Tag Archives: Fox News

Now its FOX News doing the coverup

This one cost them $8 million. That’s to keep a former PR executive from publicly disclosing his complaints about FOX News. He was a top aide to Roger Ailes when Ailes was president of the news organization.

Eight million is a lot to pay to someone to keep them quiet. My question is what was so horrendous that either he threatened to disclose or they were afraid he might? You wonder that too? So, let the digging and speculation begin–it already has. The whispers are about “financial irregularities.”

I really don’t understand this strategy. Do they think they can succeed in hiding it, now that there is a lot of blood spilled in the water and all the sharks in the neighborhood are smelling it? Is it some kind of legal protection? Would the damage from a legal settlement be worse than the world wondering what kind of shenanigans are going on behind the scene that they are so desperate to hide?

I understand I have a completely outside perspective and no doubt, inside things are far more complicated. Not long ago, I was privy to some facts about an organization that was being roundly criticized by crisis experts for their inept handling of a significant public issue. I wanted to call them or write them and say, wait, you don’t understand, there’s more to this than that. I suspect there is a lot of that going on behind the scenes at FOX. But, the real point is, it really doesn’t matter. Not from a reputation management standpoint. Perception is still reality and it the reality is, FOX looks like they are hiding some pretty stinky stuff.

Secretary of state lauds Al-Jazeera, rips US media

Youch. If I was sitting in the chair heading cable or network news programming, I’d be a little unsettled after hearing what Sec of State Hilary Clinton just said about me.

The AP article is worth the read, but here is the relevant quotation:

“Like it or hate it, it [Al Jazeera] is really effective,” Clinton said. “In fact, viewership of Al-Jazeera is going up in the United States because it is real news.”

“You may not agree with it, but you feel like you’re getting real news around the clock instead of a million commercials and, you know, arguments between talking heads and the kind of stuff that we do on our news that is not providing information to us, let alone foreigners.”

Fox News president Michael Clemente appears puzzled. He said he found her remarks “curious.” Maybe some of Fox News’s problems is they’re not hiring the sharpest tools in the shed to run things. Nothing curious about it. She’s saying it like it is. The other networks and channels, perhaps wisely, are reserving comment.

However, former reporter Frank Sesno, is much more outspoken, to the point, and in my opinion right on when he says:

“She’s right,” said Sesno, who is now director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University.

“Cable news has become cable noise. It was intended to be an opportunity to inform people, and instead it has become an opportunity to inflame people.”

I like that quotation a lot. The opportunity to inform has given over to the temptation to inflame.

There is some very intriguing irony here. Al Jazeera, seen as a propaganda organ for the Arab (translate in many minds: terrorist) world is praised for its news quality. It is the propagandists who are supposed to inflame, not inform. But, we have CBS, NBC, ABC, MSNBC, CNN and FOX all dedicated to informing, right? That’s why we’ve been treated to a non-stop display of a pathetic crumbling star fighting for a few bucks taking up all our air space while in Libya, Yemen, Egypt and Bahrain the world is erupting. It is a sad commentary on the state of our media, an even sadder one on the state of our American minds.

Juan Williams, NPR: PC run amuck or racism?

NPR’s CEO Vivian Schiller was quoted in USA Today that the “network’s reporters and news analysts should not express opinions.” Excuse me? News analysts are not to express opinions? I really don’t think that is what she meant as it seems to me rather obvious that news analysis consists of nothing but opinions. I think she meant to say that reporters and news analysts are not to express opinions contrary to what she considers appropriate. If Mr. Williams had said that he thinks anyone who says they are afraid to ride on an airplane with passengers in Muslim garb is a racist I’m quite certain that opinion would have been perfectly fine with Ms. Schiller.

The political correctness of this reaction and his firing is really quite stunning. The fact that Fox now turns around and hires him with a handsome contract is a sign of the continuing polarization that is poisoning our public discourse. For every action, a reaction–so I must pin the blame for the action on NPR and the reaction on Fox.

As the USA Today article about Williams points out, CNN fired Rick Sanchez and Octavia Nasr for voicing personal opinions in other forums other than CNN. You may be free to speak in this country, but that freedom is certainly not free and may be very expensive. It’s part of the openness and transparency in our hyper-connected world that makes what you do or say in one part of your life so connected to all of your life. It’s kind of ironic that this kind of transparency is forcing people to be ever more cautious about expressing opinions, particularly if they violate current standards of political correctness.

