NYT Op/Ed: The consequences of contacting, writing about Fox News
Fox News, says New York Times columnist David Carr, is run more like a political campaign than a media outlet.
"Once the public relations apparatus at Fox News is engaged," Carr wrote of requesting interviews, "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."
Fox News, under chief Roger Ailes, is so diffficult to deal with that Carr admits having a physical reaction should the channel's name come up in his work. Actions taken against reporters include blacklisting, smears on blogs and, as brought to light recently, doctored photographs in retaliation for a perceived hitjob following a New York Times piece by reporter Jacques Steinberg, comparing its ratings to those of cable news competitor CNN.
"Despite repeated calls," Carr said, "the public relations people at Fox News did not return his requests for comment. (In a neat trick, while they were ignoring his calls, they e-mailed his boss asking why they had not heard from him.)
"Mr. Reddicliffe looked like the wicked witch after a hard night of drinking," he went on, "but it was the photo of Mr. Steinberg that stopped traffic when it appeared on the Web at Media Matters side by side with his actual photo. In a technique familiar to students of vintage German propaganda, his ears were pulled out, his teeth splayed apart, his forehead lowered and his nose was widened and enlarged in a way that made him look more like Fagin than the guy I work with."
Carr himself recalls being called a "crack addict" by Bill O'Reilly, noting the advantage in that his "laundry is already hanging on the line," and "the Photoshopped picture of me will have to go a long way to make me any uglier than I actually am."
"Yes, we are an aggressive department in a passive industry, and believe me, the executives and talent appreciate it," Fox's public relations head Brian Lewis said. "We are the biggest target in the industry and we accept that."
The entire registration-restricted New York Times column, entitled "When Fox News Is the Story," is available at this link.