Given their profession, the people at Fox News Channel have developed an appreciation for the ferocity of the modern news cycle. The trick, they’ve learned, is to get out in front of it.
Case In Point No. 1: In the summer of 2004, a filmmaker releases “Outfoxed,” an 80-minute documentary savaging Fox News. Upon the film’s debut, Fox puts its PR organ to work. From a Los Angeles Times story on the proceedings:
Fox also questioned the credentials of the former employees interviewed in the documentary, calling them “low level” or incompetent. Some sources, it said, never worked for Fox News Channel, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.
Case In Point No. 2: In August 2011, Fox News comes out of nowhere! It publishes an attack on the popular gossip site Gawker, with a clear intent to prove its decline and irrelevance. The site’s traffic, reports Fox on air and on its Web site, is down 75 percent.
Not long thereafter, Gawker publishes a story alleging that Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly had used his clout in an unseemly fashion with the Nassau County Police Department.
So had Fox set out to diminish Gawker before its bombshell hit computer screens? Says Gawker honcho Nick Denton:
Oh that piece made us laugh. I’m never quite sure how much coordination there is at Fox News. But I expect that we’re on some kind of informal [expletive] list at least — and they take every reasonable opportunity to unload. And some unreasonable opportunities too. Whatever. It’s the overreaction that makes Fox News so much fun to provoke!
Possible Case In Point No. 3: Over the past two days, Fox News contributor Tucker Carlson teams up with other staffers at the Daily Caller to produce an investigative series on Media Matters for America, the left-leaning watchdog that monitors Fox’s every fair-and-balanced utterance.
Coming out next Tuesday, Feb. 21: The “Fox Effect,” a book that, according to its own propaganda, “offers new insights into Fox News and powerfully describes the harmful consequences of this political operation masquerading as a news network. You won’t be able to put it down.” The authors are David Brock, Ari Rabin-Havt and Media Matters.
When asked about the timing of the Daily Caller series, Carlson responded: “We’ve been working on this series for months, long before I knew Brock even had a book coming out. So that’s a sad and dumb line of attack.”
Good stuff. Carlson recommends that I ask Media Matters “why they haven’t responded to our series in any substantive way.” Like a good cub reporter, I followed orders: Media Matters has no comment on all this.
Carlson says he’d “love to know how many other Media Matters employees regularly carry Glocks to work in order to fend off snipers. It’s pretty disappointing they won’t tell us.”
Glocks, liberal media accusations, cable news personalities: It’s no wonder that Media Matters has spent a good part of the last couple of days in an enviable spot in Google Trends. As of this writing, it’s in spot No. 8. Proof that it doesn’t necessarily take solidly written and reported investigative journalism to create a public firestorm over a given topic. It takes merely partisanship and ideological warfare. That’ll do the trick.