Sarah Palin vs. "the media:" who's really on trial?

All of us who have media relations and public information as part of our lives have to be standing back in amazement at what is going on relating to Sarah Palin and her battle with the media.  The story has quite dramatically shifted, it seems to me, from “is Sarah qualified, and therefore is John McCain’s judgment sound” to “is the media biased, sexist and unfair.”

I just watched this morning the interview of the managing editor of US Weekly by Megan someone, a Fox News anchor. Now, whether you consider the Fox News attack “fair and balanced” or the US Weekly article on Palin (Titled: Babies, Lies and Scandal”) “fair and balanced” probably depends on your political orientation. In fact, that is one of the more fascinating aspects of the varying coverage of the political events by the news channels. An MSNBC poll about whether or not Palin helped the ticket (by far most think she did not) did not say nearly as much as Palin as it did about the orientation of those who watch Olberman and company. Contrast the polls showing on Fox which, of course, show a completely different slant of the viewers.

A few comments:

– As part of the fragmentation and segmentation of media, the old idea of “objectivity” is quickly disappearing. This should not discourage us because “mass media” in the US, dating back to Colonial days, were highly partisan. Publications were created to support political parties and positions. They only really adopted the idea of “objective, non-partisan coverage” with the growth of Associated Press in the Civil War era as a way of pooling reporters. AP reporters were supposed to simply gather the facts from the front, then the individual editorial slant would be applied by the editors. However, the publishers found that readers like the “just the facts” reporting direct from AP and heavily biased reporting lost favor. We are simply going back to those days, but in this era it is a matter of segmenting the marketing, trying to dominate segments in order to survive and profit as media businesses.

– The spectacle of one media outlet attacking another for “bias” is a little humorous and fascinating. Sort of like watching your sisters mud wrestle. Something disgusting about it, but you can’t take your eyes off it either. It’s really funny when they refer to the others as “the mainstream media” as if they are just not part of that at all. It kind of makes your head spin.

– When the public stands outside of this media scrutiny of media, I think we all benefit. One of the greatest challenges we as communicators face is the reality that while everyone says “you can’t believe what you read in the newspapers,” everyone still does. Including professional communicators (witness PRSA’s hyper reaction to the completely out of line reporting on the FEMA “fake” news conference). The more the public gains some skepticism and informed judgment about the motives, agendas and biases of those charged with providing us our news and therefore our perceptions on which we make vital judgments, the better off we all are.

– the role of blogs. I would like to know how many times in the last few days of coverage that the “left wing blogs” were mentioned. Not just on Fox either–although MSNBC and CNN are more likely to just reference “the blogs.” The blog attacks on Palin are to a large degree driving the news cycle. That’s where the mainstream outlets get their fodder, and that’s also where they make judgments about what is relevant and will drive audiences. There is a huge lesson here for those in crisis management. If you still think you should not pay attention to blogs when you are the focus of the news, you have your head in the sand or someplace else. Blogs are the drivers–increasingly every day. Not just because of their own audiences, but because of the tremendous influence over the focal points of mainstream media coverage.

New York Times doesn't like Fox News–duh

I found this article by David Carr of the New York Times about Fox News entertaining. I read it a couple of times and although there are some begrudging indications of some kind of respect the basic messages seem to be: 1) I hate Fox News and am pee-ohd that they are still rated number one 2) They alter pictures of New York Times reporters and don’t tell people they altered them 3) They are far too aggressive in dealing with negative reporting.

The article would make a good study in someone trying to be somewhat fair and balanced in covering someone or something that he/she clearly can’t stand. It doesn’t work very well. Mostly I find the attack by what has been considered by many to be the bastion of unbalanced, liberal reporting against the new bastion of conservative reporting to be quite funny. Here’s a sample: Fox News found a huge runway and enormous success by setting aside the conventions of bloodless objectivity, but along the way, it altered the rules of engagement between reporters and the media organizations they cover. The conventions of bloodless objectivity? Why didn’t he just say, OK, we were never unbiased either but at least we were more polite about it. This is just silliness. Not sure what is bothering him more–the “enormous success” or the fact that the bias fell on the other side of the political spectrum.

