NPR media reporter David Folkenflik just published his new book “Murdoch’s World,” which examines and discusses the media empire of Rupert Murdoch from the creation, peak, to his scandals. In the book, Folkenflik notes an instance when a reporter who was writing an article about CNN beating Fox News in the 25- to 54-year old demographic.
Matthew Flamm, of Crain’s New York Business, was working on a story about the successful ratings of CNN in 2008 and beating out Fox News in the coveted 25-54 age group. He contacted the three major cable news networks: CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC. Flamm reportedly “hit a brick wall at Fox News.”
Folkenflik, in his book, noted that a surefire way to “antagonize” Fox News is to write and publish something that “acknowledges their key competitors – MSNBC and CNN – as existing.” He indicated the viciousness of Fox News’s PR department, pointing out that they ignore and “scoff” at lots of press inquiries and only prepare statements or allow access for some. Folkenflik attests to the high level of difficulty associated with writing about Fox News.
“‘We will not participate in a story about journalism if you include’ our competitors,” said Folkenflik. Thinking that they’ve “transcended cable news,” Fox News doesn’t “want to be in the same category of them.”
In the midst of compiling the story, Flamm received an email from someone claiming to be a producer at Fox News. A portion of the email is as follows:
I work at Fox but I heard from a friend at CNN that you were doing a story on them beating us in February ratings. Thought I’d pass along a tip for you. Fox execs had a meeting yesterday and decided that Bill O’Reilly will anchor our texas and ohio primary coverage on Tuesday night. They want to copy the success that MSNBC has had with Olbermann and Matthews anchoring their coverage.
Don’t think they want it out there since we’ll catch too much heat between now and Tuesday especially in light of O’Reilly’s recent lynching remarks. And FOX PR reps would never confirm this, at least not on the record. But O’Reilly, not Brit Hume, will be in the anchor chair Tuesday night. I feel it’s worth you knowing that we’re going to have an opnion monger anchor what’s always been our hard news election coverage.
Thinking that he had a scoop, Flamm published the report, even though his only source was the correspondence with the private Hotmail account, a tip rather than a confirmation. Once Fox News became aware that the report was out, they aggressively went on the offensive.
The network said that “The notion that O’Reilly would ANCHOR election coverage of any kind is beyond absurd and wildly inaccurate. If Flamm is so off base with this ‘fact,’ you’d have to question of all his other ‘reporting’ when it comes to Fox News.”
Flamm then contacted the producer he believed to have been the tipster. However, she didn’t know of him or what he spoke of. He then emailed the mystery tipster, but the account was shut down.