David Carr of the New York Times details the trials and tribulations of covering Fox News.
Like most working journalists, whenever I type seven letters — Fox News — a series of alarms begins to whoop in my head: Danger. Warning. Much mayhem ahead.
Once the public relations apparatus at Fox News is engaged, 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.
And if all that stuff doesn’t slow me down and I actually end up writing something, there might be a large hangover: Phone calls full of rebuke for a dependent clause in the third to the last paragraph, a ritual spanking in the blogs with anonymous quotes that sound very familiar, and — if I really hit the jackpot — the specter of my ungainly headshot appearing on one of Fox News’s shows along with some stern copy about what an idiot I am.
At Fox News, media relations is a kind of rolling opposition research operation intended to keep reporters in line by feeding and sometimes maiming them. Shooting the occasional messenger is baked right into the process.
Fox is so desperately afraid of scrutiny of any kind that they instinctively go on the attack. If they were truly a news organization that lived up to their cynical slogan “we report, you decide,” they would welcome anybody to look at their operation regardless of their agenda, and they could withstand even the most biased attacks, or at least laugh them off. But like every schoolyard bully, the more they lash out, the more you know you’ve hit their most vulnerable spot.