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The Loudest Voice?

Terry Gross of NPR’s Fresh Air had a stunning interview on January 16, 2014 of Gabriel Sherman, author of the new unauthorized biography of Roger Ailes (president of Fox News Channel, and chairman of the Fox Television Stations Group):  The Loudest Voice in the Room: How The Brilliant, Bombastic Roger Ailes Built Fox News — And Divided A Country.

Roger Ailes was Richard Nixon’s aide who later got a job at a new right wing network called TVN, which was bank rolled at the time by conservative beer magnet Joseph Coors. TVN’s motto was “fair and balanced.” TVN ended in 1975 and Roger Ailes launched Fox News Channel in 1996.

What I found most fascinating in the Fresh Air interview was Sherman’s description of a TVN memo that revealed a template for Fox News successful, but audacious format to build it’s very loyal, aging, white, male audience:

  1. Pretense Balancing – asserting over and over again that reporting is fair and balanced, all evidence to the contrary.
  2. Hold frames – holding unflattering photos of those who being derided.
  3. Repetition – repeating a story to the point that it becomes a national issue, regardless of it’s efficacy.
  4. Whipping Posts – picking enemies to relentlessly persecute.
  5. Sex Appeal – using attractive, blond, news anchors i.e. Megyn Kelly

NPR notes, “Ailes thrived in a world where he could keep the old Nixon silent majority together, but now that audience is aging. Fox [News’] audience is aging and a new audience is rising and Ailes is ultimately clinging to power. He’s presiding over an empire that’s built, in a large measure, on a crumbling foundation.”

David Carr of the New York Times says “Mr. Sherman’s book is a thoroughly reported look behind that curtain [Fox New Channel], describing Mr. Ailes’s operational aggression, but there is nothing in it that is off brand or inconsistent with what we’ve learned about Mr. Ailes over the years. He is who we think he is.”

Check out the NPR audio interview if you missed the program on Thursday.