Monday Media Mailbag: My Four Cents on the NYT’s vs. Fox News and WaPo vs. Politico 1


By Kyle Austin

Happy belated 4th of July! Do you realize that it now takes 2 cents to make a penny? Well almost. 60 Minute’s ran Morley Safer’s segment on the economics of making pennies for the second time this Holiday Weekend (It first ran in February). In which, Morley reports that due to the price of copper tripling in price -it now costs the U.S. Mint $134 Million to make $80 Million in pennies.

Stephen D Levitt, the author of Freakonomics, is ready to put the penny to rest for good, noting in the segment that “it’s just not useful anymore because of inflation.” Still others argue that if we got rid of the penny, retail outlets will inflate prices to the nearest nickel.

The Washington Post owes Politco 2,000,000 Pennies: If you’ve been following the road to the White House online, it’s likely that you’ve spent some time on Politico. Former Washington Post (WaPo) reporters John Harris and Jim Vandehei started the online political destination two years ago after WaPo turned down their idea. Politico has been a landmark success and in May it reached nearly two million unique visitors (See chart below courtesy of Compete.com). So it’s no surprise that the WaPo has reconsidered the idea of a political only online destination. However, according to Gawker, when they went to purchase their preferred domain name “PostPolitics.com” they found it was already purchased (If you type it in now you are redirected to Washington Post’s Post Politics page). By who you ask? Those former employees that broached the idea with them two years ago. In addition, to being a head scratcher for the WaPo Editor-to-be (Perhaps former WSJ Editor Marcus Brauchli), it cost the paper $20,000. As someone once said, “Revenge is a dish best served cold.”

Fox News vs. The New York Times:

Right before the Holiday break media gossip sites began chattering about the latest illustration of Fox News’ professionalism. On July 2nd Fox News’ Fox & Friends, co-hosts Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade went after New York Times reporter Jacques Steinberg and his editor Steven Reddicliffe for a June 28th Times‘ piece on cable ratings, that the hosts labeled a “hit piece” on Fox. Their segment could have been accepted as a gentle media rebuttal if Fox News didn’t take it a step too far (seems they have a knack for this) by including digitally altered of photos of Steinberg and Reddicliffe in the segment. The alterations to Steinberg’s photos took the most notice – with his ears being pulled out, forehead being lowered and his nose enlarged & widened (I’ve imbedded the video of the segment courtesy of MediaMatters.org).

I’ve written about Fox News sensationalist approach several times. The most recent time, I presented trends in production and on-air interviews that I believe could alienate them from potential guests. However, David Carr of the New York Times brought to light another issue with their news organization today. His piece spotlighted the Steinberg and Reddicliffe incident as part of a broader story on the organizations media relations’ tactics.

Carr Likens the tactics of Fox News to the public relations’ apparatus of a political campaign, which is run from the top down (i.e. Roger Ailes, Chief Executive of Fox News). He points to several examples -outside of the latest incident-  where Brian Lewis, the head of Fox News public relations, and other PR executives there have threatened they would “go after” reporters, blacklist them and publicly smear them in blogs if non-favorable stories were published. While Mr. Lewis denied the existence of a “blacklist” in Carr’s article and stated that it makes their lives difficult when on-air talent goes after reporters; he did acknowledge that they are very aggressive in what is often a passive PR industry.

With their current practices eliciting fear in reporters (like those illustrated below in the excerpt from Carr’s piece) I’m scratching my head wondering how many “friendly” reporters they have left? That Fortune cover story from Tim Arango seems like it ran light-year’s ago.

David Carr in today’s New York Times:

“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.”

I’ll give you a penny (or two) for your thoughts on Carr’s assertion and the fate of the penny.


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