David Carr’s wide-ranging column today about the aggressive PR arm of Fox News brings to mind a similar behind-the-scenes look from almost four years ago.
In July 2004, Alex Ben Block wrote a column for TVWeek titled, “Fox News Plays Hardball With Press.” The piece describes FNC’s, “unusually forceful,” pitching to reporters.
Even before this column was published, FNC publicists contacted TVWeek’s publisher complaining that there might be bias and that my mind was made up before I started writing. In reality, the only bias here is for balanced journalism and fair-minded public relations.
The fallout may surprise you — Block appeared two weeks later to discuss the column on the top-rated O’Reilly Factor. How did that turn out?
During the interview, Bill O’Reilly raised a question also discussed in the Carr column today: “Has there ever been a network in the history of television attacked as viciously as this news channel?”
Block agreed Fox News was, “extraordinary and is a special case,” but he also thought something else was extraordinary about the tactics.
“What’s extraordinary about this — I’ve been boycotted and blacklisted by the best in Hollywood,” he said. “When I was editor of The Hollywood Reporter, companies didn’t talk to us for years at a time. What’s different here is — you’re a news organization. This is one news organization blacklisting another news organization.”
O’Reilly corrected, as did EVP of corporate communications Brian Lewis in the Carr column, that there is no “blacklist.”
“Yes, we are an aggressive department in a passive industry, and believe me, the executives and talent appreciate it,” Lewis said. “We are the biggest target in the industry and we accept that.” he said.
The question now: Will FNC respond in kind, and invite Carr on The O’Reilly Factor?