But of more interest is the discussion within this article about the changing nature of media. It is no accident that Fox News apparently has taken a political approach to protecting its reputation. This approach–the war room strategy I call it in my book–was perfected by President Clinton in his first campaign and detailed in George Stephanapoulis’s (spelling?) book. It was the strategy of continual monitoring for attacks and then very rapid response to anything emerging that even smelled like an attack. It was very effective for the Clintons and has been adopted by all campaigns since then so that it has become part and parcel of our political discourse. I advocated in Now Is Too Late that corporations with reputations at risk should adopt this. Roger Ailes, the CEO of Fox News, saw this strategy work first hand and to his detriment in the campaign to re-elect the First Bush. He took its lessons to heart and put it in practice at Fox News–that’s the gist of Carr’s bitterness.

The PR head of Fox News commented: “Yes, we are an aggressive department in a passive industry, and believe me, the executives and talent appreciate it,” Mr. Lewis said, adding that with the 24-hour news cycle and the proliferation of blogs, a new kind of engagement and activism was required.

That is the important lesson. While I don’t consider the news business to be a “passive industry,” the kind of aggressiveness in maintaining its reputation and taking on its critics is symptomatic of the era of instant news where reputations are at higher risk largely because of the vicious competition for public attention. It’s this kind of aggressiveness–if not the same tactics suggested by Carr–that are essential for reputation protection for all organizations. And if Mr. Carr is practicing these principles and doesn’t like that I am criticizing him for faulting Fox for employing them, then he will get on my case and soon.

Follow the drama–lasik surgery

Since this is one reputation crisis playing out in real time, let’s keep following the lasik drama.

Fact one: there is a minor furor going on. Just check google and see all the current news reports, blog postings, etc.

Fact two: the furor was caused by the FDA holding a hearing–which they now did on April 25. The “news” as I mentioned in my last blog post was there was going to be a hearing. That’s the news hook–but the stories as they were broadcast over NBC and others led one to believe that the news was that the dangers of lasik were now being brought to light. That jump is what I consider egregious.

Fact three: as a medical procedure, lasik appears to me to be incredibly safe. Numbers vary from 7 million (in the Fox Report) to over 12 million (in the NBC report) as to how many US folks have had lasik surgery–that doesn’t count worldwide numbers. The FDA says they recognize that over 95% of the patients are “satisfied” with their results and less than 1% (according to Dr. Solomon) have severe side effects that impacts their vision.

Let me be clear–if I was in that 1% I would be concerned too. But, how many plastic surgery patients are “satisfied?” By my quick review walking the sidewalks of Beverly Hills, I would say a good 50% have a right to be very unhappy. And unhappiness does not equate with poor results or severe side effects.

It is perfectly right and appropriate for the FDA to hold hearings. They would be doing a disservice if they did not. What I object to, as strenuously as I can in the blog without becoming another ticked off blogger, is how the media/regulatory environment works to the detriment of most of us and our freedom to decide. Look at the headlines coming out of the hearing: (Fox News:

Patients Harmed by Lasik Surgery Alternate Between Fury, Despair at FDA Hearing

(obvious, I did a cut and paste here)

How would a headline like this work: “Experts demonstrate that lasik eye surgery one of the safest elective surgeries available.”  Nope, wouldn’t work. Wouldn’t get eyes glued to the screen or the paper. I’m not saying there weren’t sad stories and some people aren’t ticked off and have a right to be. Bad procedures, bad doctors and bad choices exist (note the story of one “victim” who insisted on having it despite the doctor advising against it–it’s not just docs that make bad choices.)

The entirely predictable process works like this (I described it in Now Is Too Late2):

– an event happens (in this case something really mild like FDA holding hearings

– news media figure out a way to use it to gather an audience

– method used is outrage and melodrama (black hats, white hats, that whole thing)

– elected officials or regulators view the outrage as meaning they should take action

– new laws are passed or more restrictive regulations issued NOT based on scientific reality, but the fear of appearing to not care and do nothing. Where is the old logic of government action that said, “Let’s not just do something, let’s stand here.”?

– freedom of choice is curtailed, costs skyrocket so fewer and fewer people can afford the benefits, and elected officials and regulators who are the most active at taking these steps get reelected or reappointed.

And it all starts because our “news” environment is driven by a singular need to attract and hold an audience.

Do I think we have a problem here? We have a problem here.