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How David Carr Dared Take on Fox News' PR
And might live to tell about it

David Carr did something very brave. The Times media columnist and reformed crackhead – with his new book detailing his druggy past, that description will carry on at length – dared confront the Fox News publicity machine and call it out for what it is: Another mouthpiece for Roger Ailes & Co.

That Carr would publish an article like this — lots of finger-pointing, zero niceties — is very interesting, and potentially very game changing. Undoubtedly, it's a piece he's been wanting to pen for months, if not longer. But for somebody working an industry beat to so deliberately slam the garage door down on one of the niche's major players is a bold move; the gossip that spills out from the item today will not be even close to the sum of the fall out.

The real gauge of this article's effect will be determined only months, perhaps years, from now, as Carr continues reporting on Fox News, the network's PR division continues it's aggressive defense tactics, and countless more reporters engage in a tug-of-war with Ailes' spirited charges.

Any media reporter who's bothered writing the words "cable news" in his notebook has had a run-in with Fox's PR, consisting of Brian Lewis, who runs the show, along with Irena Briganti and a small roster of hatchet-wielding underlings who make it their business to know your business, if only so they can play pieces of information against each other.

Carr laid out the unit for its strengths, its weaknesses, and it's bullying tactics; screw with Fox News (or even, so goes the thinking, Fox Business) and you'll not only be cut off from access, but you'll have your own reputation attacked by those mangy gossip blogs. Writes Carr:

Earlier this year, a colleague of mine said, he was writing a story about CNN???s gains in the ratings and was told on deadline by a Fox News public relations executive that if he persisted, ???they??? would go after him. Within a day, ???they??? did, smearing him around the blogs, he said. (I did not ask him for a comment because the information was of a private nature.)

Carr, of course, is referring to this item on Jossip, which relayed a report we heard that Times TV industry reporter Tim Arango had allegedly returned from a stint in rehab, and also pointed out long-held rumors that Arango often "auditions" for on-air TV gigs by writing favorably about those who might hire him. (Arango never did return our repeated requests for comment.)

When the item hit, Carr, who we quite like as a drinking buddy and a byline, contacted us with an off-the-record assessment of what he thought about Jossip and our Arango report; we'll keep his comments offline, but you can imagine the tone of his communique.

And while we're firm believers in the "where there's smoke, there's fire" theory, it would be as foolish to think the spinmeisters at Fox News' PR unit were involved with the item anymore so than it would be foolish to not even entertain the possibility that the Times newsroom is actually a leak-plagued institution where many a staffer will very willingly air "close held" gossip as a means to get ahead. Because it is. (The off the record tales we've heard about Carr from his colleagues, past and present, attest to it, despite Carr's insistence that Times types "are strong for our posse.")

Now, should you be confused as to Jossip's general policy regarding what we publish, it goes something like this: If it's an interesting story, we're going to run with it. It's kind of that simple. No favors, no "friends of Jossip" policies. If there's dirt, we've got a shovel, regardless who pointed out the grave site, or who's buried there. And the number of newspapers, magazines, television news networks, or PR firms who haven't added themselves to our source list probably count fewer than those who have. Yes, you all like to spread gossip, surprise!

In the end, Carr's item, though heavy hitting because he's among the first to say all this so brazenly and publicly, will not be newsworthy to any moderately weathered television reporter. It's generally accepted knowledge within the industry that Fox News' public relations department is made up of wolves, MSNBC's made up of sheep, and CNN, as is fitting with the pre-existing reputations of these networks, falls somewhere in the middle. (Goats? Wild ass?)

But Carr was not writing for most of us — he was writing for the public who might tune in to Fox News, watch Bill O'Reilly embarrass the First Amendment, and not realize the abrasive on-air tactics can be par for the course behind the scenes.

Jul 7, 2008 · posted by david · Link · 11 Responses
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  • Comments (11)
    No. 1 Alana Russo says:

    If conducting our jobs with personal and professional integrity makes us sheep, then so be it. Baa.

    Alana Russo and Jeremy Gaines

    Posted: Jul 7, 2008 at 11:28 am
    No. 2 Scott Kim says:

    The media's job is to report events in an unbiased, objective way. Fox fails that test then further muddies the water with their pitiful "interviews" which frequently feature someone yelling and attempting to bully the opposing opinion. Take it for what it's worth, it ain't news reporting but it is entertaining in a "Punch and Judy" fashion.

    Posted: Jul 7, 2008 at 12:16 pm
    No. 3 musiqsoul says:

    I agree! Fox news definitely does not report news the way it should. Instead it is biased, because of the people who own it. it was extremely brave for Carr to call out Fox news. In fact, more Celebs are doing brave things every day and its really nice to see. I was just reading on, and I've learned that more and more people are doing things like this. Check it out, you may find it interesting.

    Posted: Jul 7, 2008 at 2:19 pm
    No. 4 sebastian says:

    I am still puzzled by the Jossip scoop. Did Tim Arango really return from rehab? Or was that a lie manufactured by the Fox Team and fed to the blogs as an "exclusive"? Digging up dirt that happens to be true might be considered fair play.

    Posted: Jul 7, 2008 at 2:28 pm
    No. 5 Michael Morrison says:

    Geez, what hypocrisy.
    Fox might be biased a different direction from the bias of such biased and propagandistic outlets as, say, CNN or The New York Times, but it is not the least bit more biased.
    "Brave" to "call out Fox"? Hogwash!
    Genuinely brave would be for some of you people to admit to the bias of those leftist-oriented media.

    Posted: Jul 7, 2008 at 4:18 pm
    No. 6 Frank Lobo says:

    Seriously, a far-left "reporter" doing a hit piece on Fox News in the far-left NY Times?!?

    How "brave" indeed.

    Posted: Jul 7, 2008 at 4:57 pm
    No. 7 P Sweeney says:

    I'm still trying to figure out the intended meaning of your first sentence. It appears that the only ideas presented with any clarity in this article are the stunning examples of mangled and twisted grammar.

    Posted: Jul 7, 2008 at 5:06 pm
    No. 8 candlemaker says:

    Whether it's brave or not is debatable. It was important for it to be said. What I want to hear now is the next step in the argument. Can Fox refute Carr. I need a little more than character assassination.

    Posted: Jul 7, 2008 at 9:46 pm
    No. 9 disgusted says:

    "If there???s dirt, we???ve got a shovel, regardless who pointed out the grave site, or who???s buried there."

    Pathetic. Pot kettle black, Jossip?

    Posted: Jul 8, 2008 at 12:47 am
    No. 10 Sally says:

    he wasnt the first to stand up to faux news. take a peeky poo at this!


    Posted: Jul 8, 2008 at 9:31 pm
    No. 11 roger says:

    to #9 (disgusted) - and yet here you are on a gossip site! and probably read all the dirt on these sort of scandals you can! that would be a bit hypocritical for someone who is so anti-gossip

    Posted: Jul 9, 2008 at 11:59 am
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