Considering a career at Fox? Writer and reporter Joe Muto, known formerly as the Gawker “Fox Mole,” is releasing an upcoming tell-all about his experiences inside the hyper-conservative network, titled An Atheist in the FOXhole: A Liberal’s Eight-Year Odyssey Inside the Heart of the Right-Wing Media.
Below are a couple of the highlights, taken from a teaser excerpt of the book published by Salon — a need-to-know guide for anyone looking to try their hand in the conservative media punditocracy:
Fox is dominated by big names and bigger personalities — though as Muto explains, a simple organizational flowchart of power would be tough to draw up. The station is run by Roger Ailes, the president of the Fox News Channel and long-time media consultant for GOP presidents and personalities. Ailes and his underlings run the ship, though each show contains its own unique power structure and institutional hierarchy.
“Sometimes the anchors outranked their executive producers,” reports Muto, “as was the case with The O’Reilly Factor."
The shows are decentralized, with each anchor/producer team plotting their own course — though sticking fairly close to the marching orders handed down from the top.
“Each showrunner … knew exactly what was expected of them, knew what topics and guests would be acceptable … there was tremendous pressure to hew closely to the company line.”
Roger and his associates were always watching — never shy about cutting a segment or guest from a show’s evening lineup. More adventurous shows were taking risks. “Roger himself had a phone in his office, a hotline he could pick up and immediately be connected to the control room. Every producer knew that, and dreaded seeing his name on their caller ID.”
Guests were occasionally banned not just from the lineup of certain shows, but across the entire network. Even the website Politico was blacklisted, after supposedly publishing a piece that angered Ailes, with an order that their reporters were no longer to be invited as guests.
Muto worked most closely with Bill O’Reilly, who in his words is “like a taller, Irish version of Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man.” Quick to anger and easily frustrated by a stray from routine, the fiery anchor kept staffers and personal assistants on their toes.
“Even a slight delay or deviation from the plan could set off a lecture or, on occasion, a screaming match. As a result, he was tightly scheduled down to the minute.”
Staffers do everything from planning guests (The Factor is nearly completely made up of interview segments), to sending a daily “Newfax” direct to his house, full of important events and clips for the day.
“We called it the Newsfax,” Muto writes, “because it was easier to tell Bill we were faxing it to him than it was to explain that we were remotely printing it to his home printer. This is actually a familiar pattern with Bill. It’s often simpler to let him believe something erroneously than it is to correct him.”
Fox has proven one of the most profitable networks in the media industry — pushing a model that might not be journalism, traditionally defined, but is money-making nonetheless. And as Muto explains, Bill’s interview model has proven one of the unlikely keys to this success:
“Barring the occasional surprise, Bill knew exactly what his guest was going to say in the interview, sometimes down to the last word. In this way, cable news somewhat resembled professional wrestling: The outcomes were predetermined, with the host not only choosing his guests based specifically on the stance he knew they were going to take, but actually getting a preview of their arguments several hours in advance so he could formulate his counterarguments.”