Blogger’s note: The first paragraph refers to the sexual harassment charges and settlements paid on Ailes’ behalf by Fox News. I should have made that more clear from the get-go. Sorry for any confusion.
You shouldn’t speak ill of the dead, but Roger Ailes was a vile man. We’ll get that out of-the-way first. NewsCorp/21st Century Fox should be forever ashamed for what they allowed to transpire.
Ailes was incredibly impactful as a broadcaster. Fox News Channel changed the face of cable news.
Before FNC, CNN was ‘just a news channel.’ It was straight news delivered by straight news anchors. Sometimes they lightened it up a little (I always enjoyed Beverly Williams and Patrick Emery, the “Moonlighting” of TV news), but mostly it was news of-the-day from around-the-world.
Ailes brought personalities to Fox. It was much less expensive to have screaming hosts than reporters and bureaus. And it worked better!
It was under Ailes that Fox News became the first modern network with a political attitude. Saying “Fair and Balanced” couldn’t hide its right-of-center slant. I don’t think they really wanted to hide it anyway.
And it worked.
Fox News Channel was/is fabulously profitable. The dollars involved are mind boggling. This is a few years old, but you’ll get the idea.
Fox led in revenue in 2015; the network was projected to increase by 14% to $2.3 billion. CNN was projected to grow by 6% to $1.2 billion, while MSNBC was projected to grow by 3% to $518 million.
In a half-decade that saw moderate decline in the number of foreign bureaus, CNN continued to lead in the number of domestic and international bureaus. – Mediatite
Fox’s secret was to make its audience part of a cause and then keep them angry. I’m not saying others don’t do this now, just Fox was first and had a huge head start.
Here’s where it all goes off the rails. When there is no reason for its audience to be up-in-arms, Fox will find and promote a story to rebuild the anger.
They did it with the “War on Christmas” and recently with an awful story about the shooting of a DNC employee. Fox connected the murdered man to Wikileaks, as it turns out falsely.
Partisan news outlets aren’t new. The last fifty years are the exception. Newspapers which dominated journalism until the sixties was heavily political. I remember when the New York Post was the liberal voice of labor — really.
Through Roger Ailes, FNC and the other outlets have traded news for adrenaline. This is his legacy. No one should consider it a gift.