Howard Kurtz has written a piece on Fox’s Roger Ailes to coincide with the 10th anniversary of Fox News Channel. Kurtz gets some good quotes from Ailes: Is there a conservative in New York City who doesn’t relate to this one?
NEW YORK — Ten years after he created Fox News Channel, Roger Ailes says he still avoids mentioning his place of employment in certain circles.
“It’s just not worth going through the hassle at an elite party,” he says. And: “The only reason I know we’re doing the right thing is that we’re widely criticized.” And: “I’ve never felt out of the mainstream in America. I’ve felt out of the mainstream at Le Cirque.”
Naturally Kurtz addresses the perception that Fox is a conservative news organization. Most of what Kurtz writes is fair, but I would take issue with him on one point. He writes:
Fox gets its ideological sheen not from its reporters but from its high-profile conservative hosts, such as Sean Hannity, John Gibson and Bill O’Reilly, who regularly complains about the “left-wing press.” And while the network has some liberal commentators, none has the prominence of Newt Gingrich.
It is common for liberals to criticize Fox News for hiring strong conservative commentators and weak liberal ones — Robert Greenwald made this accusation in his documentary Outfoxed. But Kurtz has defended the mainstream media from a similar charge in the past.
When conservatives point out that mainstream news organizations hire reporters from liberal magazines like The New Republic and the Washington Monthly, Kurtz is quick to argue that maybe writers from conservative magazines just aren’t applying for the jobs. Couldn’t Kurtz make the same argument for Fox News? How do we know that Fox isn’t trying to hire prominent liberals and failing because those liberals don’t want to work there?
Kurtz has argued that if conservatives are not applying for mainstream media jobs as often as liberals, maybe it’s because they aren’t as interested in becoming “straight” reporters. As Nathan Goulding pointed out on this blog last March, it’s more likely that conservative writers don’t see a place for themselves in the mainstream media’s liberal newsrooms.
If it’s not fair to criticize the mainstream media for hiring more liberal than conservative reporters, it’s also not fair to criticize Fox News for hiring more prominent conservative than prominent liberal commentators. Kurtz should have noted that, in both cases, it could be because the excluded group is opting out.