While we didn’t love David Carr’s column last week, he scored with Saturday’s today’s story about the public relations strategies of Fox News. Carr’s column comes in part as a result of the channel’s treatment of his colleague Jacques Steinberg after the Timesman published a story about Rupert Murdoch’s company. Carr details the scare tactics deployed by Fox’s public relations department and the fear they instill in reporters. In essence, he tackles a subject that every media scribe knows but that we’ve all been afraid to report:
Once the public relations apparatus at Fox News is engaged, there will be the calls to my editors, keening (and sometimes threatening) email messages, and my requests for interviews will quickly turn into depositions about my intent or who else I am talking to.
Well done, Mr. Carr, well done. Expect a horse’s head in your bed.
More quotes after the jump.
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… Honesty compels me to admit that I have choked a few times at the keyboard when Fox News has come up in a story and it was not absolutely critical to the matter at hand.
Instead, [Roger] Ailes and Brian Lewis, his longtime head of public relations, act as if every organization that covers them is a potential threat and, in the process, have probably made it far more likely. And as the cable news race has tightened, because CNN has gained ground during a big election year, Fox News has become more prone to lashing out. Fun is fun, but it is getting uglier by the day out there.
“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.