In David Folkenflik's new book, Murdoch's World, the media reporter has at least one cautionary tale for anyone that wants to write a less-than-flattering story about Fox News: They will always win. The Washington Post's Erik Wemple has a bit from Folkenflik's book, which explains just how hard it is to deal with the Fox News's notorious PR team.
It seems that Matthew Flamm of Crain’s New York Business wanted to write a story about how CNN had passed Fox in the ratings race, but then was stonewalled by the PR team at Fox. Then, Flamm got a fishy e-mail from an alleged staffer's Hotmail (red flag!) account.
"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..." the e-mail began. It then described a meeting where execs had decided that Bill O'Reilly would anchor the network's presidential primary coverage in 2008 — a big move considering that going with an "opinion" person would go against the network's credo of "fair and balanced."
Flann mistakenly ran with this one-source scoop only to find out later that it wasn't true. But in doing so, he served up an underhand pitch for Fox and they knocked that "tip" — and Flamm's reputation — out of the park
"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," FNC spokeswoman Irena Briganti responded when Flamm's "scoop" hit. In one fell swoop Flamm's reputation takes a beating. The source at Fox, to no one's surprise, disappeared after Flamm ran with his report, but according to David Folkenflik, it wasn't just a random prankster. Someone at Fox News set Flamm up to make him look foolish.
Earlier this week (again thanks to Folkenflik's book), we learned how Fox News has used anonymous accounts and write flattering comments for its stories. Planting a false story to smother bad news is apparently another part of the PR department's job. "They are essentially a political unit appended to something that presents itself publicly as a cable news operation," Folkenflik told Wemple, of Fox's PR team. And they don't take prisoners.