Journo Watches 50 Hours of Fox News; Reads Roger Ailes' Mind
A Brave Journalist
I always admire the intrepid journalists like Richard Engel or Lara Logan, throwing themselves into the line of fire to bring home the story. They are brave, brave people and as much as I criticize the press, I consider these reporters to be heroes.
But there is no reporter alive as brave as Walter Shapiro:
It was a self-inflicted, eye-glazing marathon—50 hours in late August spent watching a full sampling of the Fox News lineup. Looking back, it seems like a nine-day hallucination of strident voices, blonde hair, and more pitchmen hawking gold coins than at any time since the heyday of King Midas.
Why did I volunteer for this ordeal when a rational person would have been at the beach? Not to belabor the predictable liberal lament that Fox News fails to uphold the high TV journalistic traditions of Edward R. Murrow and Eliot Spitzer. Rather, I wanted to know how the leading cable news network was deploying its unprecedented powers in its coverage of the 2012 GOP presidential race.
Few Republican voters outside Iowa and New Hampshire will glimpse a presidential contender on anything other than a TV screen. And that TV screen is apt to be tuned to Fox. According to a 2010 poll by the Pew Research Center, 40 percent of Republicans habitually watch Fox News. Bill O'Reilly alone regularly attracts 21 percent of Republicans. It is a safe guess (although Pew did not ask the question directly) that more than half the activists who will be voting in the GOP primaries are Fox faithful. There is no equivalent thumb-on-the-scales force on the Democratic side—not even if you combine MSNBC, NPR, and the New York Times. And, as it turned out, the lesson of my TV marathon was unambiguous: The Fox News primary already has a winner.
Shapiro got out alive, but I'm sure he'll never be the same. Nobody can survive something like that without sever psychological damage.
But the story he brought back is worth it. He's absolutely correct that this is how most Republicans will get their information about these primaries and Roger Ailes' preference is, therefore, extremely important.
Read the whole thing to find out who that is.