doesn't sugarcoat it like the old MSM and the NYT.
When the average American sees the true loony face of the democrat left, they are repulsed.
That's not to say there are not loons on the right, there are, but IMO, the loons on the left outnumber the loons on the right by a ratio of 10 to 1.
Exactly. It is the most amazing thing to listen to.
Exactly my thought, except that most times the ABC news breaks feature outright lies and distortions, nothing even approaching "news".
Bump for media fairness
There are a fair number of liberal commentators on Fox. But I don't think there's any question that the the great majority of hosts and reporters express Republican/conservative attitudes.
Yes, the rest of liberal media prefers adherence to news tightly wrapped in their dogma. Opposing views have a nasty habit of disturbing the package.
All your logos are belong to us :-)
(btw, I believe in TV jargon its called a 'Frog')
I tend to agree but these hosts and commentators do give the left equal time when there is debate, unlike the old media, for example a panel consisting of two liberals and one conservative.
I agree with you there. Liberal guests get equal time on FNC. Compare with shows like Today, who on many issues will only have a guest from the liberal side of the question.
That was the best part of the article!
That abc news at the top of the hour was insufferably libspinful. I've loathed it for years.
See you later abc/disney "news", you've been rathered.
Neil Cavuto, Brit Hume and David Asman...... need I say more?
Yes same here, FNC logo is burned in the screen of my big screen TV. In fact I sent emails to the asking if they can add animation to the logo, a short time later it started revolving. Don't think they did that just for me.
I don't even know what channels the "Big 3" networks are on anymore. I do skip over to MSNBC to watch (and laugh) at Hardball now and then, or over to CNN to oogle Rudi Bakhtiar... ;)
Even if it were true, they would still provide overall balance in the universe of media coverage.
Besides, other than telling the truth and playing by the rules, exactly what is "right wing bias?"
No, but you must be able to accommodate those in wheel chairs!
Directions in braille would also be a nice touch!.....
I think Fox has an obligation to look at what others are reporting and deliberately go out of its way to ask, "Should we be covering other stories? Other angles? Is this really news?" The answers are often surprising.
For ex., say for a moment that the Bush/TANG story was in fact true. What real difference would it have made? In "normal" circumstances, an objective and honest news network wouldn't have given that more than a throwaway line in some weekday newscast, and that would have been it. My point is, since bias is in part shaped by story SELECTION---not just "framing" stories or "slanting" them after they are selected---then Fox has to be vigilant to select "fair and balanced stories."
This shows up most recently in Iraq, where we ONLY hear (even from Fox, often) about the latest bomb, but not the 99% of the cities that are calm, where power is on, where people are going to school and work, and where the tiny seeds of liberty and democracy are taking root.
"It has always been an amazing contrast on my local AM to listen to Rush, or Hannity,
then during break go to the ABC biased laden news report. I wondered how long it could go on."
I know what you mean. We have 2 (that I'm aware of) 'conservative' talk radio stations(KVI and KTTH)in the Seattle area. Sean and Tony Snow are on KVI and Rush and Michael Medved moved to KTTH some time ago. KTTH has ABC News (yuck); We got a break several months ago. KVI and Fox News are working together (it's called talk radio and Fox News)- -think they said this was the only station in the country that included Fox News. Maybe a pilot for what was to come. The news breaks include the Fox News top of the hour news breaks and local news - -it's great!
The only thing I don't like is that they have the Alan Colmes show on in the evening (not sure if it's a replay) - but I just switch to something else.
NPR ... US Soldiers killed 7 civilians witnesses in the small village say the attack was unprovoked. US Marine Headquarters claims the soldiers were fired on first.
FOX News.. 7 Civilians were killed after US Marines came under fire in a local village
The more accurate report depends on weather you believe US Marines routinely massacre Iraq civilians.
Since they do not then clearly the FOX account is less biased and more objective.
AS for me, Brit Hume is my number one reason for watching Fox News.
You forgot the obligatory picture.
LOL. Been there lately? More like San Francisco than a southern city.
I didn't even know there was a Fox News Radio. Kewl!
Yes, I was there this summer. I chose my word carefully, "quintessentially emblematic" is not the same thing as "culturally aligned". However, I still think the Braves are the official baseball team of the Old Confederacy.
Oh, no, no, no. Hot-Lanta is the showplace of the New South.
Probably the only woman in the media better looking than Ann Coulter. Too bad she's probably a liberal.
There was a rumor a few months ago she might be hopping over to FoxNews. That would be nice...
The standard for all daily newscasts is, in my opinion, Brit Humes show.
When my cable provider dropped the Fox News Channel from its basic service (while increasing rates!), I realized that Fox News was the only reason I even watch cable anymore. So, I switched to Dish Network, which offers Fox News at a lower rate than I was paying anyway.