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Monday, October 12, 2009

The President Vs. Fox News II

The New York Times has a piece on what they characterize as "intensifying feud" between Fox News and the administration.

“We’re going to treat them the way we would treat an opponent,” said Anita Dunn, the White House communications director, in a telephone interview on Sunday. “As they are undertaking a war against Barack Obama and the White House, we don’t need to pretend that this is the way that legitimate news organizations behave.”

Her comments are only the latest in the volatile exchange between the administration and the top-rated network, which is owned by the News Corporation, controlled by Rupert Murdoch. Last month, Roger Ailes, the chairman of Fox News, and David Axelrod, a senior adviser to President Obama, met for coffee in New York, in what Politico, which last week broke that news, labeled a “Fox summit.”

The piece points out that rivalries between the administration and certain members of the media are not new. That's true and in fact, Rudy Giuliani made all sorts of political hay using the New York Times as his foil for most of mayorial run. That feud certainly didn't hurt Giuliani and in fact, it probably helped his standing.

I've always felt that the difference between this feud and other feuds lies in one critical point. Most feuds are done against declining news source. Fox News is ascending. Their power and reach is growing. Why would the administration take on a media source that will only be bigger and stronger in the next couple years. Their offshoot Fox Business is only now gaining a foothold. There's more ideas to come. Their flagship has the highest ratings in its history. If you take on the New York Times, or even the MSM entirely, you are taking on a dying brand and kicking them when they are down. If you take on Fox News, you are taking on a growing brand. The quote that really got me was this.

“As they are undertaking a war against Barack Obama and the White House, we don’t need to pretend that this is the way that legitimate news organizations behave


we’re not going to legitimize them as a news organization

That's a pretty strong statement from the White House. My question would be, what do they consider a "legitimate news source". Given the state of our media, such an attack isolated on one news outlet seems a bit misplaced. It's been widely reported that the White House favors MSNBC. Are they going to say that MSNBC is a legitimate news source?

The White House acts as though they don't get a fair shake from Fox News mostly because Fox News dares to challenge them. I would personally be very wary of any media source that's too chummy with any politician. They're supposed to be watchdogs not friends. I'm always amused by White House attacks on Fox News. They rarely highlight anything specific. In this article, they still cite a mistaken report by Fox News in January of 2008 that Obama attended a Muslim school. That was nearly two years ago. Is that the evidence that they have that Fox is biased?

The problem for the White House is that Fox News' audience dwarfs that of all other cable outlets. So, even if you agree that the Fox News audience goes right, they still have plenty of liberals and certainly moderates. That's because their audience is much bigger than that of CNN and MSNBC. 25% of 1.2 million is more than 100% of 200,000. The numbers aren't really quite that skewed but that's the essential point. While liberals are a much smaller part of the Fox News audience than say MSNBC, the entire audience is much bigger and so there's plenty of liberals watching. Furthermore, the Fox News audience also includes plenty of moderates. You don't dominate the ratings the way Fox has without finding a cross section of watchers.

I have been a part of a local Republican group for about a year. Here in the Chicago area, they have been able to grow by leaps and bounds despite the fact that demographics are totally against them. One of the principles once told me something interesting. They told me that they don't try and treat the media as a rival. They are always available for comment, always nice, and always prepared to be part of any panels. The media is mostly lazy like everyone else and so if they know you're available, they will come to you. As such, they've received largely favorable coverage for years from most of the Chicago area media even though one would think that a Republican group would never get favorable coverage from the so called liberal media in the liberal Chicagoland area. They did and it all happened simply because they acted nicely, politely, and professionally. Maybe, the White House could try these simple steps and see if their coverage improves on Fox News.


section9 said...

Can I tell you something?

Those Chicago Republicans are treated nicely by the media because they are not seen as a threat to the Cook County Democratic Organization. When they become a threat to the Cook County Democratic Organization, the press will stop treating them nicely.

mike volpe said...

I'm not sure how you could know that and I don't deal in hypotheticals. I always found that analysis interesting and correct since they do get good media coverage. The point that the person was making was that you shouldn't assume a confrontational relationship. Treat the media the way you would any business partner, with respect, care, and professionalism, and you'll will see benefits.

Anonymous said...

"The White House acts as though they don't get a fair shake from Fox News mostly because Fox News dares to challenge them."

I'd like to expand on that thought. Its not that Fox News challenges them, its that Fox News challenges them in a way that no other news organization has challenged a White House since Woodward and Bernstein. Fox News has hosted its own Tea Parties, they have dubbed themselves the voice of the opposition.

The White House is no doubt the biggest entity in the political arena, but they're not the only ones. The Republicans have been leveling some pretty intense allegations against the White House and the Democratic Party as of late. Don't you think a truly balanced media organization would challenge those as well? Instead, it seems more like Fox adopts and perpetuates them as if one would have to be mentally ill not to believe them.

In the end, I'm sure some business and ratings stuff gets in there where Fox thinks it can make a buck appealing to conservatives and MSNBC thinks it can make a buck cozying up to the White House and styling itself as the "voice of the opposition to Fox News."

mike volpe said...

There's a lot of rhetoric in that last comment and no examples. Anyone can say what you just said but unless you show an example it means nothing.

If you are going to accuse fox of something, show an example. Don't just give me rhetoric. Anyone can do that.

Anonymous said...

I personally watch and listen to a lot of news and feel with the exception of CNN and Fox, there is no news anymore. I have been watching Glen Beck lately and have started doing my own research on some of the people he has spoken of. I think it is time for all Americans to start asking who some of these people are, and wonder why no other news, including CNN is not.